Jimmie and Bettie Wise met in 1945. She was 20, he was 23, and soon after they were married. Their daughter Sandy Brooks said it was love at first sight. She has even got the love letters to prove it.
“I hope and pray every night in my prayers that we shall have a long lifetime of happiness growing old together with even deeper love,” they wrote to each other.
After 63 years of marriage, the couple found themselves sharing a room in the hospital together. Sadly, Jimmie died, and then, four days later, Bettie passed, too.
According to Andrew Meacham, an obituary writer for the Tampa Bay Times, Jimmie told Bettie before he died, “That he wanted to go help Jesus get ready for her. And then, four days later, she died.”
The diagnosis: Bettie died from a broken heart. It might sound impossible, or even hopelessly romantic, but doctors confirm that it’s true.
Dr. Ilan Wittstein, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, says, “Not only is it possible, but it happens. We’ve seen it happen here.” We’ve seen it happen before too; after 75 years of marriage Jeanette and Alexander Toczko passed away within 24 hours of each other.
Wittstein believes 10,000 Americans die from a broken heart every year. Unlike a heart attack caused by clogged arteries, “broken-heart syndrome,” is caused by severe emotional stress. It is even visible in an ultrasound.
“What we believe happens is that the body produces a large amount of the stress hormones, like adrenaline. When produced in large amounts, it can actually be somewhat toxic to the heart.”
“That would be it,” Brooks said of her mother’s death. “Why go on? This is how we’re going to finish it.”
“Although that’s sad,” said Meacham, “it’s also a reflection of the choice that they made to be with that person forever. ‘Till death do them part.”
To see Jimmie and Bettie’s bittersweet story and to learn more about the science of broken-heart syndrome watch the video below.
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