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article imageScience and Religion Meet at the Juncture of Presley's Funeral Special

By Carol Forsloff     Jun 10, 2009 in World
Dorothy Presley died two months ago. Her husband was buried this week. Science says when an elderly person dies the spouse will die soon after. Religion says God calls them to be together. Does faith or science explains this best?
Today I attended another funeral in an old church in the African-American community of Natchitoches, Louisiana. In March I went to Dorothy Presley’s funeral. Her husband, Cleveland Presley, died a few days ago. Most people said it was a blessing because Cleveland had Alzheimer's disease. His caretaker had been his wife Dorothy. When Dorothy died, his care became the responsibility of adult twin sons who took turns, along with neighbors, helping their dad get through his days. People said when Dorothy died, Cleveland didn't even know it happened. He continued to ask for her repeatedly. His children say they are happy now their parents are together. The rest of the community agrees, because Cleveland and Dorothy Presley were great friends and lovers, people whom folks said exemplified the finest of service and dedication to their community and to each other. Now they are together again after just two months of separation.
The phenomenon of spouses dying close together in time is the stuff of great stories and legends, but it also is true. MSNBC reported last year studies from all over the world reveal the rate of mortality increases very significantly among grieving spouses soon after their mate has died. One Researchers at the University of Glasgow using a sample of 4,000 couples found that, on average, widows and widowers were at least 30 percent more likely to die of any cause in the first six months following a spouse’s death than those who hadn’t lost a partner. A large study in Jerusalem concluded the same thing, but found the risk of death rose by 50 percent.
“We see it all the time,” says Dr. Hope Wechkin, the medical director of Evergreen Hospice in Kirkland, Wash. “Often a patient will come on to [hospice] service and we find out their spouse has died six weeks earlier or so. … I think it’s about connection. For many people, their spouse represents their greatest sense of connection to this world.”
People described the funeral service for Cleveland Presely today as moving. Out of the mouth of an elderly woman, likely in her 80s, came one of the most beautiful spirituals I had ever heard. It was a “Susan Boyle moment” for me, in that I did not expect a voice of that magnitude and that incredible beauty to come from one of such advanced years. The voice was strong. It flew as if it had wings that carried it past the confines of the little church to the neighborhoods around. As I watched the people with their hands in the air and their tears streaming down their faces, I watched in awe with others who expressed similar feelings and who said it was because great love could literally be felt at the time. People at the church declared the source of love was God. Others might say it came from the interaction of people as they respect and revere each other and their elders, especially at death.
Cleveland Presley s funeral
Cleveland Presley's funeral in Natchitoches, Louisiana, two months after that of his wife Dorothy, proves once again scientific studies revealing spouses die close together.
Carol Forsloff
Cleveland Presley died at the age of 92. The program and the people who spoke said he served his country, his family, his community and his church. Presley lived a simple life, people described as worthy; and when he could live no more with joy, perhaps his wife in some unknown way asked him to join her, some declared. Religion says it happened. Science says it happens, but can't explain exactly why. This is where certain mysteries reside at the juncture of science and faith.
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