Over 250,000 hits on various YouTube videos. A million page views–in one day–on one news site. What makes the story about Gordon and Norma Jeager, married 72 years, so striking?
For starters: the couple died together, within about an hour of each other. Most unusual was that while Norma was still alive, Gordon stopped breathing, yet his monitor still indicated a heartbeat. Medical staff realized the monitor was instead registering Norma’s heartbeat, as she held her husband’s hand. As I ponder the significance of this, I’m finding God in a shared heartbeat.
The mystery of Mark 10:8 , in the Yeagers’ final moments, was played out in real life:
“…and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.” (NIV Bible)
I also think this story fascinates people because many, especially those whose lives have been touched by divorce, wonder exactly how a couple can stick ‘til–death-do-they-part for 72 years. Over seven decades! As someone married now for 32 years, I say you take it one decade at a time—a year at a time—a month at a time.
The current of commitment must run deep. But I also believe shared memories and faith entwine a couple tightly. All it takes is a wink, a hand motion and a phrase to remind a spouse of a funny shared memory. A sad look and a nod on the anniversary of a painful day is immediately understood; a hug ensues because both spouses “get it”. They tap into identical memory banks. Shared joy and shared pain lead to bonding. As years and memories multiply, the potential for 72 years of marriage seems no mystery at all to me.
I don’t want to unduly romanticize the Yeagers’ deaths, from a traffic accident that also injured another family. Grave concerns about the safety of elderly drivers on the road are valid. Hearing the Yeager story did prompt me to check on my own parents’ driving safety. Yet that story also inspired me in my relationship with my spouse.
I think that one reason the Yeager’s relationship (instead of all circumstances of their deaths) has been the primary focus in the news is that it reflects a universal longing: for long-term loving relationships. It’s hard to beat a marriage lasting nearly 3/4 of a century!
Ironically, I live only 40 minutes away from the Yeager home in Iowa, yet I’ve seen comments on videos about the Yeagers from places as far away as Norway (where I also once lived). You never know what mysteries may lie in in your own backyard. Or how people across the world may be drawn together as a result.
Here’s a KCCI news video about this couple, which I hope leads you also to finding God in a shared heartbeat.
You can also view on YouTube a montage of family memories for this couple, set to music. If you are in a long-term marriage yourself, what are you doing to keep it strong? If not, is this what you long for?
© Laurie Winslow Sargent. Laurie edits Finding God Daily, and is an author/contributor and magazine article writer. She blogs for parents at ParentingByFaith.com and for writers at SellYourNonfiction.com. Join her on Twitter as @LaurieSargent.