Just over a year ago, my grandmother died at the age of 98. Less than 24 hours later — without having heard the news — my grandmother’s best friend passed away. While it might seem bizarre to find joy in death, I did. It was comforting to know that as my grandmother moved on to the next life her good friend was experiencing it all with her. In a similar sense, I believe many family members of Harold and Ruth Knapke are feeling the same sense of peace:

The Associated Press reports:

DAYTON, Ohio — Relatives of an Ohio couple who died at a nursing home 11 hours apart on the same day said their love story’s ending reflects their devotion over 65 years of marriage.

Harold and Ruth Knapke died in their shared room on Aug. 11, days before their 66th anniversary, The Dayton Daily News reported.

Their daughters said they believe their father willed himself to stay by his wife’s side despite failing health until they could take the next step in their journey together. He went first — his children saw it as his “final act of love” — and she followed.

“We believe he wanted to accompany her out of this life and into the next one, and he did,” daughter Margaret Knapke said.

The couple had known each other as children and began their courtship as pen pals while Harold, known as “Doc,” served in the Army during World War II. Ruth would later joke: “I let him chase me until I caught him!” …

“It is really just a love story,” said Carol Romie, another daughter. “They were so committed and loyal and dedicated, they weren’t going to go anywhere without the other one.”

The body often fails us, but the mind and the spirit are extremely powerful. A person with a reason to live can will the body to hold on to a quality of life others would find unacceptable.

There are many lessons we can take away from the Knapke story, but I find two in particular to be of utmost importance:

  • To make the most of life, finding your reason for being is paramount.
  • You not only have the power to forge deeply spiritual relationships with friends and family — the kind that you would want to carry over into the next life — but you deserve them.

For many people, mastering these two elements of life can seem like a 7-10 split in bowling, but it can be done. I suggest starting with introspection and regular acts of kindness, but there are many ways to accomplish the task.

One of the reasons many relationships end is because people fail to grow in concert with their partner. If you married your “perfect” mate tomorrow, they would soon not be perfect to you because you will change over time. People are like plants, and they can be like two strands of Ivy wrapping and winding around each other as they thrive and expand, or they could allow their desires to take them in different directions. The key takeaway is that every step along the way we have complete control over how it all unfolds.

If you have someone in your life that you care for so much that you’d will your dying body into a kind of loving life support, say a prayer of thanks for them every day. If you do not have someone in your life like that at the moment and have been wondering why, ask yourself if at the core of your being you believe you deserve such a relationship. If the answer is “no,” then I implore you to find a way to realize that you are worthy of love, abundance, healthy and happiness. When you make that mental shift, your life will begin to change.

Mr. and Mrs. Knapke had a connection many consider rare, but the truth is much more nuanced: all of our relationships have the potential to produce deeply spiritual love. We stand on fertile ground with pockets filled with seeds, but it’s up to each individual to sow them.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

9 comments

  1. Well Doug, the reason you may not have come a crossed that info is I may be wrong!! This particular couple may be a different couple with very similar story. I enjoyed some of the cues about growing and changing this article brought out. Wanted to add to that however time and resources fail me lately but ill be back to add to those values that are so important for people who want to make things last, Relationships and families are the backbone of society and the fragility of this country reflects that ever clearer. Anyway another good post!!

    1. That’s the question people have been asking for a couple thousand years now, Person… so I’m not sure if I could really answer it here.

      I can give you a really short version: The price of sin is death. Only someone who is perfect can defeat death. God became man and died for our sins. If you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf as truth, you can be forgiven and live with God in the Kingdom of Heaven. But that’s the key — you have to have faith. You have to believe.

      I think it was Reagan who said that Jesus was either the greatest con man who ever lived, or the real deal. Reagan went with the real deal. I agree.

  2. A person in my class said that the Founding Fathers were atheists in response to Glen Beck saying they were Christians.

    Me, I always thought some were Christians and some were Deists.

    Question: What were the founding fathers?

    1. To imply that the Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly an atheist group of guys is pretty funny. Does this sound like the work of a bunch of atheists: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

      If your classmate is so correct, why can’t we find the phrase “separation of church and state” anywhere in the Constitution? I would think that would be a biggie to our Founding Atheists.

      Does your classmate even remember why the first settlers came to the New World? Yeesh.

      Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in ‘Democracy in America’ that spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom “were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country.” I’ll trust de Tocqueville over your classmate. I can go on and on…

    2. By the way…how MANY founding fathers were there, and what were their beliefs, be they deists or Christian? I know Ben Franklin and Jefferson were deists and I know George Washington was sort of a Deist/Episcopal blend and Adams was raised Congregationalist but became a Deist/Unitarian blend, but what were the others?

      For that matter, what IS Deism?

    3. It is at this time I will suggest reading any number of books by Larry Schweikart. That should keep you busy for some time. Feel free to include The Federalist Papers. You’ll need that one, too. Happy learning.

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