Chicago couple Isaac and Teresa Vatkin were “always holding hands” during their 69 years of marriage and they passed away hand-in-hand at Highland Park Hospital on April 23.
“Through the sadness of it all, I’m so glad they left together,” their son Daniel Vatkin tells PEOPLE. “Their hands remained held until mom passed and she was taken away.”
Teresa, 89, died first at 12:10 a.m and Isaac, 91, passed away about 40 minutes later. They leave behind three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“It was difficult, but in another way it’s a beautiful piece,” says Daniel. “I don’t think he could have handled it if he had survived.
“They maintained a unity until the last breath.”
Their other son, Leo Vatkin, says the two are in “a much better place now.”
“A couple of tears came down from her eyes and then she left us,” Leo tells PEOPLE. “Then as they wheeled her out and my father let her hand go, he stopped breathing.
“Now they are angels dancing together once again in the sky together.”
Isaac grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and worked as a leather maker crafting goods. He met Teresa, who lived in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, and the couple married in 1947.
Twenty years later, the family moved to Chicago before settling in Skokie to start a new life with their three young children Leo, Daniel and Clara Gesklin.
The adoring parents, who loved dancing the tango together, never showed “any aggression” towards each other.
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“My mom was his queen,” says Daniel. “They stuck together through thick and thin and they taught us what it means to be a loving [spouse] and how to love and say forget and forgive and move on.”
Over time, Teresa’s health declined and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 10 years ago.
Desperate to save his wife, Leo picked up computer skills at the age of 80 so he could to search for breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research.
He even brought her to the Mayo Clinic to enroll her in research trials.
But Teresa’s condition worsened and she moved into a memory-care facility.
“He never stopped loving her — one time an old man accidentally wandered into her room, lost, and he yelled at him, ‘You won’t get next to my sweetheart!’ ” recalls Daniel. “But it really killed him to see her like that [with Alzheimer’s].”
In April, Isaac was admitted to Highland Park Hospital with influenza and his wife was brought in for pneumonia.
Both were put on hospice care and eventually allowed to be in the same room.
“They were under dosages of morphine, but they held hands and those hands remained clasped until the very end,” says Daniel. “They left their suffering together.”
Isaac “waited” for his sweetheart to pass away first, says Leo.
“He was supposed to go first but he lasted 12 hours,” he adds. “And out of nowhere she left us.
“He wanted to go and be with her.”
Isaac and Teresa are now “dancing the tango” together again — forever.
“When they got married… they probably said ”Til death do us part,’ ” says Leo. “But our Rabbi said, ‘No, death did not do them part, it did not, because they are together still.’
“We’re so happy they are with each other once more.”