If you’re feeling a deep sense of loss and emptiness today and you don’t know why, let me clue you in. I’m pretty sure love died, leaving a big, gaping hole in our hearts. I realized this when I read the tragic story of Grace and Harry Irwin. This Kansas City couple had been married 70 years when Harry snapped, killing his 95-year-old wife and attempting suicide.
93-year-old Harry Irwin was the primary caregiver for his wife who suffered from debilitating cancer. The couple had seven children and numerous grandchildren who mostly lived nearby and visited frequently. Unfortunately, the stress of caring for his sick loved one seemed to wear on Harry, as it can on many who are placed in this difficult position. Irwin told a home nurse, “I couldn’t take it anymore.” He also mentioned that the couple was arguing and yelling all night long.
So Harry Irwin wrote a note to his family, then took a knife and stabbed his wife to death. After that, he slit his wrists and stabbed himself in the chest. Amazingly, Harry lived through his injuries, though it obviously wasn’t his intention. Now, he’s facing second degree murder charges for the death of his wife.
More than anything, I just feel so terrible for the family and children of this couple. Really, they are losing both of their parents in such a heart-wrenching way. And they might have to watch their elderly patriarch go to jail for a desperate, devastating reaction to a horrible situation. I realize that justice needs to be done. At the same time, sending this man to jail doesn’t so much feel like justice. Just sad.
I’ve watched family members struggle to care for sick loved ones. I’ve been there, giving my grandmother “bathes” with a washcloth or helping her use the restroom. I’ve wept as she whimpered through unbearable and constant pain.
I’m not saying that this type of stress and pressure justifies Harry Irwin’s actions. Of course it doesn’t. If he couldn’t handle the care of his wife, he should have asked his family for help.
But I do believe that this story is just sad. It’s not one of malice and hatred. It’s a man who lost hope and who killed the woman that he spent his entire life loving. Love, as a universal concept, might just be in mourning for quite a while.