Jacob Jones: Enclosed in the broken glass and crushed steel of a crumpled 1969 Plymouth Fury, Margaret Nordhagen sits next to the love of her life. Both of them are dying. For more than 68 years, Floyd had held her steady. Together they carved out a simple life near Chattaroy, raising four children and scores of cattle on 80 acres of hayfield and black pine.
In his 92 years, Floyd boasted of few things except a strong heart and Margaret. A child of the Depression, he worked the Bremerton shipyard during World War II. He later logged, ran a salvage business, and for nearly 50 years farmed the land his parents tended before him.
While Floyd left school after eighth grade, Margaret, 88, graduated as valedictorian of her high school. She worked most of her life as a bookkeeper for both Montgomery Ward and her church. She insisted on managing the family’s checkbook as well as the kitchen.
Never apart for more than a few hours at a time, the Nordhagens held together through good years and bad years, anniversaries and Alzheimer’s, growing old side by side. She would follow him anywhere, and together they set out on a sunny October afternoon for a quick errand just 10 miles down the road. It’s there on Newport Highway, north of Spokane, that the couple’s car collides with a Ford pickup, cutting their trip short.
How do you say goodbye to such a man after such a long time together?
We can never know.
What is certain, though, is that as sirens close in on the crash site, Margaret reaches across the front seat. She grabs Floyd’s hand.
Not to be left behind, she is still holding on as emergency responders check Floyd’s fading pulse.