TUCSON — Passing away just eight-days apart at the hands of COVID-19, Gwen and Mike Elbert's love story of more than 53 years continued until their last breaths.
“They were married 53 years. They met, obviously, more than fifty- three years ago. He was in the military at the time and she went to visit him. They got married in Europe, at that time, on the Fourth of July," said Bj Madsen, the couple's niece.
Madsen is heartbroken — knowing both were over 75 and were weeks away from getting vaccinated.
"If we had that vaccination, you know, just four or six weeks earlier. They would probably still be here with us," said Madsen.
The couple was diagnosed with COVID-19 after Christmas. Gwen was admitted to the hospital on New Year's Day — and Mike's diagnosis followed just two days later.
Apart but not far, the couple said their goodbyes through ZOOM as their conditions declined — Gwen passed first.
“I was able to be with her and hold her hand as they turned off the ventilator. We did a ZOOM call with my family, which was lovely. Everybody got to sing and tell fun stories and happy stories,” explained Madsen.
For the next eight days, Madsen said her family encouraged Mike to keep fighting, unfortunately, COVID-19 took his life too.
“I think there are still so many people out there that think that this isn't real and it's real. It's here, it's right here in Tucson,” said Madsen.
Madsen said her aunt and uncle believed in science. They wore masks, limited gatherings, and made sure to host the gatherings outside and socially distant— like they did just weeks before they passed.
She said it was bittersweet when she got vaccinated herself knowing her aunt and uncle were so close.
“I got my shot on [January] 25th. So, exactly one month after we were with them for Christmas," said Madsen.
She now asks the community to get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines.