Just outside my kitchen window is a huge ceramic flowerpot. Inside the rim are a circle of wild primroses harvested from the ditches around the farm. In the centre are red and yellow tulips. Nature is beautiful and comforting when we need her to be.

Dad loved growing flowers. Pansies were his favourite and I realise I don’t have one in the garden.

The world is still. It’s as if time has stopped. The sun is stealing up, casting its beams across the big cow shed with its gaping hole from the recent storm. It reflects the new yawning hole in my heart that was reserved for my dad.

In time it will fill again, but right now I don’t want to let go of the pain of loss for a millisecond. Grief is exhausting and consuming and yet comforting, realising just how much I loved John Campion, RIP.

Just a week

Little did I know that a text last week was the beginning of the end for Dad. In one moment life can turn upside down. If only I realised it; would I have done anything different?

Probably not. At the end of the day, we are all human with limitations and there is only so much that any one person can do.

Tiredness comes upon us and we have to rest. How I wished for a pill that would replace sleep this past week. I know my siblings felt the same.

We wanted to be where we needed to be which was by John Campion’s bedside, comforting him and supporting him through the most difficult time in his life.

For the first few days, we had no idea that John was so very ill. Each of us had our fears. We wondered if the cancer that resulted in the removal of his stomach six and a half years ago was back?

Very gently, the nurse told me that it was best we come.

During those days visiting was majorly restricted due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The blasted thing has turned our lives upside down and robbed us of so much, most especially time with our elderly loved ones. Dad had his phone and the four of us – his children, Phil, Conor, Bernadine and I – talked to him daily.

The investigations continued and we waited. We got frustrated when we couldn’t reach him.

Then I got a call from a nurse on the ward asking if we’d come to the hospital. “How, why and what about COVID restrictions?” I asked. I was told an allowance would be made for us as Dad was deteriorating. I was utterly shocked. “Do you think he is going to die?” I asked.

Very gently, the nurse told me that it was best we come. You can just imagine the panic, the urgency with which we moved. Phil, Bernadine and I could do the visit. Conor, who is in London, could not.


Arriving at Tipperary University Hospital (TUH) in Clonmel, we walked to the main door. We approached the security desk. We filled out COVID-19 forms. Our masks were checked. Our journey to the ward was already pre-authorised.

This is what the dreaded virus has done to our systems, interfering in our happy and sad occasions.

We found Dad comfortable and he told us he felt very weak. To be honest, we were a little perplexed. I had already arranged to meet with Dr Vapra and his team of doctors. That took place the following morning.

Our worst fears became a reality. Dad was terminally ill. The cancer had returned aggressively. He had but days left.

And so Dad died peacefully yesterday morning just one week after being admitted. RIP. Now, we are preparing for his funeral. It has been a tough, tough week.

I felt the blanket of care wrapped tightly around us and our short journey with Dad was made into a truly well managed, coordinated experience.

I cannot speak highly enough of Dr Vapra and his team, the nursing staff, catering and cleaning people, the porters, administration, diagnostic, laboratory and security personnel.

The four of us were allowed to make sure that at least one of us was beside Dad at all times. I know he felt loved and secure. Everyone at TUH went the extra mile to care for John and his family.

I felt the blanket of care wrapped tightly around us and our short journey with Dad was made into a truly well managed, coordinated experience.

No stone was left unturned. I salute you all at TUH. You truly made a difference.

We also know that we were lucky that the easing of restrictions allowed this to happen. I sympathise sincerely with anyone who lost a loved one during lockdown without the support we so valued.

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