By Orville Williams
If the outpouring of love for fallen nurse Cynthia Byers stirred emotions this week, her colleagues would have brought many to tears yesterday, forming an all-white ‘guard of honour’ that could rival many diplomatic or military processions, from an empathetic point of view.
The burial ceremony for Nurse Byers took place at the St John’s Public Cemetery and was attended by a large cohort of nurses who donned their all-white uniforms, members of her family and a handful of other medical officials.
Rain threatened to disrupt the guard of honour that was in place to welcome the hearse, but as one nurse exclaimed, “it’s almost like a final goodbye from her”. The drizzle began just a few minutes before the police-escorted hearse reached the start of the nurses’ guard of honour and ended just after it began to pull into the cemetery.
Following that seemingly ethereal bit of rainfall, the nurses made the trek down into the cemetery where they spread out in a socially-distanced formation that could have easily been mistaken for a choreographed movement.
The attendees focused on the words of the pastor on duty – drowned out by the sporadic cries from Byers’ family members – before appropriately-clad personnel from the funeral home and the cemetery prepared the burial site.
The colourful arrangement of more than a half dozen wreaths on Byers’ grave painted a picture of peace and serenity, similar to the feelings evoked just moments before by her colleague nurses – and while they, the family and other loved ones will still be feeling the loss, the level of support and love shown in the entire ceremony will no doubt have provided some comfort for their grief.
Speaking to Observer on the sidelines of the ceremony, some of Byers’ colleagues shared how her death has affected them.
Nurse Knight said, “This one really was a shocker for me. It really brought into perspective the risk that we take to take care of families and [people’s] loved ones.
“I just want to say condolences to the entire family and appeal to the public one more time, please think about maintaining social distancing, wearing your mask [and] doing the proper things to minimise the spread of Covid-19.”
Another colleague, Nurse Dover, shared similar sentiments, saying Byers’ “bubbly personality” will definitely be missed.
“Persons have been dying around the world [from Covid-19], but when we heard the news that this nurse died, it really hit home; [she was] one of us and [that made it] really hard and emotional.
“Even if you hadn’t seen her in a while, you knew who she was – this bubbly, smiley person who would never pass you on the street. It’s hard to see that she’s gone and [for that reason] I’m appealing to everybody to do the W3s – wash your hands, wear your masks, and watch your distance.”
Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph was in attendance at the burial ceremony, along with Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses’ Association Soria Dupie-Winston, and prominent surgeon Dr Joseph John.