Some people call it dying of a broken heart, while others say it’s the final leap for lifelong lovers. One of life’s great mysteries is when and how some loving couples die within a short time span of each other. There is actually a name for when this happens, Broken Heart Syndrome. Sometimes, love truly does transcend the boundaries between this life and the hereafter.
After nearly 62 years of marriage, little separated Don and Maxine Simpson - not even death. The California couple died just four hours apart in July, spending their last moments side by side. He was 90 and she was 87. Granddaughter Melissa Sloan tells The Bakersfield Californian that on her grandmother died first, and when her body was taken away, Don Simpson's soul left with her.
The Simpson’s love story is a beautiful testimony of undying love. It happens enough not to be considered a rare phenomenon; however, it doesn't happen often enough to not appreciate the beauty of lifelong love.
Beginning in 1993 and lasting for nine full years, the study of broken heart syndrome conducted by the Harvard Medical School remains the largest study of its kind, with 518,240 couples, or more than 1,000,000 people participating: Speaking of the study..."Our study shows that people are connected in such a fashion that the health of one person is related to the health of another," reports Nicholas Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Healthcare Policy at the Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Christakis goes on to say, "The findings are striking… When a spouse is hospitalized, the partner's risk of death increases significantly and remains elevated for up to two years." He notes that the period of greatest risk is over the short run, within 30 days of a spouse's hospitalization or death. Over this time frame, hospitalization of a partner can confer almost as much risk of dying as the actual death of a spouse.
Broken heart syndrome most often takes place in older people who have been together for a long time. Surprisingly, the study indicates certain illnesses affect the remaining spouse differently. The more a disease interferes with a spouse's physical and mental ability and the more burdensome it is, the worse it is for the health of the partner. Christakis observes, "Among men with hospitalized wives, if the wife was hospitalized for colon cancer, there was almost no effect on her husband's mortality. But if a wife was hospitalized with heart disease, her husband's risk of death was 12 percent higher than it would be if the wife was not sick at all. If a wife was hospitalized with dementia, her husband's risk was 22 percent higher. Similar effects were seen in women whose husbands were hospitalized."
Those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon may be surprised to learn that men are more likely to die of broken heart syndrome than women. "Over the nine years [of the study], 383,480 husbands (74 percent) and 347,269 wives (67 percent) were hospitalized at least once, and 252,557 husbands (49 percent) and 156,004 wives (30 percent) died. The mean age of men in the study was 75 years and the mean age of women was 72 years." You can review the entire study in the February 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
While death is always sad and difficult for the survivors, it’s so beautiful to see a marriage last through all the adventures of life and continue in the next life together. Statistics show, as you read, that broke heart syndrome is a real phenomenon and can happen to anyone.
Have you ever seen this happen to a couple that you knew? Do you wonder if this will happen to you and your spouse? There are so many questions that we just don’t get the answers to in life. It’s just another mystery in life we get to ponder and debate.
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