Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have sent a heartbroken family a personal message of condolence after they tragically lost their terminally-ill daughter while in lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Holly Smallman was just 18 when she sadly passed away after suffering from several complex conditions including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and chronic lung disease.
The teenager was cremated on March 27 in Liverpool, where her family were unable to touch her coffin and were only allowed to invite 10 people to the funeral.
Her parents Hayley, 43, and Gary, 46, and their children Ruby, 12, and 21 year old Josh, were overcome with grief as they dealt with her loss while in self-isolation, away from their nearest and dearest.
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Then, on one "awful day" after the funeral, Hayley decided to open her email, only to find a personal message from the Prince Harry, 35, and 38 year old Meghan.
In it, the Duke recalled meeting the family when, as patron of the charity, he presented Ruby with a WellChild Award in 2015 for her devotion as a young carer to Holly.
"It was Prince Harry’s private secretary. She’d sent me some correspondence after Ruby had won her WellChild Award to say how much he’d loved a gift that Ruby had given him," Hayley said.
"She’d read about him having been on an expedition to the North Pole, so she made him a pottery penguin, with ginger hair and medals.
"When I opened the email from him it was just so personal, he literally remembered every detail of our meeting five years ago at the awards ceremony in London, and there was such a sense of genuine caring in what he’d written."
Harry, who is reportedly homesick and is struggling to adapt to life in the US, expressed how sad he was at their loss and said the family are in his thoughts and prayers at "this most difficult of times".
He concluded his note by adding: "Meghan and I send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences."
Speaking of his message, Hayley continued: "For Prince Harry to find the time to send this email, to know that Holly made that impact on him and that he cares so much, even in all this private turmoil he’s going through, just meant the world to us."
Holly died peacefully in her sleep after suffering a cardiac arrest. Her mum said: "Holly did have massive problems with her chest, she’s been on life support and she’s had pneumonia and been struggling to breathe which was really traumatic for her, but there was none of that.
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"It was just the most peaceful way for her to end her story, in the place that she felt loved the most, and we were so grateful for that."
Recalling her first meeting with Prince Harry, she explained that only two people were allowed to go to the private reception area of the event – the winner and one other person that had to be an adult.
As such, Holly remained outside with her dad. But the Duke, who recently said he's "incredibly proud" of the "wonderfully British" response to the pandemic, couldn't help but want to meet Holly after he watched a video on why Ruby had won the award and completely empathised with their situation.
Hayley continued: "As soon as she came in he got down on one knee, held her hand and had a full conversation with her, chatting away to her.
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"He said, ‘I’ve just met your incredible sister and I thought there was no way I couldn’t meet you as well’. He sent everyone else out of the room and just spent time with the two of them, it was such an incredible moment."
While Harry's gesture was of great comfort to them, they still felt quite alone and didn't want the coronavirus outbreak to overshadow their daughter's vibrant life.
The family decided to ask the public to #wearpinkforHol to ensure she was remembered as a bright light amid the darkness that comes with the coronavirus.
Thousands joined in across social media, including Coleen Rooney, whose sister Rosie, who had Rett Syndrome, died in 2014 aged 14.
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