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Coronavirus: Pensioner Tom Best, who lost his wife to Covid-19, reveals kindness of people has helped him cope

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Tom and Anne Best

Tom and Anne Best

Father Gerard Alwill performing the final committal over Anne’s coffin at the burial

Father Gerard Alwill performing the final committal over Anne’s coffin at the burial

Tom and Anne Best

A devastated pensioner who lost the love of his life to Covid-19 has spoken of the kindness of friends and strangers in the aftermath of her sudden death.

Tom Best's 72-year-old wife Anne, who had underlying health conditions, was buried in St Ninnidh's cemetery in her native Derrylin on Saturday.

Mrs Best, who is thought to be Co Fermanagh's first victim of coronavirus, died in the isolation ward at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, less than 48 hours after being rushed to hospital on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday, her heartbroken husband Tom (77) described Anne's death to a virus with no known cure as a "cruel, cruel way" for their 51-year marriage to end.

"I haven't been very good since I lost Anne," he said. "But then it hasn't been good for any of us who have lost loved ones to Covid-19.

"It isn't just me; a lot of people are dealing with their grief right now because of this disease."

There was no funeral for Mrs Best, who was laid to rest in her husband's absence, as he had to self-isolate for 14 days.

I'd like to thank everyone who has contacted me. Some of them don't know me but they care enough to get in touch. It's nice when you know people are thinking about you

Father Gerard Alwill, the parish priest who officiated at the burial, expects there to be a service for his parishioner at a later date, so Mr Best and others can say a final farewell.

Phone calls and cards bearing messages of condolences from family, friends and people he does not know have brightened up the dark days for Mr Best since he lost Anne.

They are, nevertheless, a reminder of his profound loss.

"I'm happy to get them and to know that people are thinking about me but then they remind me of what has happened and that brings me down," Mr Best said. "I've opened some of the cards, not all of them. They've come from all over Northern Ireland and Ireland.

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Father Gerard Alwill performing the final committal over Anne’s coffin at the burial

Father Gerard Alwill performing the final committal over Anne’s coffin at the burial

Father Gerard Alwill performing the final committal over Anne’s coffin at the burial

"I'd like to thank everyone who has contacted me. Some of them don't know me but they care enough to get in touch. It's nice when you know people are thinking about you."

He added: "I'd especially like to thank the people from Derrylin and from Santander bank. They know who they are." Mr Best told how his wife was taken "from the hospital to the funeral home and then taken to the church".

The worst part is that I have no-one to talk to. People come to see me, and they ask if I need anything, but they all have to stay their distance because I was in contact with Anne

And he described how the undertaker brought the coffin to a cul-de-sac near their marital home so he could say a private goodbye prior to her burial last Saturday.

"He brought it [the coffin] and I walked down and I had 10 minutes alone with her," he said.

"It felt like no time at all when I heard him tell me it was time to go." Mr Best could not attend the burial himself but he drew comfort from knowing mourners were there to pay their respects.

He hopes to organise a proper funeral "at some point in the future when things have settled down" and normal life has resumed after the Covid-19 crisis has eased. "I couldn't see her being buried on Saturday," he said. "I was still standing in the cul-de-sac after the coffin left but there was a hill blocking my view. Around 15 people, including my cousin, his wife and baby, were there. I'll go to her grave next week when I'm out of isolation."

Mr Best, a retired civil servant, who has a brother living in England, said he has felt a deep sense of loneliness now that he is by himself in the home he used to share with his beloved wife.

"I was emptying some of her clothes into the bin," he said. "I'm gradually trying to get rid of stuff. It's difficult, but what can you do?"

"I get up at 7.30am, get dressed, eat breakfast...but I'm going through the motions."

He added: "The worst part is that I have no-one to talk to. People come to see me, and they ask if I need anything, but they all have to stay their distance because I was in contact with Anne."

Belfast Telegraph