Arthur Kelley may barely increase his voice above a whisper final fall when he advised a nursing assistant he by no means wished his spouse, Maggie, to be alone. After nearly 60 years of marriage, 5 kids and a lifetime stuffed with extra victories than defeat, Kelley wished to be there for his ailing spouse, even when she did not know he was there.
He received to be there for her. However like so many different individuals who have died of covid-19, he died with out his household.
Dementia had stripped Maggie Kelley of her reminiscence, so her household had moved her right into a nursing dwelling in 2015. Arthur, who had acquired look after Parkinson’s illness at dwelling, moved to the identical facility within the St. Louis suburbs two years later to be nearer to Maggie.
“It was a literal option to go be there with Mother,” stated their youngest son, Kevin Kelley. “He actually desired to be there.”
Their dad and mom shared meals, watched tv and slept in the identical room for 3 years. They had been separated solely as soon as, when Maggie, 81, contracted an asymptomatic case of covid early in August.
“He protected her like Superman protects Lois Lane,” stated their oldest daughter, Lisa Kelley-Tate. “That is how he was along with her.”
Arthur, 80, would usually ask when he may see his spouse once more.
“He wished to ensure he did not go earlier than she did,” Kelley-Tate stated a staffer on the nursing dwelling advised her. “It was his job to ensure he was there for her. Possibly he knew then that his time wasn’t going to be lengthy.”
Maggie completed her quarantine they usually reunited. However solely briefly. She died of problems of dementia on Nov. 2.
That afternoon, Arthur held her hand so long as he may. When Kelley-Tate arrived, he was nonetheless holding on, so she took her mom’s different hand. She fastidiously painted Maggie’s nails pink, her favourite shade. However Arthur nonetheless wished extra time with Maggie.
“It took some time earlier than he had me name the mortician to come back choose her up,” Kelley-Tate recalled. “He stated, ‘I need her right here with me just a bit longer.'”
Maggie and Arthur grew up collectively in Coffeeville, Mississippi, a small city about 90 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. Maggie was the daughter of a instructor and a farmer. Arthur helped his household run its dry-cleaning enterprise. He additionally discovered to play the piano nicely sufficient to carry out in juke joints and church buildings.
Their relationship bloomed in highschool. Arthur took Maggie to the promenade earlier than they headed off to school. Maggie attended two traditionally Black faculties in Mississippi: what’s now often known as Alcorn State University in Lorman and Rust College in Holly Springs. Arthur left the South for the Midwest, the place he attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
After their wedding ceremony on June 3, 1961, in Coffeeville — Maggie walked down the aisle in a lace gown with a sweetheart neckline; Arthur wore a white jacket and a large grin — the couple determined to place down roots in St. Louis. Their lives revolved across the kids they quickly had, church and music. Maggie taught elementary faculty and took care of the youngsters whereas Arthur studied speech pathology.
“They might all the time speak about how they might work collectively,” stated their youngest daughter, Gina Kelley. “They labored as a workforce.”
Arthur grew to become the pastor of Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church in 1977. He juggled life as a speech pathologist and minister, their kids stated. Maggie, who at this level was dwelling elevating the children full time, established a routine for them that included prayer time, gospel music and home-cooked meals, together with her beloved “Heath bar cake.”
Arthur and Maggie Kelley stayed devoted to one another, in good occasions and dangerous. One in every of their hardest moments was the demise of their 3-year-old son, Arthur Jr.
Of their last years, each struggled with their well being, however they by no means complained about their circumstances. They leaned on their religion as an alternative as he pushed by way of the challenges attributable to Parkinson’s illness whereas her dementia progressed.
“At occasions, I stated if my father had my mother’s physique and my mother had my father’s mind we might be all good,” their son Kyle Kelley stated.
After Maggie died, Arthur helped his kids make funeral preparations for her. He picked out her casket, after which he chosen one for himself. Two of his kids lifted him out of a chair so he may see the within.
“He stated, ‘I like that,'” Kelley-Tate recalled. “I stated, ‘OK, we’ll preserve that in thoughts,’ not considering it might occur 30 days later.”
He too had contracted covid, one of many more than half-million nursing home residents nationwide to catch the contagious virus. Arthur wished to attend his spouse’s service, so his household determined to carry off on the funeral till he received higher.
He by no means recovered. Precisely one month after Maggie’s demise, he died within the covid ward of a close-by hospital. No household was allowed to be with him. A nurse referred to as Kelley-Tate by video after he died.
However the household got here collectively for what was now a double funeral with the caskets shut to one another — the mauve one Arthur had picked for Maggie and the mahogany casket he had picked for himself.
This text was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Household Basis. Kaiser Well being Information, an editorially impartial information service, is a program of the Kaiser Household Basis, a nonpartisan well being care coverage analysis group unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.