In the depths of grief and heartbreak my family obeyed the rules - so why couldn’t Dominic Cummings?
My brother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in February this year.
He was in St James’s Hospital and we had to find a palliative nursing home for him to be transferred to urgently. That alone was stressful and heartbreaking.
We hadn’t had time to come to terms with his diagnosis, and we were thrown into ringing care homes and virtually begging them to take him, when they were all terrified of the virus. The lockdown stopped all visiting. The cancer had spread to my brother’s brain and he was very confused.
Three weeks into the lockdown we managed to have him transferred to a nursing home.
He travelled by ambulance alone. We were not allowed to visit the home or meet the staff who were caring for him. We relied on phone calls for updates on his condition. He was so poorly he was unable to speak to us on the phone, or by FaceTime. I wrote to him all the time, and the staff read him my letters. My brother died on May 13, alone and not having seen any of his family for eight weeks.
His funeral is today. Due to lockdown, we will be outside the chapel standing six feet apart, 10 people only, and restricted to 15 minutes. We have had to time his hearse entry to Lawnswood Crematorium, the music and the readings so they do not run over this 15 minutes. We have been told the timing is very strict and we will have to leave immediately after 15 minutes.
My brother was in the armed forces - the Royal Signals. He served all round the world. in particular Aden and Kenya in the 1960s, then three tours of Northern Ireland, missing the births of both his sons.
At his funeral he would normally have had a military guard of honour. A Standard Bearer to walk in front of the hearse and a bugle player playing the Last Post. None of this is allowed. The only thing we will have for him is a recording of the Last Post. That’s the respect he gets for the years he spent defending his country and defending civilians around the world.
I am heartbroken at losing my brave and intelligent brother.
The fact we had to endure not being with him when he died, and him not having a decent funeral, we accepted.
We accepted it because we all believed it was for the good of everyone to control this virus. We are all law abiding people and have stuck to the lockdown despite our sorrow.
How can Dominic Cummings justify to me that finding a childminder when he and his wife did or did not have Covid symptoms was more important than a dying father, grandfather, brother and soldier seeing his family and being allowed a decent respectful funeral?
All I wanted and needed from the government was an acknowledgement and apology that this trip was made with poor judgement.
The photograph on this page is of my brother, Steve McHale, serving in Aden between 1965. and 1967.
One of the last times I saw him in hospital he was regressing and he was crying about some children being caught up in the fighting.
He was crying out that he had to go back to get the rest of the children out.
That, Dominic Cummings, would be an essential journey.