Lockdown Funeral. A letter by Anita Gracey

From Belfast to Monaghan

May 26th, 2020
Hello Uncle John Joe,
I know you know of my brother Brian’s passing, but I thought I would write to confirm all the details. I think Brian would have wanted me to. Its crazy times we’re living-in and our events would put the head-in-a-spin.

Brian had a chest infection and had been in the RVH since April 9th, complicated by diabetes. Not Covid 19. We weren’t told of his prognosis until just the Wednesday before he died, so you can imagine this has all been a whirlwind. Brian passed away at 12.55am May 17th at 54 years old. Hopefully in a happier place. RIP.
On Tuesday was the wake, which was three hours in the car park at Ravenhill Funeral Parlour, meeting and greeting family/ friends. We were only allowed in two at a time to view the closed coffin. A very surreal experience. It was beautiful to see Marina there. I know normally she would have been singing away with her lovely laments, but sure it wasn’t to be.

We got so much love and support from all Mum’s side over the years, it was sad that none of the Southern relatives were allowed to cross the border to come. It felt strange and they were greatly missed.

On Wednesday was the funeral. Ten people (siblings, eldest niece/ nephew & Brian’s best friend) were allowed into the funeral parlour for thirty minutes. The room had seats with social distant spacing. There was no service at all, but it was quite intimate and ‘home-made’. Christy Moore cd played as the coffin came in and out of the room. I had a eulogy prepped; my brother John facilitated. My brother Eugene read a non-religious funeral poem I found on the internet.

“When I am dead, my dearest” by Christina Rossetti

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.
My brother James read a letter, written by Monaghan Cousin Damian. Brian’s best friend John said a few words.

The boys wanted to carry the coffin to the hearse but weren’t allowed to. We weren’t allowed into the crematorium either. So, the cars followed the hearse and we turned away from the gates. Afterwards we went to James back garden for a send-off, social distancing again. We had to work within the guidelines, so it was the best we could do.

Brian didn’t want a fuss for his funeral and so this ‘lockdown funeral’ would’ve suited him. It’s like he seen the coast was clear and made a dash for it. Brian seemed to have the final last word to see us at the wake in the carpark. When I said as much to his friend Andrew, he pointed out Brian would want it to be raining on us!

No doubt mum will be cleaning up heaven, getting it all-ready for Brian coming. Daddy will be singing hymns for Brian. The parents will have ignored his ‘silly talk’ of there being no God.

For two months I couldn’t see Brenda in her nursing home as it was in complete ‘lockdown‘. My only communication has been through weekly letters. Coincidently the nursing home had just relaxed the rules, from no visits, to family visits in an outside courtyard, so I was able to warn her of the death on the Friday (just before I told you). James, John and I told her of the actual death on the Sunday. On the Thursday I had a tough visit, the day after, as she needed to know every detail. BTW Overall Brenda is in good spirits. I asked the Manager of the Nursing Home how long restrictions would go on for, he said the end of August, but added he thinks December!

So that’s my news for now. Hopefully next time it won’t be so heart-wrenching. I am optimistic the world will be a nicer place when this pandemic is over.

Love Your Niece,

Anita XXO


Brian came sixth in a family of seven. He was the spit of his dad & his mum’s favourite. Anita is number seven and therefore the youngest in the family. Anita thought it important to lodge a siblings funeral under lockdown conditions. Anita notes if it had of occurred a few days before, restrictions would have been significantly worse.


  1. This was so lovely to see it from someone who cared so much for her brother your mum and dad would have been so proud I remember you all but I knew John and Brenda better I was Linda Armstrong from the Springfield road my sisters were Sharon and Paula remember you all in my prayers xxx

    1. Lovely to hear from you Linda. I’ll pass on your regards to John.

    2. I’ll make sure and pass on your regards to John and Brenda. Thank-you for your kind words.

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