We’ve all met them … Couples that have been together for so long that each partner has lost his or her identity and become half of the larger whole. Couples that have been married for decades enjoy a shared identity that defines their love and their life together. As they get older, it often becomes difficult to imagine one of them going on without the other. They complete each other in so many ways that to remove half of the relationship might leave the other half to founder.
And this happens. It’s not at all unusual for an elderly surviving partner to pass just a short time after the love of their life leaves them.
“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.” – Winnie the Pooh
Recently, one such couple passed away just two weeks apart. Their story is different because they were a gay couple. Shaun O’Brien, a dancer for forty years with the New York City Ballet, died at the age of 86 on February 23rd and his husband, Cris Alexander, a Broadway actor and photographer, died on March 7th.
When marriage equality was brought to New York State last year the couple, who had been together for more than sixty years, realized their dream of marriage. The two had shared a Victorian house in Saratoga Springs and will be missed by all their friends and neighbors.
“If there is a cause of death, it’s a broken heart. It’s as simple as that.” – Jane Klain, Friend
Hopefully, we’ll all be afforded long and happy lives spent with those that we love and that other long-term couples will have the chance to lawfully dignify their relationship like Alexander and O’Brien did before it's too late.
At my house, I like to think that I have “dibs” on being the first to go. We don't talk about it, but I can’t bear the thought of being left behind. Just like Winnie the Pooh.
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