Fingerprints of Grace by Claire-Louise Grace Watson
Rating: 3.5 / 5
“No-one imagines they will lose a child and not many are called to travel this difficult road.”
So writes Dr Rosanne Hawke in the foreword to Fingerprints of Grace, first-time author and Salvation Army officer Claire Watson’s memoir of the all too brief life of her youngest child Hannah Grace.
Hannah Grace was born in the early morning of 19 October 2011—the third child of Salvo officers Claire and Tim Watson, a sister for Josiah and Nathaniel—and a much-wanted addition to the family.
As a newborn, Hannah’s “fine hair was almost white and her skin pale,” writes Claire. “Her eyes were the colour of the sea on a clear summer day.”
One other thing that Claire notes is that Hannah was meant to be here. She writes of having a vision some years earlier of “a little girl…around four or five years old and she had long blonde plaits. In my vision she was running towards me, smiling and calling out, ‘Mummy!’”
This vision—at once gladdening and, in view of what would come, haunting—would return periodically to Claire.
Yet in those first, precious months of Hannah’s life there was no reason to doubt the veracity of that vision. At nine months old, Hannah was a happy, sociable baby who could stand and take steps while holding onto the furniture. She loved playing peek-a-boo and her favourite pastime was reading books.
But signs that all was not right were there when she reached 14 months. After a mysterious illness that left her lethargic for two consecutive days and took away her appetite, Hannah seemed to be shaky on her feet and her gross motor skills had failed to adequately progress. Soon after she developed ‘strabismus’ in her right eye (it would turn outward).
“From that day on,” writes Claire, “a feeling of dread grew in my heart.”
When the presence of a brain tumour was disqualified, the Watsons were obviously delighted, but worse news was yet to come. An MRI showed that Hannah had Leigh disease.
“There is no cure for Leigh disease and very little treatment,” Claire writes. It was also terminal.
Aside from chronicling the nightmare of losing a child, Claire has managed also to fashion a compelling story of love out of the depths of loss.
For Claire and her husband Tim, their faith in God isn’t just at the forefront of their survival, but helps them to gain a better understanding of his ultimate plan.
While perhaps a touch too ‘Salvo’ for an unchurched reader (she does, however, at
one time rail against God), Claire writes so eloquently and with such admirable restraint that it would take a hard heart not to be moved by this tragic story.
Fingerprints of Grace is a stirring, devastating and, at times, hopeful testament to a parent’s enduring love.
Available from Salvation Army Supplies, 1800 100 018, www.salvationarmy.org.au/supplies, $15 plus postage.