Daughter who lost parents to Covid urges others to heed restrictions

A woman whose parents died three days apart with Covid-19 has launched an online archive of stories of grief to encourage others to heed restrictions.

The Dean of St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast is spearheading an effort to collate the tales of loss.

Bronagh O’Connell said she was denied the opportunity to celebrate her “wonderful” teacher parents’ lives during a proper wake.

She said: “He was just put into a coffin and we never saw him again.

“We had looked after them right to the end.

“They were like two packages in sealed bags because of Covid and put into their coffins, very, very sad, dreadful – it just felt empty.”

Her mother did not know her husband of 60 years had died last April.

She was 86 and he was 89.

Her daughter said: “Watching them both being taken out of the house three days apart was horrific.”

She is a nurse and has seen many people die but said this was “atrocious”.

She said her father had gone downhill very rapidly after being diagnosed.

Her mother followed the same trajectory but suffered more with her breathing.

They had been enormously successful in their professional lives, he rose to the head of the Stranmillis teaching college, she was a school head of art.

“It is difficult to put into words the great feeling of loss.

“That the whole generation above us in our family is now gone, that is overwhelming.”

She has good and bad days.

“Then there are other days that you just crumple into a thousand pieces.”

She urged people to wear masks and socially distance, wash their hands, the basic health messages.

She welcomed the establishment of the record.

“The people who luckily have not experienced it can get a tiny insight into how it has affected a couple of families.

“Hopefully they will realise how important it is to abide by the restrictions.”

Inspired by St Paul’s Cathedral’s Remember Me campaign, the website is collating tributes and stories of people all over Northern Ireland.

Belfast Cathedral hopes that the initiative is a continuous legacy of memories retold, which people will be able to treasure for years to come.

Dean of St Anne’s Stephen Forde said it was an opportunity for members of the public to visit Belfast Cathedral as a place to reflect on the challenges, sacrifices and loses that we have all experienced in 2020.

He said: “Through all the restrictions of these past months, it has been so difficult to gather our memories and share our stories of those we have loved and known, but lost.

“Lives Reflected allows us a place to share our memories and celebrate the best in the people we know.

“Lives Reflected can be a place of healing for our losses, and a promise of togetherness for the future.”

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