LOCKPORT – Just weeks before Melvin and Germaine Bost’s 69th wedding anniversary, it appeared the time had come to say goodbye.
But instead of farewells, the power of love is keeping them together, and they celebrate that anniversary today.
On Jan. 9, Germaine, 92, had a heart attack, fell and was rushed unconscious to the hospital. At the hospital, the family made it clear they didn’t want any extraordinary measures to keep Germaine – a faith-filled woman who attended daily Mass until she had a stroke three years ago – alive.
“My mother has ‘bone on bone’ in every joint,” said the Bosts’ daughter, Barb Steffes of Lockport. “For weeks, she had been asking everyone to pray for a peaceful death.”
It certainly appeared that might happen soon. Germaine’s blood pressure and heart rate plummeted. Her pulse was only 30 beats a minute.
“The nurse told us that the oxygen mask was keeping her alive,” Steffes said. “If we removed it, she would pass.”
So Melvin took Germaine’s hand and began speaking to her. Instantly, Germaine opened her eyes and stared at Melvin. Her blood pressure and heart rate rose and continued rising.
“When the nurse came in, she did a double-take,” Steffes said. “She had to make sure it was the same patient.”
That night, Germaine was moved to a room with comfort care. The next day, she was feeding herself a soft diet and talking to family. Miraculously, Germaine did not break any bones, and has no damage to her heart or brain.
Germaine returned home Jan. 16. Steffes doubts her mother will be well enough to walk again, but Germaine talks to everyone, reads the newspaper, feeds herself, gives instructions to her caregivers and keeps track of the medication she takes.
Cory Wolf, Germaine’s nurse through Joliet Area Community Hospice, said she rarely hears firsthand stories of true love’s touch breaking the spell of death. Just talking about the experience makes her cry.
“It’s like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty,” Wolf said through her tears. “There’s no medical explanation for it.”
Melvin and Germaine met in 1941 when both worked for an insurance company in Chicago. Their first date was in August to celebrate both their birthdays; Melvin’s is Aug. 18, Germaine’s is Aug. 31. They went to Riverview, a former amusement park on Belmont and Western avenues.
With a laugh, Germaine said she went out with Melvin because he was one of the few unattached men working for the company.
Melvin had a different reason.
“She was kind of cute,” Melvin said.
One of their treasured photos is a black and white snapshot taken the night before the bombing of Pearl Harbor at a girls club where Germaine and Melvin liked to play pinochle, a game both still play.
On Feb. 8, Barb said they played a couples game – her husband, Leroy Steffes and Melvin against Barb and Germaine.
“My mom and I creamed them,” Barb said.
Melvin and Germaine raised five children in a one-bathroom house that was so small, Barb Steffes said, her father joked about having to stand on the bed to put on his pants. But the couple was rich in respect and appreciation for each other.
“My father always thanked my mother for making dinner,” she said.
Except for the one year they went to Hawaii, Melvin and Germaine always celebrated wedding anniversaries with dinner dates. Germaine ordered steak; Melvin, lamb chops. This year, their family will have dinner catered at the house and neither Germaine nor Melvin is picky about the menu.
“Just something easy,” Germaine said.
Germaine feels couples should try harder to make relationships work and she stressed the importance of celebration. Melvin hopes everyone can find the happiness he and Germaine have known.
However, he downplays the fact that may have saved her life, although he surely is thankful she’s still here. He doesn’t want to think about life without her.
“I’d be lonely,” Melvin said and then added with a grin, “At 97, it’s hard to find somebody else.”