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Grey's Anatomy: How Old Was Derek When He Died?

If there were ever a god-like figure to emerge from the "Grey's Anatomy" mythology, it would be Dr. Derek Shepherd, a.k.a. McDreamy. Starting with Episode 1, McDreamy (as played by Patrick Dempsey) provided romance and drama for the show's main character Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo). Through thick and thin, babies and cross-country promotions, the two build a love that is often the anchor of the show. And then Derek dies.

McDreamy's eventual demise in a freak car accident is unexpected and heartbreaking, but it's all the more tragic for its timing. Dr. Shepherd is still relatively young when he dies: 49, to be exact. This means that Meredith, 37, has to care for their three children on her own.

When "How to Save a Life" first aired in 2015, it was easy for fans to forget at the time that Derek was older than Meredith. After all, Derek always tackled life and medicine with the gusto of someone much younger than 49. However, the age difference between him and Meredith was often an important part of the show.

Meredith and Derek's age difference was a compelling part of their relationship

The instant that Meredith realizes in Season 1 that her hookup Derek is actually a prominent surgeon at her new hospital, she also surmises that she's going to have a tough time at work. In fact, the professional and personal gap between her and Derek causes loads of tension and dramatic irony throughout the season, especially once Meredith realizes that Derek is also married. The two characters' age gap also means that their careers later proceed at different timelines.

Of course, Meredith eventually moves on from the trauma of losing Derek and pairs up with a handsome transplant surgeon named Nick Marsh (Scott Speedman). Helpfully, Marsh is also closer to Meredith in terms of age and experience. That doesn't mean that the two avoid drama, though: It's still up in the air as to whether the two will reunite — or split up for good — in the Season 19 finale. What is clear is that Meredith is now the one in the relationship who's acting older and wiser.