Gifted mask fulfills a great grandmother’s prayer

The gift of a homemade mask made it possible for a self-isolating senior in Secret Cove to hold her first great-grandbaby, fulfilling a hope and a prayer she’d had since the pandemic began. 

“It was heaven,” 89-year-old Elisabeth Koll beamed about the experience. 

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“Her name is Zoey and I found out Zoey in Greek means life.” 

The meaning is particularly significant because Koll lost her daughter Christina, who would have been Zoey’s grandmother, nearly three years ago. 

“I could sense Christina in her,” Koll said. 

“She has the exact same eyes.” 

For months Koll had been concerned and fervently praying about her granddaughter Sophie Lineker’s high risk pregnancy with Zoey and she was relieved when she found out Zoey had been born a healthy six pounds six ounces on May 1. 

Immediately she wanted to meet the new addition but Lineker was concerned about COVID-19 and the risk to her newborn. 

So Koll was overjoyed when Lineker decided to bring baby Zoey by for a socially distant viewing on the veranda two weeks later. 

“But Sophie said I could hold her if I wore a mask,” Koll said, delighted at the prospect. 

“I had a mask because Karen Biddlecombe had dropped one off for me a few weeks before. So I went and put it on and then I was able to hold my great-grandchild for the very first time. Oh, it was just a wonderful, wonderful experience.” 

Biddlecombe had been the organizer of a massive mask-making operation taken on by members of the Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary and the Sunshine Coast Quilters’ Guild earlier in March and April. 

In the span of about two months, a total of 21 volunteers made several hundred reusable cloth masks to be gifted to health-care workers on the Coast. The team also made scrub hats and bags for health-care workers, all free of charge. 

“I’ve made over 300 masks myself,” Biddlecombe said, noting other volunteers have also put in many hours at their sewing machines to make the magnitude of masks possible. 

Community members like Koll donated fabric to the effort and volunteers searched their sewing cupboards for bits of elastic and odds and ends needed to create the protective garments. 

“We also used basically all of the fabric at the thrift store and the ladies were generous to a fault using their own supplies,” Biddlecombe noted. 

Once health-care workers on the Coast were covered, auxiliary members looked to other people who might benefit from a mask, which is how Koll came to be in possession of one. 

Koll knew Biddlecombe through her volunteerism with the Halfmoon Bay branch of the healthcare auxiliary and during one socially distant visit between the two, a mask was gifted to the isolated senior. 

“She said she didn’t need one because she wasn’t going out anywhere, but I said, ‘I’ll leave one just in case,’ and lo and behold, I called her later and found out she was able to use it and to feel comfortable holding her great-grandchild,” Biddlecombe said. 

A picture was taken of Koll holding her new great-grandbaby and Biddlecombe shared it with members of the auxiliary through email and on the auxiliary’s Facebook page, where it drew lots of positive comments. 

Koll was surprised by the response but reasoned it’s likely because “in this time we all need a little lift.” 

“When we hear stories like this it helps us feel better, to feel closer to each other,” Koll said. 

“And this story is really about love, hope, prayer and a mask. I think people can relate.”

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