Don and Margaret Livengood lived so inseparably throughout their six decades together that even death couldn’t keep them apart for more than a few hours.
The North Carolina couple spent their last moments together holding hands, their fingers entwined in spite of the IV lines and medical tape that covered them.
Margaret passed away first. Her husband joined her about nine hours later.
“Mom and Daddy fell in love with each other every day — over and over — for over 59 years,” their daughter Pattie Beaver told TODAY by email. “And still, God renewed them each day, and it never got old. They were married to their best friend.”
Beaver brought both parents to the hospital on the same day last month. Pulmonary fibrosis and bilateral pneumonia had made it difficult for Don, 84, to breathe. His 80-year-old wife, Margaret, was battling cancer and other ailments.
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The Livengoods originally were admitted into rooms down the hall from each other but after Don’s condition worsened, he was moved to the intensive care unit on a separate floor.
“As soon as they moved farther apart, you could tell the toll it took, particularly on Mr. Livengood,” said Dr. Randy Schisler, a palliative care physician who helped treat the couple at Carolinas Healthcare System. “It was easy to see the anxiety and how nervous he felt, always wondering what was going on with his wife.”
Schisler said the family also felt torn, as Beaver and others ran back and forth between the floors and each parent’s room.
Hospital staff soon arranged for Margaret to visit her husband by occasionally bringing her into his room. They then managed to move her next door to Don's room in ICU. Several times a day, nurses rolled Margaret's bed into her husband's room, arranging it so that the two could face each other and clasp hands easily.
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“Once they were in the room together, all that anxiety in Mr. Livengood just disappeared and you could see the person that he was, and he was a very special and spiritual man,” Schisler said. “He relaxed once he was able to have her right there, and could feel like he was still involved in helping take care of her during what ended up being her last days.”
While Margaret began sleeping more, Don remained lucid and talkative, recounting stories about their life together.
The couple met while both worked for the same company. After Don spotted Margaret, “he told his buddies that he planned to date that pretty young lady, and that became his priority,” Beaver recounted.
The pair were married on June 15, 1957, Margaret's birthday.
“Mom and Daddy fulfilled their wedding vows with a lifetime of love and devotion,” their daughter said.
On Aug. 15, as the couple held hands in Don's room, Margaret passed away around 8 a.m. She was joined by her husband later that day at 5:19 p.m.
Beaver said she was "eternally grateful" to the hospital staff for bending over backwards to let her parents be together "and even hold hands."
"Together, they found an everlasting friendship, raised a family, built a beautiful marriage, and dedicated their lives to serving the Lord," she said.
"Their love and faith were a blessing to their family and friends. It was true love when they woke each morning even after 59 years of marriage as though it was the first."