• Fri, Jan 25 2013

Simply Tragic: 93-Year-Old Man Stabs His Wife Of 70 Years To Death Before Attempting Suicide

broken heartIf 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.

(Photo: Ola Lundqvist/Shutterstock)

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  • chickadee

    Do we know that he *didn’t* ask family members for help? Until my terminally ill mother entered residential care, I was her primary caregiver for almost two years (and I had to commute from 60 miles away)…I got a lot of praise from family members and friends but not so much in the way of emotional or actual support.

    I can’t help feeling very sorry for him, and I should hope that he is able to mount a successful defense if his circumstances warrant it. Unless further research reveals him to have been a lifelong colossal ass.

    • jessica

      93 years old and primary caregiver. I was 19-23 years old and caring for my mother and I felt completely exhausted and overwhelmed half the time. Poor guy (unless the exception you noted above)

    • chickadee

      I know exactly what you mean. I was primary caregiver for my terminally ill mother, and I had to care for my two daughters as well. It was one of the roughest periods of my life, hands down.

    • StephKay

      Thirded. My mother did recover, but at one point was on hospice care. My dad left when I was thirteen, so I took on caregiving. There is never any excuse for violence, but we all know how devastating and exhausting being in that role can be for even a young woman let alone someone in their 90′s. My gut says to feel sorry for him, but on the other hand violence against women is SUCH a slippery slope that I almost dont want to overlook the fact that abusers are still abusers even if they’re elderly and adorable and in love for many, many years. However this does sound like a case of someone just snapping, and the devastation his family must be going through is just totally beyond what I can imagine. If anything I think we can all agree that this is exactly why support for the sick and elderly is in such desperate need for improvement. No one should ever, ever have to feel that degree of desperation. There should have been so many opportunities for help so far ahead of the breaking point, but sadly the resources often aren’t there.

  • Ras Trent

    LOL he couldn’t take it anymore!