A COURAGEOUS elderly woman marked her first steps towards freedom yesterday with a visit to the grave of a much-loved brother who died during the pandemic.
Éiblish Buckley from Crosshaven vowed that the first steps she would take — following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions for over-70s — would be towards her brother Simon Condon’s grave after his death from cancer a week ago.
This was not the first touching tribute paid to the 63-year-old, whose passing saw hundreds of people line the streets to pay their respects.
Éiblish took the trip on foot yesterday with freshly picked flowers and a heavy heart.
The 77-year-old explained that this was the least she could do for her younger sibling, who had visited her every day with a newspaper and helped countless people in the community.
“Simon had a beautiful send-off even though we couldn’t invite anyone to the Mass or have a get-together afterwards,” she said.
The Crosshaven woman is glad her brother was able to pass away at home surrounded by devoted family.
“Marymount would have taken him in,” she said. “However, if he had gone there we wouldn’t have seen him anymore so his daughter Megan looked after him at home.”
She extended her gratitude to the community who paid their respects while maintaining social distancing.
“That made it much easier for us,” she said. “It was so fabulous to think of just how many people had loved Simon.”
Éiblish spent yesterday morning picking fresh flowers to honour her brother.
“He’s going to have every flower under the sun from lilies to camellias,” she said.
She spoke of how her brother had been locally renowned for his kindness.
“Everybody I speak to says ‘I knew Simon’, because he did so much for so many,” she said. “He was famous. If it was his last shilling he would spend it on drinks for everyone.
“He allowed a homeless person to stay in his house. That was just the kind of person he was.”
Éiblish said she is glad that her brother didn’t suffer.
“He had a peaceful death and wasn’t in pain. If he was he wouldn’t have told us because he never complained. He was a real strong young fella.”
Éiblish revealed that her heart goes out to anyone grieving at this difficult time.
“I heard of a mum who wasn’t able to take her children to the graveyard and was heartbroken,” she said.
“I have wondered why the restrictions still apply to people visiting graveyards as this is a wide open space where you don’t usually meet a lot of people, but that’s how it is at the moment.”
She spoke of how the world post-lockdown will be significantly different to the one she knew before.
With this in mind she urged people to come together as soon as it is safe to do so.
“I used to go to meet with the same bunch of friends at the Carrigaline Court Hotel every Friday,” she said. “One of those friends has passed away since the lockdown.
“My worry is that when this is all over people will be used to sitting at home and looking at a TV.
“Once this mould has been broken it’s very hard to put it back together again.”
Éiblish, who has raised a significant amount for charities over the years including the RNLI, said that the lockdown has amplified the loneliness she feels for her husband Edward Buckley who passed away two years ago.
She said that she still misses him every day, especially while in lockdown.
“I live in an eight-bedroom house but at a time like this there is so little to do,” she said. “We were comfortable but money isn’t everything. The important thing is that we were very happy together.”
She said that her late husband was a great man and added: “He was the first man to get rugby into a Catholic school. He had been president of the Crosshaven Rugby Club seven times. I had never even known what a rugby ball looked like before that.”
Ireland has extended its lockdown for another two weeks to May 18, when it will introduce a phased, five-stage exit over three months.
The decision to extend the 2km travel limit will be the first of many Covid-19 restrictions being relaxed in the coming months. People are now allowed to travel 5km from their homes.
Those aged over 70 who had previously been cocooning are also allowed to exercise outdoors as long as they remain within the 5km radius.
A phased lifting of the restrictions will begin on May 18.
The five-phase exit strategy was unveiled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who last week warned that it would take some time for lives to get back to normal.
Cocooners have been advised to avoid contact with anyone when leaving their homes.
Over-70s will not be permitted to have visitors to their homes or to go to shops until the start of June.
Older people experiencing loneliness during the Covid-19 pandemic can view supports online at corkcitypartnership.ie.