A few weeks ago my husband sent me this link—it’s to the story of Norma and Gordon Yeager, the couple (aged 90 and 94) who died holding hands. He also linked this song from The Civil Wars, C’est la mort. He wrote: “I want to die with you.”
I, of course, cried. I want to die with him, too.
Later that night he and I talked about the story which had quickly gone viral, universally described as a true story of true love. What Justin and I found fascinating was how little we knew about the couple and how certain we all seemed that their love had been true.
We have no love letters to read, no video montage of romantic moments. All we know is that at the end, they went together and her heart beat pulsed through his hand.
Did he insult her cooking? Did she sometimes leave his socks on the floor to send a message?
When we’re in the throws of marriage—angry, hurt, sensitive, frustrated, tired, bored, or lonely—we feel like true love is a mirage or a lucky slot combination. Through tears, we wonder how it got this way and how we’ll ever survive it. We think love, certainly not here, may be over there. We chase true love like children chase butterflies, thrashing our nets about wildly, disappointed when they’re empty.
But true love isn’t illusive. It’s not magical or only for the chosen.
159,000 people liked the Yeager’s story on Facebook. 171,000 watched the video on YouTube. And the reason they liked it, the reason they called it “true love,” is simple: True love lasts.
True love is not perfect love. It’s not waltzing through life with an always effervescent dance partner. True love can be (and I suppose in some ways must be) a battle fought by seasoned soldiers, not fighting against one another but against the mundane, against the lies others tell them and the lies they tell themselves, against selfishness and stress and sorrow. Love keeps fighting. Love endures.
Gordon and Norma Yeager kept loving. Every day they chose to stay, to forgive, to persevere. Some days it was certainly easy. Other days it was certainly hard. In those hospital beds, side by side, surrounded by family, surely they believed it was worth it.
When we hear their story, we call it true love not because they’d lived in wedded bliss for 72 years, but because for 72 years they’d stayed wed.