Emily and Roy Skarl lived together for 54 years and died within three days of each other.
She died first. She told him she would die first, even though he was the one who had been diagnosed with an aggressive leukemia in early October and had less than a month to live.
The couple, both 75, died last week at their home in Gulfport with their son and daughter attending them.
“It’s unusual. Some will say it’s weird, but my brother and I look at it as a blessing,” said Sheridan Skarl of Gulfport. “They’re still together, and they’re not hurting. They got to tell each other how they felt about each other before they left, and that’s important. Mom even picked her own urn.
She was ready. She talked with us and asked, ‘Do you care if I go?’
Sheridan Skarl, Roy and Emily’s daughter
“They were pretty straightforward with both of us. That’s how they were.
“I won’t lie — looking at Sunday’s paper was a little hard with both obituaries in it, but I knew they were together and it was OK.”
Met on a blind date
Emily Skarl was a nurse and a social butterfly who loved talking with people. Roy Skarl, an architect, was more reserved.
They were great together — strong individuals who complemented each other.
They met on a blind date when they were in college in Cincinnati and married in 1962. Through the years, she worked on and off as a nurse and raised the children, while he built a thriving business as a professional in West Virginia.
He worked right up until his 70s, when Emily had a series of falls that left her in pain. She struggled with COPD. They left West Virginia to be near their daughter and wound up in Gulfport less than two years ago. They bought a home in Hidden Oaks subdivision, and he traded in his shoes for flip-flops.
But her health didn’t improve and he took on the role of caretaker. Then out of nowhere, he got sick and didn’t seem to get better.
His leukemia was diagnosed Oct. 6 and doctors told him it would be quick. Sheridan Skarl said her mother was surprised.
Emily always thought she would die first.
On Oct. 9, a Sunday, she told her daughter, “I’m tired of this bag of bones.”
“She was ready. She talked with us and asked, ‘Do you care if I go?’ ” Sheridan Skarl said. “We said go ahead.”
Emily talked with Roy.
“We didn’t hear what they said, but we heard them tell each other they loved each other,” Sheridan Skarl said. “I’m sure he said, ‘Go ahead,’ because the next morning she did.”
He really wanted her to go first, Sheridan Skarl said.
Looking for her in heaven
On the morning of Oct. 10, Emily was talking. Her children cleaned her up, tucked her in and left to get her some water. When they returned, she had died.
“She did it own her own terms. Got cleaned up and was at peace,” Sheridan Skarl said. “She knew Dad would be all right.”
On Oct. 12, Roy was hurting and on pain medication with hospice. Sheridan Skarl said her brother, Barrett Skarl, asked him what he was waiting on and he said he couldn’t find his wife.
Sheridan Skarl said her brother told him, “Dad, you know how Mom is. She knew a lot of people. She’s probably talking to them. You’ll just have to wait, like you did here (on Earth). You might have to wait until she finishes talking, but she’ll be there for you.”
On Thursday, Oct. 13, he woke up coughing. That night, his children fixed his favorite chili dog. And with “Country Roads” playing, with its reference to West Virginia where they had lived, Roy died.
“We can’t complain,” Sheridan Skarl said. “They got what they wanted. They didn’t want to spend that much time apart.”
Emily was cremated in her high heels and Roy in his flip-flops.
“They were great parents,” Sheridan Skarl said. “And an awesome couple.”