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'Dad gave me a smile and closed his eyes, that’s the last time I saw him' - woman on losing her father to coronavirus

The daughter of a 93-year-old man in Co Fermanagh describes the pain and difficulty of burying a Covid-19 victim

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Lawrence Mc Manus' funeral took place in Co Fermanagh on Easter Saturday. Photo: John McVitty

Lawrence Mc Manus' funeral took place in Co Fermanagh on Easter Saturday. Photo: John McVitty

Lawrence Mc Manus' funeral took place in Co Fermanagh on Easter Saturday. Photo: John McVitty

Undertakers dressed in white hazmat suits drove the short distance from South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen today to Cross Cemetery on the other side of the road.

They were there for the burial of 93-year-old Lawrence (Larry) McManus, the latest victim to succumb to Covid-19 in Co Fermanagh.

The sun shone on the council run graveyard as 10 members of the pensioner’s family formed a guard of honour when the hearse arrived,through the old iron gates, before it came to a stop overlooking the hospital, where he took his last breath earlier this week.

Undertakers John McKeegan and Brendan Hynes, still dressed in their protective suits, wheeled the remains along a narrow path to the family plot. Lost in thought, his grieving loved ones, some wearing masks, wiped away tears from their eyes as they saw the sealed wooden coffin for the first time, before it was buried in a grave freshly dug just hours before.

The grave diggers, also dressed in hazmat suits, stood by his graveside to allow Father Raymond Donnelly to perform a blessing from about 30 feet away.

Mr McManus’ family were not allowed to hold their father’s hand as he was dying, nor could they comfort one another this morning as they stood heads bowed. As his coffin was lowered into the ground, they each edged forward to catch one last glimpse of the burial through the headstones, having been cruelly robbed of the ritual of mourning.

“I feel empty; I just wish it was something else that took him and not this terrible virus,” his daughter Valerie told The Impartial Reporter newspaper.

“We understand why we can’t have a proper funeral service but it’s just so difficult for the family,” she said.

Valerie explained that she and her two sisters Audrey Carson and Dorothy McManus had to wait 48 hours to find out if he had died from coronavirus.

“We got the call from the hospital when the test results came back, and it has been terrible ever since. I thought to myself that he had it, it was in the back of my mind, but it’s still a shock.”

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Lawrence (Larry) McManus died at South West Acute Hospital and was buried on Easter Saturday

Lawrence (Larry) McManus died at South West Acute Hospital and was buried on Easter Saturday

Lawrence (Larry) McManus died at South West Acute Hospital and was buried on Easter Saturday

Mr McManus died of Covid-19 on Wednesday having also been diagnosed with double pneumonia.

A picture of a fishing rod on the wall of the hospital room in ward six where Mr McManus laid was a fitting reminder of the oasis of calm that he sought from fishing on Lough Erne.

It is in this room where Valerie last saw her father several weeks ago and where they talked about his love of the Fermanagh Lakelands, a memory that she says she will forever cherish.

“It was the beginning of the coronavirus scare and the hospital allowed just one person in at a time. He smiled at me and we had a wee chat about the grandchildren as we always did and the picture of the fishing rod. I said, ‘my goodness, you’d think this room was made for you’. When you talked to him about fishing his face lit up.

“He said he was very tired and I said I would let him sleep. He gave me a smile and closed his eyes. I gave him a kiss on the head and that’s the last time I saw him,” said an emotional Valerie.

Mr McManus is now at peace, she says, reunited with his wife Dorothy.

“He was a wonderful father and grandfather. He was just the best and couldn’t do enough for you. He was always there at times of trouble; he was there for us, each and every one of us.

“I wish I could have been there with him when he died but it wasn’t to be. He was a great age but I think the longer you have them the harder it is when you lose them,” said Valerie.

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