ONE YEAR after he became Tobago's first covid19 fatality, the family of Bernard Greig, 70, still have many questions about his untimely passing and are still mourning their loss.
Less than three days after developing flu-like symptoms, Greig, a father of three, died on April 5 at the Scarborough General Hospital.
He had no history of overseas travel and only interacted with friends and family on the island. How he contracted the virus remains the subject of a pending epidemiological investigation, 12 months after he was laid to rest, six feet under. Tobago recorded its first covid19 case on March 23, 2020. Trinidad's first case was on March 12, last year.
"Oh Lord, Greggy boy, yuh gone and rest," his widow Sherma Greig cried during an interview with Newsday. She said that even a year later, she has not fully come to terms with his passing. "He was a wonderful father, a wonderful friend, lover and confidante. He was my everything and I feel so lost without him," Grieg cried.
Easter Monday marks one year to the day that Greig died and while the rest of the country will be relaxing on the last day of the long Easter weekend, Greig said she would bend her knees, bow her head and say a silent prayer in memory of her husband.
Speaking with Newsday, she said she does not intend the hold any memorial for him. "Before I go to bed on Monday night, I will say a special prayer for him. What more can I do?"
The couple settled into poultry farming as their main means of livelihood after he retired from the THA's Division of Health, Wellness and Family Services a few years ago. Sherma was Greig's second wife and they had been married for over ten years. She said life hasn't been easy since his death and she will always remember the covid19 pandemic for taking away her husband.
"I bought a King-sized bed for us to use and you know, I lay down on it the other day and was thinking, 'Greg gone and he ain't even make a year to enjoy this bed with me.'" She said her husband complained of feeling unwell on April 3. They lived together in Moriah, but would spend time at a house he owned in Hope.
DEAD, BURIED ON SAME DAY
On Friday March 3, last year, they went to his home in Hope. "I tell him, 'Greggy, I want to go home' and he told me he'll carry me home on Monday morning." But on the morning of Sunday April 05, Greig had died.
Recalling the last days with him, Sherma said, "We were at his home in Hope when I realised he was just lying down. I asked him, 'why you only lying down? I ain't come to check you for a while and this is how you is?' We got up and went out to get breakfast." During this time, he started to complain of feeling unwell.
"Lower down the street he stopped a car and just started to cough and cough. When we got to my house, he went back to lay down and we had to take breakfast to him."
After breakfast, two relatives visited Greig. He kept complaining of feeling strange and unwell. Sherma said she begged him several times to go to a private doctor in Mason Hall but he only agreed to do so several hours later. "When he went there, the doctor immediately called for an ambulance. I never saw him alive again."
Greig was admitted to Scarborough General Hospital, where he tested positive for the virus the following day. News that Greig had the covid19 virus surfaced mere hours before he died. Like many others, Sherma heard about it through the grapevine.
The news shocked Sherma since despite his cough – a classic symptom – the couple never thought at any time before he was taken to hospital, that that symptom was linked to covid19. Greig, who had pre-existing health conditions died on April 5, just after 10 am.
His body was immediately wrapped and placed in a casket which was then sealed. It was taken to the Buccoo Public Cemetery for burial by medical officials fully dressed in personal protective equipment and escorted by police.
The body arrived around 1 pm and an excavator quickly dug a grave. A priest and three relatives had been waiting for almost 30 minutes.
From behind the cemetery's main entrance, over 100 feet away, Newsday's photographer was able to capture pictures of the ceremony, which lasted less than 20 minutes. After the final rites, a backhoe was used to fill the grave with dirt as diggers were not allowed near the hole. Sherma did not attend the burial.
Initially, Newsday was told that Greig's family, who were primary contacts, were immediately put into State quarantine and tested.
Sherma said this was untrue and that medical officials took her to a health centre in Canaan and tested her right after he was buried. She wasn't asked or told to go into quarantine.
Days after her husband's funeral, her results returned negative. In fact, she said, none of the other three people who were in the house with Grieg and her, had tested positive.
During the interview, Sherma started to weep. "I don't want to talk about it because it still hurts," she admitted. Sherma who lives alone, said she always thought because of her underlying medical issues, she would have died before Greig, whom she described as a tough Tobago man.
She said Christmas Day was a very emotional time for her as it was the first without her husband. "Every day, once I remember, I say to his spirit, 'rest in peace and rise in glory'," Sherma said.
Greig's son Jerome who was also contacted by Newsday to see how his side of the family was coping, said that there are many unanswered questions surrounding his father's death.
"It wasn't a nice experience at all. We couldn't see him at the hospital. They just told us he had died and they wanted to burn him one time. Then they called later again to invite the family to our own father's funeral."
Jerome said the family is planning to "do something small" to remember his father on his one-year death anniversary. "I just wish I could have at least talked to him before he passed.
"We thought the whole house would have had the virus, but no one else in the house got it. It's a mystery and we are still asking if it was really even covid19 he died from. We had a lawyer telling us we could fight the case but then that would have entailed exhuming his body and that would have been too much for all of us. We just want him to rest in peace."
Jerome said since his father's death, he has become more cautious and although he is happy that Tobago hasn't seen an explosion in the number of covid19 cases, he is disappointed at the way many Tobagonians continue to flout public health regulations despite the clear and present health danger hovering due to the pandemic.
"I get upset when I see people not following covid19 rules knowing that this virus is what they said had killed my father. We don't take anything seriously until someone dies. I find we real lackadaisical and we are focused on the wrong things. You ever see a dead man come back to life? We are a messed-up people."
Greig's death which was the first for Tobago, was the seventh for the country. There have been 145 deaths in TT, up to press time, of which three have been in Tobago.