Real-life Fault in Our Stars couple Katie and Dalton Prager are gone from this world, but not forgotten among those lucky enough to know them.
Nor will these bright lights ever be.
Their final days were, both tragically and inspirationally, emblematic of the duo relationship as a whole, as they put on the best face they could.
With each knowing their all-but-certain fate was to pass away from the cystic fibrosis disease that brought them together, they were somber.
Never, though, were they pitiful.
After Dalton Prager died last Saturday, his family found comfort thinking that he was paving the way for his wife of five years, to join him.
Katie Prager died yesterday.
“He’s a gentleman,” Dalton’s dad Dave told People magazine. “Everybody’s in the belief that Dalton was there to open heaven’s gate for her.”
Katie’s death on Thursday came after she decided to forego hospital stays and spend her final weeks at her Kentucky home in hospice care.
Dalton, meanwhile, was hospitalized in Missouri on the very day he had planned to travel to lend Katie support and see her one more time.
Both were born with cystic fibrosis, which restricts and worsens the ability to breathe over time, and carries an average life expectancy of 40.
Although each received a lung transplant (Dalton in 2014, and Katie in 2015) neither fully recovered and they died within the same week.
By the end, the time they spent together since their surgeries was measured not in days, but in hours, and still their love story endured.
Dalton, who was most recently on a ventilator and often sedated in his hospital room, was able to connect via Skype with Katie last week.
“You could tell he was struggling in his own pain,” says Dave.
“When he saw Katie, his eyes just lit up. He wanted everything to look positive for her. He pulls that off quite frequently for her.”
For her part, “Katie was just always positive reinforcement for him,” says Dave. “That was one of their deals with each other.”
“‘It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay.'”
But the next night, it was not.
Dalton “wasn’t coherent enough to communicate,” Dave says, adding in the possible understatement of all time that “that was tough.”
He died the next afternoon, as Katie’s family gathered for an early Christmas because her doctors predicted she wouldn’t make it that long.
Katie and Dalton last saw each other in person in July, for just a few minutes in Katie’s hospital room on their fifth wedding anniversary.
Dave had driven with his son to pull off the visit. “He was not in good shape then,” Dalton’s dad says. “I was a little scared.”
“Seeing Dalton sitting on the hospital bed next to Katie … I hadn’t seen Katie for a while, and she was very thin, very frail.”
“It almost made Dalton look normal size. I don’t think Dalton looked at it that way. He was just glad to be there with her.”
Talking with Katie after Dalton died, “you could tell she was heartbroken,” says Dave. “I don’t know if that was the final straw for her.”
In the end, Dalton’s dad couldn’t be prouder.
His son, he says, feared he might never experience romance at all: “He didn’t think he’d ever find somebody that would accept him.”
Dalton also fretted that he’d be forgotten, even as he earned high school and culinary school degrees, got married, bought a house and traveled.
“He darn-near accomplished everything he wanted to,” says his dad, and “If this is his legacy, to get the word out about cystic fibrosis?”
“I think he would love it.”