Young Woman Reveals She's Engaged Through Window of Grandfather's Nursing Home Amid Coronavirus

"It certainly thrilled him because he loves her very much," nursing home administrator Gennie Parnell says of resident Shelton, whose granddaughter Carly Boyd surprised him with the news

carly boyd and grandpa
Photo: Courtesy Premier Living & Rehab Center

A young woman who got engaged over the weekend had to get creative in the way she delivered the big news to her grandfather in order to avoid jeopardizing his health amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Carly Boyd had visited her grandpa Shelton at Premier Living & Rehab Center dozens of times before to bring him his laundry and other items, but Monday was unlike any of her previous visits, nursing home administrator Gennie Parnell tells PEOPLE.

This time around, Boyd came to the Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina nursing home with a new diamond ring on her finger — and Parnell knew Boyd wanted nothing more than to relish the big news with her beloved 87-year-old grandfather.

“Carly and her grandfather are very close. They have a special bond and relationship. You see her coming and going all of the time to see him,” Parnell recalls. “She showed me the ring and we kept talking… but I watched Carly a couple of times look over toward the wing that her grandfather is living.”

“She didn’t say anything and as she was getting ready to leave, I said, ‘Do you want to step over there to the window and say hey?'” Parnell continues. “I had that feeling that she would love to go over there but maybe she was afraid to ask or thought it wouldn’t be acceptable.”

“I said it would be a shame for her not to be able to go over there and at least say hello,” adds Parnell.

carly boyd and grandpa
Courtesy Premier Living & Rehab Center

Boyd immediately said yes to the offer and headed outside to stand near her grandfather’s window. Meanwhile, Parnell and a few other staff members went into Shelton’s room to notify him that he had a surprise.

“He was just laying up on the bed very comfortably, eating his ice cream, and we said, ‘We’ve got a surprise for you!'” Parnell recalls. “I lifted the shade… and Carly had stepped up to the window and she was holding her hand up pointing at her finger.”

Parnell notes it took a moment for Shelton to register what was happening, but once he did, it was a beautiful moment.

“When he sat up on the side of the bed, I think that’s when it really hit him that it was his granddaughter,” the nursing home administrator says of Shelton, who she described as “the happiest, sweetest” man. “It certainly thrilled him because he loves her very much.”

“She was telling him she got engaged and he was saying, ‘Come around, come on in,’ and she said, ‘I can’t because of the virus!'” Parnell continues. “So he stood up and she put her hand on the window and he put his hand on the window. It was so sweet.”

“She started crying and she told him she loved him and when he told her he loved her, you could hear his voice waver a bit and we lost it at that point,” Parnell adds. “I had my cell phone in my hand because I knew it was gonna be good.”

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Thankfully, Parnell managed to capture a few shots including one of Boyd’s initial surprise and one of the pair holding their hands up to the window. Those images were posted to the nursing home’s Facebook page, where they have been shared over 174,000 times.

While Facebook users around the world have been moved by the emotional moment, Parnell says it simply reflects the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her grandfather.

“Carly is a health care professional so she completely understands the situation and that it’s necessary,” Parnell explains. “She wants her grandfather to be healthy because she wants him at the wedding next year!”

She also says the images represent the realities that many elderly people in nursing homes and assisted living centers, like Shelton, are currently facing amid the preventative coronavirus restrictions.

“People have commented, most of them positive, but some are like, ‘I’d bust that door down to see my loved one’ and I’m thinking ‘No!'” Parnell continues. “It’s that important. We cannot afford to allow that to happen to our residents. They’re too precious to allow anything to make them suffer any more than they may have already.”

“This is uncharted territory for us but we are doing everything we can,” she adds.

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