Elderly Couple Separated for Over a Year Due to COVID Reunite for 72nd Wedding Anniversary
"The lights went on again in my life because I was able to be so close to my husband for the first time in more than a year," said Virginia Byrne
A Missouri couple was given the ultimate present for their 72nd wedding anniversary by getting to reunite after not seeing each other for over a year.
Virginia Byrne was unable to see her husband Jack Byrne for so long because he was living in a memory care facility in St. Louis, which had strict COVID-19 restrictions in place, and she lives on her own, ABC News reported.
But after more than a year apart, Virginia, 95, and Jack, 94, got to embrace again — and the sweet reunion happened as the pair marked 72 years of marriage, according to the outlet.
"The lights went on again in my life because I was able to be so close to my husband for the first time in more than a year," Virginia told ABC News.
"I looked into his eyes, and his eyes sparkled as they always did when we were close together," she added.
The couple's daughter, Rosemary Byrne, tells PEOPLE her dad has advanced Alzheimer's disease and "for the last year, has been mostly nonverbal and seldom seems to recognize us or my mom."
During this time, Jack has been living at the McKnight Place Assisted Living and Memory Care facility, but Rosemary says the pandemic prevented family from seeing him in person.
"Between March 2020 and March 2021, we were only able to visit him over Zoom or on the other side of a window, using an intercom to communicate," she explains. "While my mom did these window visits weekly, the additional barrier was a big challenge for Dad, and he was often preoccupied with trying to open the door to let her inside."
But on March 19, Rosemary says her parents were finally allowed to be together in person — and the moment was beautiful.
"My mom is so thankful and encouraged that the vaccines have allowed them — and us, their many adoring children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren — to reunite," Rosemary says.
"In these pictures from their reunion on March 19, you can see my Dad recognizes my Mom, he's warmed by her touch, he's enamored by her eyes," she adds. "We thought we'd lost him in this last year."
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On Thursday, close to three weeks after embracing her husband, Virginia told ABC News, "It was a wonderful moment. I could hardly let go."
While she reflects on their special moment, Virginia said she hopes she and Jack won't be the only ones who get to have a reunion with a beloved spouse or family member.
"I'm hopeful that now many people will be able to share this kind of moment as vaccinations conquer this robber of togetherness," she told ABC News.