Friday, March 21, 2014

The Final Chapter of a 45-year Romantic Adventure Comes to a Close.

Dad didn't know that she had passed, and she didn't know that he had passed. I don't understand it, but it's beautiful.' Said Troy Shirley, one of the couple's three sons. "He never knew she left and she never knew he was gone, but both left within 10 minutes of each other, you have to look at it in a romantic way, they did everything together."

A Florida couple who spent 45 years together died within minutes of each other.

A South Florida couple who spent all of their time together exploring and fighting to preserve the Everglades died just 10 minutes apart this weekend, bringing a sweet end to their 45-year love affair. In more than four decades of married life, Tom Shirley, a former state game warden, explored the Everglades — and more distant locales — with his wife Naomi at his side.

Saturday, the couple embarked on their final adventure together. They died separately at the same hospital, 10 minutes apart, their passing unknown to each other.

Their romance started at a local drug store.

The couple met 45 years ago when Naomi was working at a drug store. It was love at first sight.

Tom Shirley, a retired game warden for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, was 83. Born in Texas, Tom moved to Florida when he was 3. Naomi Shirley, a retired nurse, was 75.

Naomi Shirley of Southwest Ranches, Fla., was on her way to visit her husband, Tom, in the hospital when she suffered a heart attack.

According to the couple's children, Tom Shirley, hospitalized with heart problems earlier Saturday, died shortly before his wife. Neither knew of the other's passing.

They both loved the everglades.

The Glades were where the couple like to spend their free time too, and Tom Shirley even designed an air boat of his own to ride on the marsh.

'My mother loved fishing and the outdoors life and he was a game warden and that's what attracted them to each other. They both liked the same things,' son Tom Shirley said.

While daughter Melanie Davis says it's been hard to process the death of both parents at the same time, she's grateful neither had to live without the other. 'I have to be thankful because she's not sitting somewhere sobbing and all upset dad's not here because they were each other's whole life,' Davis said.

"He fell in love with the Everglades," Troy Shirley said. He wrote a book, “Everglades Patrol," about his experiences preserving wildlife.

"He lived to protect the Everglades," another son, Tommy Shirley, said. "He kind of molded us into what he did and we passed that on to our kids as well. My mother loved fishing and the outdoors life and he was a game warden and that’s what attracted them to each other, they both liked the same things."

"It must have been such a surprise to him to get to the other side and see her waiting for him," The family is arranging an FWC honor guard to attend the couple's memorial service. "

The couple is survived by four children and eight grandchildren.

Stories of elderly couples dying in close succession are not so unusual.

· In 2012, a Pennsylvania couple together for 65 years died just 88 minutes apart.

· The same year, a Florida couple who had been together for over six decades died within minutes of each other.

· And just last month, an upstate New York couple — Floreen Hale, 82, and Ed Hale, 83 — died 36 hours apart. The pair, who had been in separate hospitals, were reunited so they could hold hands in their final hours.

It was as if Plato's lost twin myth was true. The philosopher told of how we are born as only half of our true selves and wander the earth until we find our twin - our lost other half or soul mate.

Some people believe that couples who spend so much of their lives together become telepathic. They can connect to each other without words. Is that what happened to these couples who lived for each other – and died with each other? 

What a beautiful way to leave this earth.

Nancy Burban 2014

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