As They Lay Dying: Couple Married for 59 Years Face Death While Holding Hands

Don and Margaret Livengood faced death together.

They were nearing the end of their lives, but Margaret and Don Livengood did not want to exit separately.

For 59 years they had lived side-by-side, facing whatever came their way in the company and comfort of each other. Death, they thought, should be met the same way.

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Margaret, 80, had cancer. Don, 84, had pulmonary fibrosis and double pneumonia.

As they got sicker, both ended up in the hospital. But they were in different rooms on different floors.  Daughter Pattie Beaver eventually convinced hospital staff that her mom and dad should be together in one room.

A few days later, her parents passed on, holding hands until almost the end.

Margaret went first, at about 8 a.m. Don followed at about 5 p.m.

“Their beds were turned so they could see each other face to face,” Dr. Randy Schisler told Monday. “We knew the family wanted them to stay together.”

Their stay at the Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast in North Carolina lasted only a few days.

Margaret was very ill and unable to speak. Don told stories about how they met to a crowd of relatives gathered in the ICU.

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He had been increasingly anxious before his wife joined him in his room. “The first question he had every day was, ‘What’s going on with my wife?’’’ hospital social worker Brian Darr said.

And when Margaret was nearby, “he seemed totally at peace... When she was there, you could tell he had everything he needed,” Darr said.

After Margaret died on an August day, hospital staff left her in Don’s room so he could hold her hand. He had told his doctors he didn’t want to stay on after she left.

So the strength of his oxygen and pain pills was scaled back, based on his wishes.

And after about nine hours, Don died, too.

“If she was going to go, he wanted to go with her,” Schisler said.

“They had a love like no other,” daughter Pattie said at their funeral. “And that love will live in our hearts forever.”

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