Wolfram Gottschalk and his wife of 62 years, Anita, are pictured weeping together in what may just be one of the saddest photos we’ve ever seen. The couple from British Columbia, Canada, have been living separately since the beginning of the year due to health problems. A photo taken by their granddaughter, Ashley Bartyik, on a recent visit has gone viral along with a plea to reunite the couple before it’s too late.
Earlier this year, Wolfram, who suffers from dementia and congestive heart failure, was hospitalized and moved to a transitional health care facility where he’s been ever since, Bartyik told The Huffington Post.
Before, the couple lived independently, but after the decline of Wolfram’s condition, Anita was told caring for him required professional support.
“Grandma has taken pride in taking care of him for years, so it was heartbreaking for her,” Bartyik said.
Meanwhile, Anita has moved to an assisted living facility a 30-minute drive away from her husband in the hope that a spot will open up for him in the complex care area.
Bartyik wrote in her post that the separation is due to “backlogs and delays by our health care system.”
So until they are reunited, the pair look forward to meeting every other day after Bartyik or her mother drives Anita to see Wolfram. Given his dementia, routinely seeing her is important so that he feels his surroundings aren’t totally unfamiliar.
And most of these meetings are tearful like the one photographed on Monday in the now-viral photo that has been shared more than 5,000 times.
“It’s like that every time,” Bartyik said. “Every time when they first see each other, they cry. Then they generally have a really good time. We bring him snacks. But when it comes time to leave, he wonders why he can’t come with us and we have to try and distract him or make up an excuse.”
It’s a situation that’s only gotten more painful with Wolfram’s lymphoma diagnosis earlier this week. The family is worried that with the time spent apart, eventually, his memories of his wife will fade.
Since posting the photo on Facebook ― and calling it “the saddest photo I have ever taken” ― Bartyik and the rest of the family have heard from Fraser Health Authority.
“One of the challenges with couple reunification is that they don’t necessarily need the same level of care at the same time. In this case, the husband’s care needs are considerably higher than his wife’s. He needs residential care while his wife needs assisted living care. This means we need to make sure the facility can accommodate both their needs,” Tasleem Juma, a spokesperson for Fraser Health told Global News.
Fraser Health tells the family that they’re working on reuniting the couple and are making it a top priority. Still, they don’t have an exact timeline for when that will be, Bartyik said.