This is Wolf and Anita Gottschalk of Surrey, British Columbia. They have been married for 62 years, and they have been inseparable for almost all of that time. But for the last eight months, Wolf and Anita have been forced to live apart. Their granddaughter, Ashley Bartyik, regularly drives her grandmother to visit her grandfather, but the the reunion — and the goodbyes — are always heartbreaking. Bartyik recently shared a photo of her grandparents saying their goodbyes, along with an explanation for why the pair have been separated, and it is moving the internet to tears.
Wolf, 83, was placed in a nursing home in January of this year after suffering from congestive heart failure. His wife, Anita, 81, currently lives in a different nursing home 30 minutes away. According to Bartyik, the family has been pleading with health care officials to get the couple reunited so that they can live together in the same nursing home, but to no avail. Bartyik blames the issue on "backlogs and delays by our health care system."
Bartyik drives her grandmother to visit her grandfather every other day. She snapped the photo that she shared on Facebook so that the rest of the world could see what it looks like every single time her grandparents have to say goodbye to one another.
Wolf also suffers from dementia and was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. His family fears that continued separation from his wife will cause him to forget her at a time when he needs her the most.
"His [d]ementia is growing ever stronger each day, but his memory of my grandmother has not faded a inch...yet. We are afraid however that if they are living apart much longer, his memory of her won't stay," Bartyik said in her Facebook post.
"The time is ticking now more than ever before," she said in an interview with CNN.
Bartyik shared the photo in the hopes of attracting the attention of people in her community so that she could rally support to bring her grandparents back together. But at over 5,000 shares, the photo — and the story — are gathering attention around the world.
A spokesperson for Fraser Health, the entity responsible for the Gottschalk's care, recently told CNN, "This is a heartbreaking situation for the family, and it's quite upsetting for us as well. We are committed to reuniting the couple and we hope to do so within the next few weeks."
Hopefully, Bartyik's post and the continued media attention will make that reunion happen as quickly as possible.