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VIDEO: Great-grandmother gets heartwarming surprise during quarantine

Updated: Apr. 28, 2020 at 6:23 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s a question of curiosity often posed to those looking to break free of the doldrums of the coronavirus pandemic: “When this is over,” the question begins, “where’s the first place you’re going?”

The answer can conjure a host of postcard-worthy responses like the beach, the mountains, or some other exotic vacation spot. Anywhere to change the month-old view from the living room looking out.

For Amanda Shaw and her four young sons, it’s not a place they’re dreaming of visiting when the dangers of the pandemic have passed. It’s a person.

Her name is Henrietta DeRamus, but Malachi, 16, Blake, 14, Britton, 9, and Wyatt, 4, call her “Great Grammy.”

Great Grammy has 80 years worth of stories to share, but for now she sits quietly in her chair or watches birds from the window of her daughter’s Montgomery home.

Shaw says Great Grammy, who is her grandmother, lives with her mother. And though she’s provided some care, the octogenarian is relatively healthy, save a battle with breast cancer five years ago.

And even in that battle, she “breezed right through it,” Shaw said.

She was an active woman who spent her time worshiping at her church and with those she loves, “until COVID-19 shut her down,” Shaw added.

To be clear, Great Grammy is free of the disease, but the isolation of being away from the boys so there’s no chance of her catching anything has been tough.

This is a new battle. She became ill, depressed, dehydrated and wouldn’t eat for a time, and it "has really taken a toll on her mentally,” her granddaughter explained.

Phone calls break the routine, but it’s a personal connection she, and many others like her, desperately want and mentally need.

And then Shaw saw a sign, literally.

It said “Happy Birthday,” she recalled as she was driving through a neighborhood. And then the idea was sparked.

Great Grammy has to take a trip to the mailbox every day to keep herself active, but what about a trip half that distance to the front yard for a bunch of individual letters?

Shaw called the sign maker and, shortly before Easter, the cellphone came out and Great Grammy was summoned to the door where she threw her hands to her face in astonishment.

With emojis included, Henrietta DeRamus, or Great Grammy, gets a message from her four great...
With emojis included, Henrietta DeRamus, or Great Grammy, gets a message from her four great grandsons who haven't been able to see her for more than a month to protect her from the COVID-19 pandemic.(Source: Amanda Shaw)

They’d left a message in her grass, including a few 'emojis’ she would certainly recognize specifically from Britton, who is always texting them to her.

“She would go look, come in and sit, go back out and look at it,” Shaw said her mother reported. “It lifted her spirit, for sure.”

Henrietta DeRamus, or Great Grammy, looks at the message left in her yard by the great...
Henrietta DeRamus, or Great Grammy, looks at the message left in her yard by the great grandsons who haven't been able to see her for more than a month.(Source: Amanda Shaw)

It’s been more than a month since her life was “normal,” but the same is true of four boys waiting to see her in more than a Facetime video.

The sign has since come down, but the memories and the anticipation are ongoing. “She’ll be our first stop," Shaw said. “We’ve already been making plans.”

There are a lot of Great Grammys out there, and Shaw is encouraging their loved ones to find ways of reaching out with positive encouragement.

“This is not the end of the world,” she stated. “Keep loving them and keep sending them hope, even if its just a phone call or a card.”

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.