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COVID-19: B.C. grandparents meet newborn granddaughter across U.S. border

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Bill and Kathie Ward met their newborn granddaughter Willow on Monday, separated by two metres, a smelly ditch and an international border.

The Chilliwack, B.C. couple’s daughter, Jodi Pears, gave birth to her third child, Willow, 10 days ago.

But Pears lives in Lynden, Wash., meaning that unlike when Willow’s siblings were born, her grandparents weren’t there to welcome her into the world.

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“It was really tough, we found out by text that the baby was born,” said Bill.

“Because of the border closures we weren’t able to go down and see her, which was really sad,” added Kathie.

“Not being able to hold your granddaughter is not nice, and her not being able to see us … everything was done online, on Facebook, and it’s not the same as being there in person.”

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Pears said she and her children are extremely close with her parents.

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When the hospital told her there would be limits on who could be present for the birth, she’d cut her list down to two people: her husband and her mom.

Canada and the U.S. agreeing to shut the border to all but essential travel on March 21 put the brakes on that plan.

“We live where we do intentionally so we can still be close to family,” she said.

“I think it’s been really hard on my mom, especially, not being able to hold her granddaughter.”

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Fortunately, Pears had an innovative solution.

She’d seen other families gathering on either size of Zero Avenue to hold cross-border social distance meetups, and invited her parents to meet her and baby Willow at border on Monday morning.

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Separated by a ditch and the invisible line that divides two nations, Bill and Kathie got to say hello.

“It was beautiful,” said Bill.

“It was sort of bitter sweet, it was very happy, but it was also sad — she was so close but we couldn’t hold her,” added Kathie.

“We both sort of started crying, my daughter and I.”

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The family says they plan on repeating the meet-up in the coming weeks.

With the closure of the border being extended for at least another 30 days, they say they’ll keep doing so as long as they have to, until they can hug each other again.