A Texas couple married for 60 years ended up in the same hospital with the coronavirus. He died. She went home on Wednesday after 101 days.
In March, right before the virus starting changing everything, Raymond Rougely kissed his wife Vearline to celebrate her 80th birthday.
“I can’t love her no more than I love her now,” Raymond Rougely said in a video shot by their daughter Shenna.
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Within weeks, both would be admitted to the UT Health East Texas hospital in Tyler.
They were treated in different rooms.
Shenna Rougely of Fort Worth said they were the perfect parents, proud of all their children, and in love with each other until the end.
"He would say, and my mom would also say, ‘If I had to go over and do it again, I'd do it with the same person,’” Shenna Rougely said. “They would both say that."
It was an all-American love story.
In the hospital, Vearline Rougely sang her favorite gospel music.
"My soul loves Jesus. He's a wonder in my soul."
She always loved music. She played the guitar in church. And the bass too.
In the hospital, her condition worsened.
"My mom was not doing very well at all,” Shenna Rougely said. “She was on the ventilator. She had double pneumonia."
She had no way of knowing at first that her lifelong companion was being treated in a nearby room, also with the virus.
He seemed to bounce back and was even released from the hospital for a while, his daughter said.
The couple met through a mutual friend when she was just 16 and he was a few years older. They waited until she was 19 to marry.
They raised three children – Shenna, Hazel and Dennis -- in their small East Texas town of Carthage.
Incredibly, Hazel Rougely also got the virus. She recovered.
Shenna Rougely recorded videos of her and her dad talking online, connections arranged by nurses who used their own cell phones to connect family members.
"I haven't seen you in a month and a half and you haven't seen me,” she told her dad.
"Every time I would talk to him, the first thing he would say, is, ‘How is my doll, or how's my wife, or how's my baby?’" Shenna Rougely said in an interview.
"I haven't seen my baby in a while. I love her."
Soon, their conditions reversed.
Vearline Rougely started getting better.
Her husband worsened.
Shenna Rougely, who also had to deal with losing her job in the middle of all this, encouraged her father to keep fighting.
"Daddy, I need you to hang in there, OK? Daddy, I love you.”
She assured her dad that the love of his life was recovering in another hospital room not far from his.
"Momma's in the same hospital you are daddy. Momma is doing pretty good OK?"
"He wanted to make sure she was OK. He would always say, 'Take care of your mom. Take care of your mom,'" she said.
"I love you daddy. I love you so much. I am so thankful you're my dad. I thank you for everything, OK?"
“And I said goodbye," she said.
He died in May.
"They've been the best parents. And I love my mom and dad. I can't say enough about my parents," Shenna Rougely said.
Her mother steadily improved and was released from the hospital Wednesday, still not knowing her life partner had died.
Her family didn't tell her, worried it would impact her recovery, unable to be there in person to comfort her because of hospital restrictions.
"Finding ways to keep that from her has been very difficult,” Shenna Rougely said. “The main thing is, I hope our mom forgives us for not being completely truthful with her and know we were doing that to protect her."
Her family broke the news to her when they got back home to the small East Texas town of Carthage.
But first, there was a parade to welcome her back. She sat on her front porch as friends drove by honking.
Her daughter will move in and take care of her, at least for now.
"I just want to thank everyone and I thank God for sparing my mom's life because she wasn’t supposed to make it but she did,” Shenna Rougely said. “She defied the odds."
The family set up a scholarship fund in honor of Raymond Rougely, noting he always stressed the importance of education with his children even though he didn't make it past ninth grade.
Shenna Rougely said she wanted to share her family’s story to warn people about the toll the virus is taking on families like hers and to thank the nurses, doctors, friends and churches who helped them.
“They’re angels,” she said.