A grandmother’s COVID letter

As I share these thoughts, I have joy in my heart, writes Therese Harris. However, this has not always been the case. My son Matthew lives with his wife Katie in Folkestone, England. They married in 2017. Katie became pregnant in 2020 and went into labour on January 31, 2021.

Matt was keeping us posted throughout the labour. When it came time to deliver, all communication went quiet, so I knew something was terribly wrong. I did the only thing I could do. I prayed.

Since my childhood days of going to the Novena at the Redemptorist Monastery in Mayfield, NSW, I have a special devotion to Mary. There isn’t a time when the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help hasn’t been familiar to me. I literally fetched my rosary beads, knelt beside my bed and prayed decade after decade of the rosary.

I remember praying like this until I heard my phone ring and a photo of Matt, Katie and Camille appeared! It was and is the most beautiful photo I have ever seen. My first grandchild was alive! 

Cammie’s shoulder had been caught in Katie’s pelvis and it had to be manually dislodged. It had been ‘touch and go’ and baby Camille had nearly died. I then knelt and said prayers of thanksgiving! Camille Everly Harris came into the world on February 1, 2021 in England. Due to COVID, Katie and Cammie came home after only one night in hospital. Then they went back in hospital for three nights due to feeding issues. Because it was snowing and also due to restrictions, Matt could not visit his girls.

In his words, “They were the loneliest four days of my life.”

Heartbreaking words for a mother to hear; heartbreaking for him to utter. Soon Matt welcomed his girls home; Cammie fed well and their new life started. But where did that leave me and my husband, Graeme?

We were unable to visit due to COVID restrictions. You can see our dilemma. We have photos that are sent to us regularly and of course we FaceTime each week. Although we have yet to meet dearest Cammie, we feel as though we are getting to know her, thanks to the wonders of technology! I have sent many parcels which contain home-made clothes and other items that are useful, hopefully.

I decided that I would write Cammie a ‘real letter’ on the first day of each month. I try to include a little summary of her growth and development i.e., sitting up by 6 months, crawling at 7 months, clapping at 8 months; what foods she enjoys eating and the things she likes to do.

I also tell her stories about her Daddy when he was little. Cammie has a giraffe toy called Camilla. Matt and I used to make cookies in the shape of giraffes, elephants and other animals. The cookie cutters belonged to a Noah’s Ark toy. Pop took them to work proudly!

In my letters I tell Cammie a little about us and how we spend our days, now we are semi-retired. I have really enjoyed sewing for her. I made this little outfit. It lifted my spirits to see her wearing it. In the letters I also tell her how much joy she is bringing us, through photos and FaceTime. She is so engaging and animated. Daddy sits her down and reads each letter to her when it arrives. This makes my heart sing!

I do hope she keeps the letters and may even read them from time to time as she grows up. They are my link to her, and I plan on writing to her for as long as I can, no matter where she is living. I hope I can share with Cammie some of the wisdom I have gained through life, including nearly 40 years of teaching. It is a tangible way to demonstrate that she is thought about frequently and how much she is loved.

Reflecting as I prepare to write each letter has been a helpful thing to do. It’s been a joy to recall in detail Matt’s early years (and those of his sister, Clare). How quickly those years pass!

Recently my much-loved Dad passed away at 93. While I am sad that he will never meet Cammie, and Cammie will never know her sweet great-grandfather, at least she will have my recollections of his long and fruitful life in my letters. I believe I was helped to grieve by recording stories of his life.  

Of course, we will travel to the UK as soon as we can, but these (COVID) letters from a faraway grandmother have certainly helped me to cope, not to mention the little family in England.