Kathy Rabon, Empath Health

For 17 years Joyce and Robert were inseparable.

The couple first met in college, but life ultimately took them down separate paths. They married different people. Started different families and watched those families grow. Decades later they reconnected. Robert, a retired minister, was filling in at the church Joyce attended. The months that followed were a whirlwind romance. Encouraged to make the most of the time they had left, they married at 75- and 80-years old.

“They had a glorious life together. Seventeen years of enjoying the experience of living,” says Judy Lane, Joyce’s daughter. “They were always holding hands and very loving to each other.”

Robert and Joyce did everything together. They made the most of every day for as long as they could, staying true to their wedding vows of “in sickness and in health, until life do we forward.”

As Joyce’s dementia, hearing loss and vision loss progressed they settled at an assisted living facility in Palm Harbor. Through it all, Robert’s patient love persevered. A former member of a barbershop quartet, he often sang and she would harmonize with him. Their children and grandchildren called almost daily and visited often. It was a life filled with loved.

In January came the call no child wants to hear. Even with precautions in place, both Joyce and Robert had contracted COIVD. As Judy began the 8-hour drive from Alabama to be with them, the couple was moved to the Suncoast Hospice North Pinellas Care Center.

Upon admittance, their children had one request: for Joyce and Roberts to reside in the same room, with the beds pushed together so they could hold hands.

Suncoast Hospice made it happen. The inseparable pair often referred to as newlyweds were able to stay together.

“Their will to be together was stronger than death. They could not live without each other,” says Judy.

Even as their condition deteriorated, Joyce and Robert stayed strong for each other. They had promised each other 10 years together and that when the time came, they would leave this world together. The compassionate care from the Suncoast Hospice Care Center allowed the couple to find comfort in each other until their final moments.

Joyce was the first to pass on. Only a few hours later, after Judy held his hand and offered reassurance that her mom was okay, Robert followed.

“Suncoast Hospice did so much for Mom and Dad. We were in the hands of God with them,” says Judy.

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