. –– Betty and Curtis Tarpley were together for most of their lives: They went to the same high school in Illinois, met and fell in love in California as adults, then married and raised two children.
On June 18, after 53 years of marriage, the two died of coronaviruses just an hour apart in a Texas hospital, and they spent their last moments together holding hands, her son told CNN.
Tim Tarpley explained that her 80-year-old mother had been ill for a few days when he took her to Harris Health Texas Fort Worth Methodist Hospital and discovered that she had covid-19.
She was admitted on June 9 and her 79-year-old father was admitted on June 11.
Tarpley, 52, explained that his father was in the intensive care unit and appeared to be doing well. The nurses were even able to take Curtis to Betty’s unit, so they could spend time together.
Betty’s condition worsened, and Tarpley indicated that she called him and his sister, Tricia, and told them that “she was ready to go.”
Tarpley took time to assimilate his decision.
“I just yelled ‘No!’ And I thought, ‘I have a lot of other things to do in this life that I want to show you and I’m not ready,’ ”he said.
Hospital staff allowed Tarpley and his sister to visit their mother twice, he added.
During the first visit she was heavily medicated and didn’t really know they were there.
Then she was alert and telling jokes when they returned the next day, but Tarpley noted that she was clearly uncomfortable and that doctors said she didn’t have much time.
Tarpley reported that he called his father to inform him of his mother’s condition and told her how much she loved him.
Soon after receiving the update from her children, Curtis’ oxygen levels plummeted.
“I really feel like he liked to fight because he was supposed to, and once he found out that she wasn’t going to make it, then he agreed to take him home,” Tarpley said. “I think he fought because he thought the team needed him, but he was also tired and suffering,” he added.
It happened so fast that Tarpley and his sister were unable to see their father again.
“The correct thing was to gather them”
Tarpley indicated that a nurse he had never spoken with arranged things for his mom and dad to be together. Both had decided to receive comfort care, which involved giving them large doses of medication to ease their pain.
“I felt the right thing was to get them together,” said Blake Throne, one of the nurses in the intensive care unit where Curtis was. “I started asking if it was possible and then I started moving to try to do it,” he added.
Throne said this required a team effort, but they managed to transfer Betty to the intensive care unit, so that she and her husband could be next door.
When another nurse told Curtis that Betty was there, he tried to look at her. But Throne said he was very weak.
“His eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up,” Throne recalled. “He knew what we were saying. I knew she was there. “
Throne said he then put Betty’s hand on Curtis’s arm.
Communicate without words
“Honestly, I think they were so disabled that all they could do was talk to their souls or something, a special language not spoken,” said Tarpley. “Obviously they knew each other well enough to be able to communicate without words.”
Betty died after about 20 minutes, and Curtis died about 45 minutes later, Throne said.
Tarpley said he was grateful for the empathy and friendliness of the hospital staff.
“That is what makes them the best,” he said.
Tarpley explained that he does not know how his parents were infected with covid-19, but said he should have been quarantined because he, too, was infected. She assured that her mother and father had been largely isolated since March, but that she visited them every other day to see how they were doing.
That time together further strengthened their relationship, which, according to Tarpley, gave him “another level of peace.”
He said family and friends look forward to celebrating Betty and Curtis’ life next year.