Inspiring Stories

Love Story Serenaded at Methodist Hospital

Romeo and Juliet

In the course of 68 years, there’s little Joan and Russell Lange haven’t done together. A love story that began in their teens has spanned nearly seven decades. 

“We went to different high schools and mingled with different friends,” said Joan. “It just happened.”

It was a love so strong, the couple eloped at the age of 18.

“We were naughty,” said Joan with a little chiding from her husband’s hospital bed. “We just decided we were going to get married. We ran off to Kansas, got married, and then telegrammed our parents and went to Las Vegas for a week. My dad threw all my clothes out in the front yard.”

A lifetime at each other’s sides

In their marriage together, the Langes raised three children and had several careers. 

“We’ve done so many things in our life,” said Joan. “We had a farm, he sold insurance, we owned a grocery store and locker, and then we worked road construction. But we always did everything together. Even when we worked road construction, we worked on the same piece of equipment.”

The children grew and had children of their own. As their little family blossomed and spanned the country, Russell and Joan were content alone.

“We didn’t really need anybody else,” said Joan. “We had each other.”

Growing old together

While their bodies have aged, their love has only grown stronger. In recent months and years, Russell and Joan battled illnesses that transitioned them to skilled nursing care. Just a few weeks ago, Joan was admitted to Methodist Hospital with pulmonary fibrosis in her lungs. After she went back home, Russell was admitted with complications from prostate cancer that has spread. 

Russell and Joan wouldn’t be returning home to skilled nursing. Instead, they wanted to be admitted into hospice care together.

“We call them our ‘Notebook couple,’” said Kirsten Engelken, a care coordinator at Methodist Hospital working with the family. “You have a whole family together who loves each other and they're doing everything in their power to do what's right for their parents. They talk about what's best for their mom and what's best for their dad. The ultimate goal is to get them in one hospice location together.”

Marking a milestone

On the morning of October 19th, the news spread quickly. It was a special day. The Langes’ 68th wedding anniversary would be spent in a hospital room on the 6th floor.

When we heard it was their anniversary, we had to do something.

Chaplain Crystall Williams-Bonner
Methodist Hospital pastoral services

A celebration with song

The Langes’ three children and a sprinkling of grandchildren were there to celebrate their parents’ milestone when a team of nurses and care providers walked into room 614. Chaplain Mike McMahon brought his guitar and asked if he could sing to them.

The song written by McMahon was aptly named, “Blessing Song.”

All of your hours
All of your days
Turn into flowers
And bloom on your way.
Together we walk
This road without end
So tend to your heart, my friend.

“It was special,” said Joan. “It was a good surprise. Just getting to come down here to see him was a surprise. They told me I wasn’t well enough to come, but I had to just get down here to see Russell one more time, and they made it happen.”

It was a beautiful moment that left everyone in the room in tears.

Care for the whole family

Just two days later, the Langes left Methodist Hospital, with care coordinators helping them prepare for their next step on life’s journey together. Working with a care facility closer to where their daughter lives in Iowa, their goal was to make the transition seamless. It’s something for which the entire family is grateful.

“We’ve had excellent care here at Methodist,” said Lori Thomas, Russell and Joan’s daughter. “Everybody has been kind, considerate and helpful. It’s been so personable. You can tell their philosophy is caring for the whole family and not just the patient.” 

“I love the compassion,” said Bruce Lange, Russell and Joan’s son. “The compassion that everyone here shows… it’s all about taking care of everybody.”

Together we walk
This road without end
So tend to your heart, my friend.

**Editor's Note: Russell Lang lost his battle with cancer and passed away on October 30th. We thank the family for allowing us to share this story.