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Son reveals father's pain after losing wife Marie Keown who hoped to return to live in Fermanagh

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The burial by Garrison-based undertaker Peter Carty was a "dignified ceremony", said Mr Keown (stock photo)

The burial by Garrison-based undertaker Peter Carty was a "dignified ceremony", said Mr Keown (stock photo)

The burial by Garrison-based undertaker Peter Carty was a "dignified ceremony", said Mr Keown (stock photo)

He always wanted to return to his native Fermanagh with his wife to live - but instead Eamonn Keown was back last week to bury the woman he married 52 years ago after Covid-19 had cruelly robbed her from him and their three children.

Marie Keown, formerly of London and Arklow in Co Wicklow, died in a nursing home in Maynooth, Co Kildare, on April 17, where she had been living after testing positive for coronavirus.

Her death left her Arney-born husband and children Gerard, Paul and Edwina without the rituals of mourning.

The 84-year-old was buried at a family plot in Cashel near Garrison last week in a touching final gesture for a woman who not only fell in love with a Fermanagh man, but his home county.

"That's why she was buried in Fermanagh; she loved the place and had visited many times. They were together for over five decades and spent many years visiting the county," explained her son Gerard, an Irish diplomat, who is currently on secondment with the Department of Finance in Dublin.

The couple met when they were both living in London in the 1960s.

"Dad is a Fermanagh man, from Arney. They would probably not have met otherwise.

"They lived most of their lives in London, before moving to Kildare a few years ago, where mum spent her last years. She loved Fermanagh and asked to be buried with my father's people in Cashel," he said.

Mrs Keown had been ill, having been diagnosed with dementia, but her son says her family never imagined they would lose her in this way.

"We had thought that dementia would be the cause of my mother's eventual death, but the pandemic came around and it was a shock. You get prepared when someone particularly close to you is ill, but it was a shock for us all.

"Of course, you lose out on the rituals; the things you do when you lose a loved one that you can't do in the current circumstances; you can't hold a funeral, people can't call to the house to offer their condolences. That has been difficult on my father," he said.

He used to visit his mother in her nursing home at least a couple of times a week while his father visited her every day. But those visits stopped, "very understandably", he says, when the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown was introduced.

"There was a fear for all of us that she could catch the virus, but we hoped for the best and the level of care in that home was excellent, they couldn't have done more.

"l mean, it's just one of those things that is everywhere. My mother contacted it and she passed away; it was always a fear in the back of our minds that it would happen."

Mr Keown said the impact on his family, including her grandchildren Fionn, Eamonn and Olivia and sisters Helen and Nancy has been "enormous". "It is difficult to grieve when we can't be together as a family; we have to talk to each other over the phone or go to my father's front door, but not venture in. We were able to comfort him at the burial, but we were being cautious.

"It has been very challenging time for the family and friends," he said.

It was always a dream of his father's to return to his home county with his wife.

"He always wanted to move back to Fermanagh with my mother one day, but clearly that wasn't possible.

"She loved the nature and exploring Lough Erne. It was very special for her; it was one of her favourite places in the world."

The burial by Garrison-based undertaker Peter Carty was a "dignified ceremony", said Mr Keown.

He said his family will not allow Covid-19 to define their mother and wants to remember her for "instilling in us a strong sense of family values".

"When I think of my mother, I think of song; she was always singing, she loved opera and she was in a church choir in her community. She loved art, she painted watercolours, landscapes, portraits.

"She loved her family and she was a very outdoor person. She loved the company for others and she loved Fermanagh. It was a special place for her, so it was always important to her and my father that she was buried there.

"We will celebrate her life with family and friends when better times return," Mr Keown told The Impartial Reporter newspaper.

Belfast Telegraph