I was angry, very angry…I still am.

The short graveside service came to an end with the words ‘Dust to dust, ashes to ashes’. Then a little lady, dressed in black, was wheeled in her chair to say one final goodbye to her husband of 71 years. The undertaker handed her a red rose from the bouquet that had rested on the coffin for the short journey to the cemetery. She kissed it, held it for a moment and then threw it into the open grave. It was one of the most beautiful things I will ever see, and it broke my heart.

There were only seven members of his family at the graveside.  Having been limited to ten by government regulations, it would have been impossible to choose who else could take the three remaining spaces after wife, sons and daughters-in-law. 

This was the first time we had seen our mother in the flesh for over 2 months. She has become quite adept at using her tablet for FaceTime, and her children and grandchildren have tried their best to keep in touch. It’s great, but it’s not the same. All we wanted to do was hold her. All we could do was put on the rubber gloves supplied and shake her hand like she was an acquaintance with whom we had a passing friendship.

As she was placed on the lift at the back of the minibus, I saw her put her head in her hands. She turned to us gathered around her and said, “I kept my vow”. Then we cried.

With all the gentleness of a son, Tim from the care home buckled her chair to the floor of the bus and checked she was ok. She looked so small and lost and we felt so helpless. As she drove away, I was broken.  I was broken and I was angry, very angry…and I still am.

This is one small family tragedy, similar to many thousands of small tragedies that have taken place in this country over the past few months. I’m sure it will be the cumulative effect of all of these individual stories that will shape us going forward. 

As the news started emerging from China and then Italy it seemed to be something that we were disconnected from. In ‘Lord of the Rings’ terms, we were safe living in the Shire.  All that nasty stuff happening in Mordor would never affect us. How wrong we were. In our interconnected, globalised world, it was always only a matter of time.

My daughter and her young family went into lockdown early and to be honest we thought she was possibly overreacting. At the time we were all singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and washing our hands to ward off the invisible enemy. 

To justify her unilateral decision to stay indoors, on 13th March she sent the family WhatsApp group a message from an old university friend who is now the Director of a major metropolitan Emergency Department. 

He suggested his friends should share his advice in an attempt to…

‘Save your neighbour’s / mate’s / dad’s / grandmother’s life in the following ways:

 1) Start taking this seriously now

2) Socially distance. Stop going to meetings, parties or shaking hands. Work from home if you can

3) Wash your hands

4) Don’t let your children with coughs and colds play with other children or adults

That’s it, thank you for keeping someone off a life support machine.

…Everything you plan for before a pandemic seems unnecessary and overly dramatic but after the pandemic it will not seem like enough’.

This was from a young man worried about friends and trying to get the message out as best he could. Ten days after he sent this message, the country went into lockdown. There might be reasons why we weren’t all told that message, but when the change in government policy finally came and the daily death tolls rose, I was angry, very angry…I still am.

Like so many people, we have family in different parts of the country. One works for the NHS, so needs to be close to his hospital in London. On the other hand, my other daughter and her husband had already been working at home for a week or so before the rumours of lockdown started circulating. My instincts as a father and parent meant that I wanted to drive to London to collect them and bring them home. I offered to jump into the car, there and then. They were 200 miles away, but I could be with them in a couple of hours. 

We chatted for a while on FaceTime, weighing up the pros and cons. It meant they wouldn’t be cooped up in a small London flat, we could support them as a family and they would be far away from the UK’s epicentre of the pandemic.

Then we checked the Government instructions and sadly all decided that it was not the right thing to do. I felt powerless to help. I was angry, very angry…I still am.

==================================================================================

The ringing phone woke me at 12.45am. At that time of the morning you know it’s not going to be good news. It was my brother. He had received a call from my parents’ care home. My 96 year old dad wasn’t very well, and they were trying to get him into hospital. The whole call was a bit of a blur as I struggled to get my brain to work.

The first instinct of a son is to rush to his father’s bedside. Then I stopped. What if I had the virus but wasn’t showing signs? I could be taking it to my very sick father and to others in the home. What if he had the virus and I caught it? How many people might I infect? In the end I decided not to go. 

Four days later and it seemed my dad was going downhill fast. We asked the care home if we could sit with him for 5 minutes. We even had homemade masks for protection. Understandably, they said that was not possible. What they did do was take my mother’s iPad to his room.

That was the last time I saw my father. He passed away two days later. When my elder brother called to tell me the news, I screamed and then I cried. I was angry, very angry…I still am.

As we go forward I’m sure we will try our very best to listen to the advice being given. We do it not because those are the Government’s rules. We do it because we care about our family and friends, our city, our neighbours. We do it to protect our beloved, beautiful NHS.

As I look back on all of this I realise I’ve been heartened by the self-sacrifice shown by so many. The way the majority have pulled together and stayed together.

But some things I have seen and heard have made me angry, very angry…I still am.

32 thoughts on “I was angry, very angry…I still am.”

  1. Mal, your article brought me to tears. Not just with the pathos and pain of parting, but with anger at the unthinking, selfish arrogance of those who think they are above the need to protect themselves and others. And unbelievably, there are some I ‘ve spoken to who think this is all fabricated and there’s no such unseen threat! There is room for righteous anger.
    But – there is hope! For those like your dad, who has passed on to something more wonderful. For those like your mum, who are an inspiring example of those who have an unshakeable faith and faithfulness. For those of us who have been touched by the many examples of unselfish acts of random kindness and service by volunteers in our communities.
    May these positives continue to grow and diminish our memories of the anger and frustration and sadness we rightly feel now.
    Thanks for all you are doing Mal.

  2. In tears and also angry at the way our Government neglected its duty of care to the people of the UK

  3. So Emotional Mal and so many people identify with your own situation a feeling of being trapped not able to reach out and care forctge people you love so deeply xxx

  4. Dawn Llewellyn-Price

    So sorry for your loss Mal, and the truly awfulness of the circumstances.
    Personally ‘ve attended two surreal lockdown funerals, one of a close friend, one an extended family member. Neither covid related but both so strange they can never be forgotten, and both within a couple of weeks of each other. The only blessings they brought were the beautiful weather provided on both occasions, which somehow went partway to providing a cloak of comfort for the sheer lack of reality felt. Warm sun touching skin was almost a pat on the hand from those you couldn’t comfort, stood at a distance. xxxxx

  5. Dear Mal
    i am so sorry for your loss i understand your anger they should have allowed you to least say goodbye,I am glad that you and the family are taking things seriously wish others would the more people go out as if nothing can touch them is crazy, Merrill was here in March only did a couple of shows and then made the decision he needed to get home to be safe luckly he only had to wait a couple of days and now hes safe in quarentine just like you he is taking thing seriously. love Kay xxx

  6. Mal. I am so sorry to read this. My John would have wept reading your eloquent post.
    Sending you a virtual hug.
    Avril Carter x

  7. Margaret Cullinane

    My heart bleeds for your mother and all your family. As I read your very sad news the tears are rolling down my face it’s heartbreaking. Sending love to your mother and all your family. I hope people will keep to the distances required and don’t have all the parties and get together that are not allowed and it all comes back to thousands dieing each day again please all keep safe and healthy. Remember it’s the silent invisible enemy.
    Thanks for sharing your very sad tragic story hope all who read it will realise what your family are going through and be sensible and keep to the rules.

  8. Robert Stone

    Mal I don’t think I can add anything that others have not said. We look on at how people have reacted to advice given, and also to those giving the advice.. and how they reacted. In time everything will be brought into the light, all you need do at this time is remember the great times with dad, and cherish each and every day with Mam.

  9. Jane Priddey Thomas.

    Oh my gosh, this is just so so sad. I feel for you all, I really do xxx
    Little comfort but I’m sure dad was so proud of you all.Thinking of you x

  10. Phil James’s

    Mal that’s so sad. To leave this world under these circumstance brings a terrible burden for those left to mourn. Thankfully it’ll not be the last time you see him. Thoughts and prayers are with you!

  11. Mal I have imagined the gut wrenching feeling of losing someone close to this awful virus. The idea of not being able to celebrate a family member’s life with family and friends breaks my heart.
    I feel your anger and know that there is nothing your god or friends can say that will make it right.
    When my mother died I used to go and sit at Langland point and have a real cry from the depths of my soul and I recommend that you find a similar place.
    Janine and I are so sorry for your loss.

  12. I’m so so sorry for your loss, compounded info many ways by COVID 19. You have every reason to be angry. There are no words that will make a difference. Thank you for sharing your personal story so eloquently.

  13. Alethea Hollis

    Hello Mal, I was so sad to read your story, brought me to tears, especially as my sister Lillian was a friend of your parents and used to take them little treats when they lived near her. She has corresponded with your Mum as well, and I know Lillian will be heartbroken when she hears this news. From myself and on behalf of my sister who has no e mail etc our very sincere condolences to you and your family, who I know Lillian knows too. You must always believe you did your very best in such awful unprecedented circumstances and the love you have for your family is a very very special thing.

  14. Richard Jeacock

    Hi Mal, so sorry to hear of your loss. As an agency carer I have met both of your parents a number of times over the past few years. Your mum always remembered me and always liked to talk about a church that I attend. I often used to sit by your dad and have a chat with him also. Thank you for sharing your story. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.

  15. You are without doubt understandably angry on every point Mal, which is experience also illustrates the vulnerability, powerlessness and necessity of our human existance being dependent on every one of us exercising the full restraint & common sense that you showed for the safety of so many throughout society. One might believe like King Canute that nature can be meddled with and controlled but truth is Nature is in charge & Covid-19 just proves the point!
    It therefore beggers belief, when we hear of the few who flaunt such advice & blatently endanger the majority for just selfish nesds, wants or unimaginable ignorance.
    My heartfelt condolences to you all in memory of your Dad in this sad, compassionate situation that none of us would wish to experience. Sending you & family a big (socially distanced) hug with much love.
    Rob & Gerri (in our 11th week of lockdown).

  16. Jayne Morris

    So sorry Mr Pope. I cry reading this today and send our love to you and your loving family. Jayne, Ben Morris & family xxxx

  17. Fiona Morris

    Oh Mal
    Of course I don’t know you and it feels wrong to be so familiar with someone I’ve never met – but having read your blog, you also don’t feel like a random stranger – so please forgive me.
    We lost my Dad a week into lock-down (not C-19 related as it happens) and made the very difficult decision not to have any sort of a funeral. Although Mum & I are local to each other, if his other children (1 in London, 1 in Canada) & his grandchildren (spread to the 4 winds) couldn’t be there – and with an upper limit of 10 at a funeral in our authority – then no-one would be there. So we sent him unaccompanied for a direct cremation, which broke our hearts, but will not have been less painful than your own experience.
    I am so sorry for your loss – a platitude, I know, but also what people say in these circumstances – and I concur with all the respondents who have expressed confidence in the fact that your Dad would have been (& your Mum will be) so very proud of you.
    Thank you for putting into words how so many of us are feeling but don’t have the ability – nor the heart nor the energy any more – to say.
    Fiona X

  18. David Millership

    You have the humanity and ability to express, for so many, the hurt and emotions of such a personal loss.

    I put my virtual arms around you and your family at this time me dear friend.

    Thankyou,

    David

  19. Dear Mal,thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.Your anger is totally justifiable.Take care of your lovely mother and yourself. God bless,Wendie Johns x

  20. Kathryn Durran

    Mal, your eloquent post has touched me on so many levels and moved me to tears. That says it all.

  21. Sending you all love and to your dear Mum. This life of ours is hard. So hard. Remember the live and let that heal the anger. As I wave to my own dear Mum through her nursing home window and I look to the sky and wish I could have one last hug with my father, I try to let the love over power the pain. The hurt. And let the tears flow. X

    1. Oh dear , I typed love not live. But then again it’s the love we need to remember in order to live. Xx

  22. Hi Mal, our deepest sympathies. Your Dad will always be remembered by the children of Phillip Street. And for me with the help he gave in school at a time when I needed it. Best wishes from the Condons David, Brian and Clive.

  23. Roger Taylor

    Hi Mal, deepest sympathies to you and the family from me and Angie. This has come at a very unsettling time. Reading your story and seeing the photo makes me think of those long distant days in Manor Road. We couldn’t have wished for better neighbours, and your Mum and Dad were an example to the community.

  24. Mal. This is wonderful, painful and touching in equal measure . Great words clearly spoken with honesty and sincerity .

  25. Pat Cunningham (nee Sulo)

    Dear Mal, I remember you and your dad from when my sisters and I were in Brynhyfryd Junior School he was a gentleman. It’s very hard for you and your family to deal with your dad’s loss as you were not allowed to be there at the time of his passing. Condolences to you and your family

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