ALMOST 6,000 people in Ireland who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 have walked in Sheila Power’s shoes and experienced the terrible throes of overwhelming grief. Sheila lost her loving husband Richard, aged 53, on February 23. He passed away in Cork University Hospital.
Amid her tsunami of grief, Sheila is organising a walk in Glenville, County Cork, on December 27 in aid of CUH, the Covid-19 ward, and the ICU ward.
“The staff in CUH were fantastic to Richard,” says Sheila, who lives in Graigue, and is mum to Jason and Dylan.
“The nurses and doctors took excellent care of Richard. Our family would like to raise money for the hospital as a token of our appreciation.”
Richard worked in T&A Building Supplies on the Watercourse Road in Blackpool where he was very popular.
“Everyone liked him,” says Sheila.
“When the cortege left St Joseph’s church, so many people lined the village and the route to the graveyard going past our house, it was amazing.”
Richard Power had another name.
“He was known as MacGyver!” says Sheila.
“Richard was Mr ‘Fix it’. He loved helping out people and fixing things.”
Sheila, who is from Glenville, and Richard, from Carrignavar, go back a long way.
“We met on the bus going to school,” recalls Sheila.
“I went to St Vincent’s on the northside and Richard was going to the School of Commerce. We were 19 and 20.”
What did she like about the lad who liked helping out people and fixing things?
“Richard was very kind-hearted.”
“And he was good-looking too!
He was really into his cars, especially Escorts. He built his own Escort. He could build or fix anything.
“Richard loved dancing; he was a very good dancer.”
He found favour with everyone.
“We were seven years going out,” says Sheila.
“We had a lovely romance. Richard was an only boy; he had two sisters, Catherine and Helen. ”
The happy couple married at St Joseph’s Church, Glenville, in 1994.
How did Richard propose?
“He was out with his pals the night before and he asked me to get engaged the next day,” says Sheila.
“He must have got inspiration!
“I picked out my engagement ring in Michelle’s jewellers on November 29, 1992. We got married two years later.”
The couple were in love and optimistic.
“We were looking forward to a long and happy future together.”
When they swapped their vows on their wedding day, they never thought death would part them prematurely; in the prime of their lives.
“We had a fabulous wedding day,” says Sheila.
There were 200 people at the wedding. Richard and Sheila knew a lot of people. “We went to the UK on our honeymoon. That was 27 years ago. We thought we’d have a long and happy life together.”
Everything was rosy in the garden.
“We used to go on holidays to Portugal and Lanzarote with the boys.”
The Powers were like a lot of families.
“We were very much a last minute dot com family! We had some lovely holidays and I have some lovely memories.”
Richard was like a lot of men of his generation.
“He was easily pleased,” says Sheila. “He enjoyed a few pints of a Sunday evening. He’d go to the pub early and be home early!” The contented couple never realised what was coming down the tracks when Covid hit. It all seemed improbable and impossible.
Richard was never sick.
Then the virus hit. Richard was fine one day and sick the next day.
“He got tested for Covid on January 9 and was taken to hospital by ambulance on January 14. When the ambulance came he walked out the door and he said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’. I never spoke to him again,” says Sheila.
Unfortunately, Sheila and Richard never got the chance to say goodbye.
“Richard’s parents are in their eighties; they can’t get it. Richard was never sick in his life.”
Sheila found inner strength to cope with her grief.
“I tried to be strong for the boys,” she says.
“I have great family and friends in Glenville and surrounding parishes who are all so kind looking after us.
“I work in Centra in Watergrasshill and the staff and the boss, Ken Ross, are really supportive.”
“Richard died on Tuesday, February 23.”
Everyone turned out to bid farewell to Richard, Mr ‘Fix-it’.
“People couldn’t call; they dropped food and cards at the door, they were outstanding. It was very hard.”
Sheila can’t forget everyone’s kindness.
“One of the nurses from Fermoy worked five nights straight and she’d ring me to reassure me that Richard was a strong man. The nurses and staff at CUH were all wonderful.”
Being a young widow is hard-going, painful, solitary and grinding.
Sheila misses Richard and she thinks about him all the time.
“Christmas will be hard,” she admits.
“Richard loved Christmas. He loved all the fuss and excitement and he’d help me with the cooking.”
Mr Fix-it had another trait.
“He was immaculate,” says Sheila.
“I think he had a touch of OCD! He had huge pride in the house and his car. He was spotless.”
Sheila has found ways to cope after losing the love of her life.
“Going to work is good and the boys keep me going,” she says.
“The fundraiser walk for CUH is definitely helping me focus on something other than Christmas.”
Sheila and Richard should have had a long and happy life together. Sheila thinks of what could have been.
“Now life could be good,” she says.
“We could be enjoying ourselves. The boys are reared and doing well. Richard and I could enjoy Sunday lunches together and breaks away.”
It wasn’t to be.
Richard died just six weeks after testing positive with Covid-19.
“I think about the good times,” says Sheila, who takes solace from the humdrum of every-day things.
She is showing kindness, organising a walk for the hospital that cared so well for her husband.
“I want to do this for them,” says Sheila. “I feel too that it will help me get over Christmas.”
The emptiness of the empty chair and the hollow echo of shared laughter bring home the void Richard left behind in the home he loved so well.
Sheila says that everyone is welcome to join the walk for CUH at noon on Monday, December 27 in Glenville.
Almost €17,000 euro has been raised to-date.
You can donate to the Go Fund Me Page at https://gofund.me/37c3a651