Lockdown anniversary: Dad's final wish remains in 'heartbreaking' limbo, says Gosport nurse left bereft by Covid-19
JUST hours before the announcement of the first national lockdown, Vincent Flint died from Covid-19 in Queen Alexandra Hospital - and a year later, his family are still waiting to honour his final wish.
The 72-year-old, who suffered from a series of lung and kidney diseases, died after testing positive for Covid-19 at Queen Alexandra Hospital on March 23, 2020.
Having battled ill health for several years, the former Royal Navy chief petty officer had planed his funeral and burial – but restrictions announced on the day that he died left his final wishes in disarray.
A year on, his family have been unable to take the ashes of the ‘proud’ Welshman – known as Taff Flint – to a family plot in his home country, according to his daughter Dawn Bradshaw.
The 47-year old said: ‘I was so, so fortunate that when it happened there were fewer restrictions and I was able to be there with him.
‘But it was truly awful – he was gasping for breath, calling out, calling my name, saying “wait, wait, wait, damn, damn”.
‘We had his funeral five weeks later, and we were only allowed ten people at that time. People who should have been there weren’t.
‘The biggest thing for us was that dad knew exactly what he wanted, and the most heartbreaking thing was that he couldn’t have all those things.
‘He couldn’t even wear what he wanted – the mortuary wasn’t allowed to reopen his coffin because of Covid-19.
‘He was a proud Welshman and we had the national anthem played, but we weren’t allowed to sing – his grandchildren had been practising for the service.’
The family held a small ceremony in the grounds of Royal Hospital Haslar – Vincent’s old workplace – in September and had hoped to take his ashes to Ceredigion, in south west Wales, in the October half-term.
After a year of disrupted burials across the country, bereaved families in Portsmouth are hoping to find closure at a special service at Portsmouth Cathedral as part of today’s National Day of Reflection.
For Dawn, trying to grieve as the country contends with so much death has been a ‘surreal’ experience.
The NHS nurse said: ‘I left the hospital and there was no one around. Usually Queen Alexandra can seem the like the busiest place in the world. It was so surreal.
'My word had stopped - and I wanted the whole world to stop. And it felt like it did.
‘When people die, people say life goes on, but it didn’t.
‘I felt safe in lockdown. Lockdown allowed me to grieve personally with my family.
'I thought there would be a couple of hundred of families like ours. And now there's tens of thousands. It is all so surreal.’
Dawn, who is married to Gavin and is mum to Laurence 26, Lucia 12, Leo 10 and Ariana, seven, is hoping her and her family will be able to ‘move on a bit better’ once they can lay their father’s remains to rest properly, after Covid-19 restrictions allow them to travel.
She said: ‘In the meantime his ashes remain at my house.
‘Funnily enough, on top of the drinks cabinet – although he was never one to drink at home. He preferred his local with his friends.’
Vincent Flint is survived by his daughter Dawn and her siblings Peter, Paul, and Hannah, and the navy veteran will be missed by fellow patrons and staff at his local pub, the Queens Hotel in Gosport.