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The Edina couple began dating when they were students at the University of Minnesota. In six decades of marriage, they had done everything together: moved around the country, raised five children, built careers in sales, amassed a passel of friends.
Breaking with protocol, the hospital staff drew back the divider curtain and placed the couple's beds feet-to-feet, a few yards apart. In the face of an inhumane disease, it was a humanizing gesture, one that brought their loved ones great comfort. Paul explained. As COVID has ravaged the elderly, couples who have spent nearly a lifetime together are dying together — days, sometimes hours apart. For some families left behind, the unexpected double losses are even more painful because a vaccine that could have prevented many of these deaths was almost within reach.
Jim and Mary Agnes Smith. Her parents died Dec. Mary Agnes and Jim Smith moved out of their Independence home into a long-term care facility as their health issues required more care. Although they slept in separate rooms, the couple who had been together for 65 years were almost inseparable during the day, sharing meals, ing activities and spending time together to talk and hold hands. As she slept, her husband pulled his wheelchair close to her bedside, talking to her, patting her on the arm. At times, he sang words of comfort: "I love you. He was sleeping when his year-old wife died.
Hours later he, too, passed. Adrian and Jackie Kapsner were wedded to their lifestyle as much as they were to each other. They got from one another what they didn't have themselves. Jackie brought a love of art, music and books to the union while Adrian brought a love for skiing, golf and travel. But when COVID hit, the social isolation imposed to stop the spread of the disease chipped away at the very things that kept the Kapsners and many others their age active and engaged.
Meanwhile, health issues began taking a toll on year-old Adrian Kapsner while a tumor on his wife's spine caused balance and mobility issues for her. Surgery and rehabilitation remedied most of that for Jackie Kapsner, The long-term prognosis for her husband, however, wasn't as good.
The couple moved out of their Edina home in October and into a Golden Valley senior living community where Adrian Kapsner got round-the-clock care on the first floor and his wife got the help she needed in a fifth-floor apartment. Provided Adrian and Jackie Kapsner.
Eventually, breathing became difficult and the pain unbearable. Taken to the hospital, Jackie Kapsner improved, then abruptly worsened. She died Dec. But I never thought my mom would die. With little time to grieve his mother's death two days earlier, Matt Kapsner was on the phone from his Colorado home, struggling to say goodbye to his dad who was losing his fight with COVID Jackie isn't here anymore.
Their deaths leave a gaping hole, said Chris Kapsner, the oldest of the four adult children, who lives near Boyceville, Wis. Mel Awes was a firecracker and a fun-maker, prone to spontaneity, whose energy filled a room. He was famous for calling every friend and relative on their birthdays and cheering Minnesota's sports teams. Sue, a writer and folk painter known for her hospitality, exuded a quieter warmth and anchored her spouse.
At 81 and 80, respectively, they were vibrant and healthy, active in their church and charitable work. Conversations with either could go from depth to hilarity, their children said. They wanted to know your story, accept you for who you were and be your biggest cheerleader. Faith and family were the couple's foundation.
In a July blog post, Sue described her children and their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchild as "the joy of our old age. When the coronavirus arrived, family birthday gatherings and vacations were curtailed, and the couple had only a few relatives in their bubble. In late October, after months of isolation, Mel and Sue attended a small indoor gathering, where everyone wore masks and socially distanced.
A few days later, they began to feel ill. By mid-November, both were hospitalized, and their children called for updates three times a day. Staff taped a paper heart on Sue's window, which faced the parking lot, and loved ones gathered below it to hold vigil. One day, their youngest daughter sat in her car and watched "Notting Hill," her mom's favorite, as a way to connect.
They prayed for a miracle but prepared for the worst. The couple's conditions slowly declined, in tandem: first Sue's, then Mel's, as if he were following her. On Dec. The children touched their parents' skin and ran fingers through their hair.
They listed every family member's name and reminded them how much they were loved by each one. Before the couple had been sedated, and could still speak with labored breath, Mel and Sue told their children they were not afraid to die. Sue went first and then Mel followed, about 25 minutes later. Sharing the news on Facebook, their daughter Emily Awes Anderson of Minneapolis described her belief that her parents were now in a better place and the agony of being without them.
Mary Lynn Smith is a general asment reporter for the Star Tribune.
She ly covered St. Paul City Hall and Ramsey County. Before that, she worked in Duluth where she covered local and state government and business. She frequently has written about the outdoors. Rachel Hutton is a general asment reporter in features for the Star Tribune. Home All Sections. Log In Welcome, User. Coronavirus Minneapolis St. Paul Duluth St. Supply chain disruptions force retailers to stock up early for holidays.
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Coronavirus Together in life and death: Minnesota couples battle COVID Couples who have spent nearly a lifetime together are dying together — days, sometimes hours apart: "It's a mixed bag of grief and gratitude. Adrian and Jackie Kapsner. Smith startribune. More from Star Tribune.
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