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Coronavirus: Fermanagh husband's grief as he can't attend soulmate's funeral 

'It's breaking my heart I couldn't say goodbye'

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Parish Priest Gerard Alwill, performing the final committal over the coffin during the burial of Fermanagh's first Covid-19 victim Anne Best, 72 at St. Ninnidh's cemetary in Derrylin on Saturday.

Parish Priest Gerard Alwill, performing the final committal over the coffin during the burial of Fermanagh's first Covid-19 victim Anne Best, 72 at St. Ninnidh's cemetary in Derrylin on Saturday.

Parish Priest Gerard Alwill, performing the final committal over the coffin during the burial of Fermanagh's first Covid-19 victim Anne Best, 72 at St. Ninnidh's cemetary in Derrylin on Saturday.

The last time heartbroken Tom Best saw his wife of 51 years alive was when she was being placed in an ambulance and driven away from their home.

Brave Anne (72) had been complaining of severe pains last Monday and a doctor recommended that given the outbreak of coronavirus and her underlying health conditions she needed immediate medical attention.

But less than 48 hours later she died in the isolation ward at South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen without ever seeing her husband again.

Mrs Best from Derrylin, Co Fermanagh was the first person to die of Covid-19 in the county.

Yesterday she was buried at St Ninnidh's cemetery in her home village, again, without her husband watching over her.

The retired civil servant has been told to self-isolate at home for 14 days and was essentially banned from saying farewell to his soulmate.

There was no funeral and only a handful of mourners watched from a distance as the coffin with a single white rose was lowered into the ground by gravediggers wearing gloves.

Parish Priest Gerard Alwill read prayers and undertaker Pat Blake stood soberly underneath a bright blue sky as the sun illuminated against the windows of the church behind them.

"It's breaking my heart, it's just breaking my heart that I couldn't be there when she died or at the funeral," said an emotional Mr Best. Clutching a photograph of his wife, he paced up and down his garden, a short distance from where his wife was being laid to rest. It's all he could do.

"I am not going to break all the rules and walk up there and see her. I'm not going to do that because that would not be right; it would be selfish on all the people of Derrylin," he said.

He recalled how his wife began to feel unwell on Monday and by Tuesday her health had deteriorated badly.

"She said 'I feel awful, awful sick'. There was a lot of moaning… if you could hear someone groaning and moaning… and she could take pain," he said, explaining that local doctor Michelle McBrien then called an ambulance. "She [Michelle] is brilliant, she is an angel and let no one say different. She spoke to her [Mrs Best] on the phone and said she would get an ambulance," he explained. But he couldn't be by his wife's side and later he received a phone call from a doctor at South West Acute Hospital informing him of the worst possible outcome.

"I got a call on the Wednesday night explaining that things were not looking good. I've been around a lot of death over the years and I can put two and two together.

"When it comes to your own door you just fall apart and that is a fact.

"I told the doctor whatever you are doing you are doing your best. Then he said the next call will be the one to tell me she was gone," he told the Impartial Reporter newspaper yesterday.

The tears rolled down his face as he tried to comprehend how he went from watching crime programmes on television with his wife and making her breakfast each morning to now being forced to mourn her loss at home on his own.

"What impact has it had on me since she died? I don't know what I can do. The last time I seen her was when she was being put into the ambulance and looking down and that's it.

"It's heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, that is a fact. Maybe some good will come out of it. It's just one of those things.

"It is unimaginable, I don't think we have ever faced anything like this in our time, in my 77 years anyhow. You might wonder why I wanted to cook her breakfast and do things for her. It was simple, I loved her," he said, folding the photograph of the couple's wedding day in Gibraltar in 1969 and placing it back into his pocket.

"I loved her," he said.

Belfast Telegraph