‘I knew it would be the last time I got to say goodbye’


TRACEY Lawrence will never forget the moment she told her beloved mum "I love you" for the last time.

It was a Saturday afternoon in March when Mrs Lawrence put on a hazmat suit and dressed head to toe in protective gear to say goodbye to her mum, Karla Lake.

Mrs Lake was in the Caboolture Hospital's COVID-19 wing with her husband Graeme Lake.

The two had not long returned from a holiday on the Ruby Princess, to celebrate Mrs Lake's 75th birthday.

"They arrived home on the Thursday and she was in hospital on the Friday. Then she got her confirmation on the Saturday," Mrs Lawrence said.

"She was already sick when they got home … No one told them of illness on the ship."

Mrs Lawrence said her mum was an avid baker, who put the needs of everyone before herself and that even in her final moments, Mrs Lake cared about everyone else before herself.

"Even when she was sick herself, she would always worry about others," she said.

"Bruce (Mrs Lake's son) would ring to see how she was and she would ask him how he was and if he was okay, because he picked them up from the airport after the cruise."

Mrs Lawrence said the phone calls mainly consisted of "I love yous" and messages of kindness.

Tracey Lawrence and her beloved late mother Karla Lake.
Tracey Lawrence and her beloved late mother Karla Lake.

Mrs Lawrence said her final goodbye to her mum on the afternoon of Saturday, March 28, when she entered the room dressed head to toe in protective gear, armed with an iPad.

"I went in there so mum and Graeme could Facetime everyone and everyone could see mum and she could tell everyone that she loved them for the final time," she said.

"We all just kept telling each other that we loved each other."

Ms Lawrence said she knew that would be the last time she got to see her mum, who died in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Tragically Mr Lake lay awake on the hospital bed beside her, listening to her breathing soften, then stop.

"Graeme was there. He said she was very quiet. (All he could hear was) her breathing, and then he realised that she was no longer breathing, so she just passed away," Mrs Lawrence said.

Mr Lake is set to come out of his 14 days quarantine at midnight Monday, after a lengthy battle with the virus himself.

But Mr Lake's battle is far from over, as he, along with many others, are now pursuing legal advice to get answers to the numerous questions that surround the Ruby Princess voyage.

"They were never told that there was illness on the ship before they got on, and Graeme said if they were told, they would've never got on. There's no way," Mrs Lawrence said.

"The virus could have already been on the ship, and they just did a swish around and put people, lots of people, back on this ship and sent it back out to sea, knowing it was a medium health risk."

As the criminal investigation into the ill-fated Ruby Princess is underway, Mrs Lawrence said her mind will remain firmly on her mum.

"I'll always remember her smile and just knowing that you could sit there and talk to her and know that she would listen and care about what was going on in your life," she said.

Originally published as 'I knew it would be the last time I got to say goodbye'