Coronavirus: ‘I just wish it was something else that took him’

Undertakers, gravediggers wear hazmat suits as family obliged to keep distance during funeral

Undertakers and gravediggers dressed in white hazmat suits are seen at the burial of Lawrence (Larry) McManus in Enniskillen on Saturday. Photograph: John McVitty

Undertakers dressed in white hazmat suits drove the short distance from South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen to Cross Cemetery on the other side of the road on Saturday for the burial Lawrence (Larry) McManus. The 93-year-old died of Covid-19 on Wednesday.

Ten members of the McManus family formed a guard of honour as the hearse arrived after the short drive and came to a stop overlooking the hospital where Larry died earlier this week.

Undertakers John McKeegan and Brendan Hynes, dressed in their protective suits, wheeled the coffin along a narrow path to the family plot. The gravediggers, also dressed in hazmat suits, stood by the graveside as Fr Raymond Donnelly gave a blessing from about 30ft away.


The McManus family were not allowed to hold Larry’s hand as he was dying in hospital, nor could they comfort one another as his coffin was lowered into the ground due to social distancing guidelines.


“I feel empty. I just wish it was something else that took him and not this terrible virus,” Larry’s daughter Valerie said.

“We understand why we can’t have a proper funeral service but it’s just so difficult for the family.”

Valerie explained that she and her sisters, Audrey Carson and Dorothy McManus, had to wait 48 hours to find out if Larry had died from Covid-19.

“We got the call from the hospital when the test results came back, and it has been terrible ever since. I thought to myself that he had it, it was in the back of my mind, but it’s still a shock.”

Valerie last saw her father several weeks ago on a hospital ward and they talked about his love of the Fermanagh Lakelands, a memory that she says she will forever cherish.


“It was the beginning of the coronavirus scare and the hospital allowed just one person in at a time. He smiled at me and we had a wee chat about the grandchildren as we always did and the picture of the fishing rod (in his room). I said ‘my goodness, you’d think this room was made for you’. When you talked to him about fishing his face lit up,” she said.

“He said he was very tired and I said I would let him sleep. He gave me a smile and closed his eyes. I gave him a kiss on the head and that’s the last time I saw him.”

Mr McManus is now at peace, Valerie says, and reunited with his wife, Dorothy. “He was a wonderful father and grandfather. He was just the best and couldn’t do enough for you,” she added. “I wish I could have been there with him when he died but it wasn’t to be.”