‘I said goodbye to my brother through a window’


“It was the only way I could say my last goodbye to him. I shed a tear and said ‘goodbye Francis’.”

Padraig Byrne’s brother Francis died from Covid-19. Due to visiting restrictions at hospitals, Padraig had been unable to visit Francis (who recently turned 70) for several weeks.

An image of Padraig, who works in Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, standing on a bench outside his brother’s hospital window has been widely shared on social media. 

It is a stark reminder of the trauma faced by grieving families saying goodbye to their loved ones at a time of the coronavirus restrictions.

Padraig, unable to visit his brother, brought the bench over and placed it beneath the window, climbed on it and looked through the window at his brother for the last time.

“I felt I was there; it was the only way I could say my last goodbye to him. I shed a tear and said goodbye Francis,” he told Joe Duffy on RTÉ’s .

One of seven brothers, Padraig said when another brother had died, the remaining six carried his coffin.

Due to restrictions on funerals, they were unable to do the same for Francis.

“That just stuck with me … being brothers, you’d love to carry your brother in,” he said.

There was no formal funeral service. The family had to wait until the coffin was lowered into the grave before they were invited forward for prayers. There were 10 to 12 people there, Padraig said.

Before going to the graveyard, the hearse brought the coffin to the Floraville estate in Clondalkin, where Francis had lived.

Neighbours came to their doors to applaud as they drove out of the estate. They remembered Francis as a man who had tended the daffodils and tulips at the entrance to the estate, with one neighbour calling the radio show to describe the scene as, “one of the saddest things” she had ever seen.

“It was a nice send off,” Padraig said.

He urged people to take heed of social distancing requirements.

“We have to be on our guard,” he said. 

We’re all vulnerable but the elderly are particularly vulnerable and we have a duty of care to them.

    Useful information

  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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