In life in Rock Hill, Doretha Harris Isom and her brother, Lonnie Harris, were as close as siblings can be.
She was a cook for York Road Elementary School for more than 30 years. He was a custodian for Castle Heights Middle School.
They lived right next to each other on Wildcat Creek Road, where most of the families are Isoms or Harrises. She lived at 1849 Wildcat Creek; he was at 1848.
Around 10 a.m. Wednesday, after an asthma attack, Lonnie Harris died suddenly at age 67. His beloved sister - in a sickbed for almost two years after a stroke and battling Alzheimer's disease - was not told.
Yet 13 hours later, that same Wednesday, after so much struggling for life, Doretha died, too. She was 80.
So many in the family say Doretha knew Lonnie died because of the spiritual connection between the two.
Here were siblings who lived next door to each other, spent more than six decades caring for each other - and each other's children and grandchildren - and they died hours apart on the very same day.
Did Doretha know, somehow, that Lonnie had died and that it was now OK for her to die, too?
Sonya Isom, Doretha's daughter, said yes, she believes her mother knew about Lonnie's death - somehow.
"It's the spiritual connection between them," she said.
The deaths of Lonnie Harris and Doretha Isom are the third dual deaths of loved ones in this area within 24 hours in just over a month:
In mid-July, Bert and Miriam Arthur of Indian Land, married more than 60 years, died within a day of each other after both were in hospice care for unrelated illnesses.
She cared for him for several years but died first, then he died just hours after he was told of her death. Family believed Bert died only after he knew Miriam had died, and he felt he could go.
A couple of weeks ago, inseparable sisters for more than 50 years, Kathryn Elliott and Yvonne Pickett of Rock Hill, died within hours of each other after both fought unrelated cancers.
Elliott, who died second after helping care for her sister for so long, was not told of her sister's death. But family believed she died only after knowing her sister's suffering had ceased.
There are no easy answers about how or why this might happen, said Rev. Walter White, a retired teacher and preacher for decades in Rock Hill at Flint Hill Baptist Church. But there is no doubt that a close bond between people has a spiritual thread.
"Somehow, the person knows that bond has been broken," White said. "But I don't have the answer. Only God has it."
There is little or no scientific evidence or data to prove that deaths one after another within a day have a connection, said Jeff Sinn, a psychology and statistics professor at Winthrop University.
But there is a powerful human need to belong and to be loved, he said, and someone's emotional and spiritual life often has a "huge bearing" on her overall health.
"It makes a lot more sense if the one person who died second knew about the first death," Sinn said.
Sinn and White agree it is far more common to hear stories of the demise of a longtime spouse or close family member after a period of time, following the death of the first person.
The Rev. Bob Porterfield of Rock Hill's Second Baptist Church said he too has seen similar circumstances over the years, and he has dug through Scripture to explain it.
There is none.
But that spiritual connection is there, Porterfield said, and some things cannot be explained by man or science.
"People do know certain things and conditions that they might not have reason to know," Porterfield said. "It is unexplainable. It is puzzling.
"But there is strong evidence that spiritual dependence seems to be true for those people."
Proving any science behind that "spiritual dependence" is a lot like scientifically proving the existence of God, Porterfield said. That is what faith is all about.
"Just because you can't prove it, does not mean it isn't true," he said. "There is a thing we have between people that is a significant part of the soul, which no one can see or touch.
"It is what binds people together. We call it love."
And there sure was love between Doretha Harris Isom and Lonnie Harris.
Doretha was the oldest of the 12 kids; Lonnie was the eighth.
Like the oldest girl in almost all families of that generation, Doretha helped raise her brothers and sisters as the parents worked.
When, a couple of years ago, Doretha had a stroke and "took sick," as their mother, Ida Harris - very much alive deep into her 90s - described it, Lonnie spent a lot of his time helping Doretha's children with her care.
"Lonnie just loved Doretha so much," said Darlene Page, one of their sisters.
Sallie Harris and Darlene Page, the sisters, said it is clear Doretha was not told and her mental and physical condition meant even if she was told of Lonnie's death, she wouldn't have been able to understand it.
But there was a spiritual connection between the two, the sisters said, so maybe - somehow - Doretha knew in her heart or soul.
The siblings were so close, and died so close together, that their obituaries ran, side-by-side, in Monday's Herald. A single funeral service is scheduled for both Lonnie and Doretha at 2 p.m. today at Nazareth Baptist Church.
Ida Harris said there was a spiritual connection between her two children that was so strong that when Lonnie died, the connection was finally broken.
Maybe, she said, Doretha, even in her weakened condition, was aware of it.
"It very well could be so, that she knew," said Ida Harris. "First they were together as my children. They loved each other.
And above all, they were connected by God."