It’s a suitable Valentine story that is as saccharine sweet as it is painfully tragic. Richard and Alma Shaver were childhood friends and high school sweethearts who eloped at eighteen. They were described as soulmates who were madly in love with one another. Richard became an engineer, they raised three daughters, Alma led Girl Scout troops and became the go-to person in the neighborhood for emergency contact.
A few years back, Alma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and the silent thief lay siege to Alma’s mind. She went from forgetting recently completed tasks to not recognizing her children, and ultimately not recognizing Richard. It was more than he could take.
On a warm day last June, while Alma was sleeping, Richard went upstairs to their bedroom and shot his beloved wife dead. Then he lay down beside her and shot himself.
It was not the ending that his family had hoped for, but they console themselves that they are not having to endure a murder trial. They held a memorial service and celebrated the happier lives that they had known with their parents. Perhaps this family’s tragedy and other less-tragic but equally painful deaths caused by this disease will lead to more open discussions on death with dignity laws.
On this day for lovers, embrace your partner, and tell him or her that you will be there for them if they are visited by the silent thief, but that you will not participate in a tragic end to their life or yours. It only perpetuates the pain for those we may leave behind.
Nytimes.com. (2020). Sweethearts Forever. Then Came Alzheimer’s, Murder and Suicide.. [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/29/nyregion/alzheimers-murder-suicide.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.