A couple married 70 years have died hand-in-hand at an Ohio hospital after both contracting coronavirus.
Dick and Shirley Meek, aged 89 and 87, were scheduled to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on January 19 but sadly succumbed to the virus before their allotment.
The pair met in high school and “fell in love at first sight”, according to daughter Debbie Howell. They would go on to raise five children, 13 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren before travelling the world together as an inseparable couple.
“They never had to go through ‘until death do us part’,” Ms Howell told CNN. “They never had to do that because they were together and we’re ever so grateful.
“They weren’t your typical 88- and 90-year-old. They were both very, very healthy, very vibrant people with of all their faculties. They just went down so fast.”
The couple tested positive for the virus on Boxing Day after feeling unwell over the holiday period. After a short period of fluctuating symptoms, the couple were placed in an urgent care facility where their conditions deteriorated.
“From January 8 to the end it just kind of went up and down,” Ms Howell continued. “There were days that we were really optimistic that they were going to get through, but their lungs kept failing more and more each day.”
When hospital staff told Ms Howell her parents wouldn’t last more than a few days, the family requested they be placed side-by-side to experience the final moments of their life together.
“We didn’t want them separated because that was their biggest thing in life that they would be together,” said Howell. “We wanted them to be holding hands. We wanted them to be together. We wanted their favourite music to be playing softly in the background,” she told CNN. And the hospital staff made it happen.
“The nurse put my mum’s head on my dad’s shoulder. And she walked over and she rubbed my dad’s shoulder and said ‘Dick, you can go now. Shirley’s waiting for you’,” Ms Howell said. “And within minutes, he was gone.”
The world has identified 97.5 million coronavirus cases, with the US suffering the highest losses with 427,635 deaths as of January 24.