For Bert, Marg and Mama
Moved by the obituary listed in today’s National Post, I decided to post their love story here. Having witnessed the mental decline of my beloved Mama during these last few years, this obituary brought up so many unresolved emotions.
May the memories of Bert, Marg and Mama be eternal.
BERTRAM GEORGE DAY 1918 - 2007
After the death of his beloved wife of 66 years, Marguerite, from pneumonia on February 18, 2007, Bert lost his own life 2 weeks later on March 3, 2007 in a catastrophic electrical fire which destroyed their home. Because of his short term memory loss, Bert could not remember that his beloved Marg had died only days before, and he was therefore constantly asking after her, only to be told repeatedly - and each time as if for the first time - that she had just died.
At 88, Bert was still very security minded, making sure the doors were locked, the lights off, the alarms on, and since he was on the ground floor and had built the house with several means of emergency egress, he could easily have escaped the fire. But, when the alarms went off, he woke to find that Marg was not in bed with him and, of course, he would not leave the house without her. Consequently he lost his own life in a family tragedy of Shakespearean proportions while looking to rescue her.
His wonderful Tibetan caregiver, Sonam Tso, risked her own life trying to save him but was beaten back by heat, smoke and flames. She then ran down the laneway to the neighbours in her pyjamas, cutting her bare feet on the ice, to make the 911 call at approximately 4:15 a.m. The Milton Fire Department were actually in action at the fire only 7 minutes later. The first firefighters on the scene found the house engulfed, but also risked their lives and breached protocol by fog-streaming their way into Bert’s bedroom - but he had gone looking for his Marg and was not there.
You can read the obituary in its entirety here.
The National Post’s columnist, Anne Marie Owens also wrote a story about Bert and Marg’s life:
Widower dies in fire searching for lost wife
Alzheimer’s disease; Husband installed safety devices to protect her
MILTON, Ont. - When his wife of more than six decades began showing the signs of memory loss and forgetfulness that would eventually become Alzheimer’s disease, Bert Day outfitted their home with all the safety measures required to help save her from herself.
He installed 16 smoke detectors, an intercom system and multiple fire extinguishers; he removed the matches, oil lamps and space heaters from the sprawling, one-of-a-kind home the pair had built on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and lived in for 40 years.
But none of that helped Mr. Day when the house caught fire last month.
Even though his wife, Marguerite, had died from pneumonia two weeks earlier, Mr. Day, unable to take it in, kept forgetting that she was gone.
He kept asking after her, in the habit of a lifetime together, forever saying, “Where’s Marguerite?” and had to be told again and again — reacting each time as profoundly as the first time — that his much-loved wife was gone.
And so when a fire began in the middle of the night, and the alarms went off, he began wandering the hallways, likely searching for Marguerite, instead of making his escape from any of the doors located nearby.
Bert Day, 88, died in the electrical fire that destroyed his house in Milton, Ont., in what his son Rick Day describes as “a romantic tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.”
That such a final act of romance should be underpinned by Alzheimer’s and dementia has some resonance.
Go here for the complete details.
To find out more about Alzheimer’s Disease.