Paul Smith was known as the quiet man. “He would go to work, come home, watch his football, have his tea and drink a few cans of Coors Light,” says his daughter, Megan Smith, 22. “That was his life.” She says: “I couldn’t have asked for a better dad. He prioritised being a dad above everything.” Paul would go clothes shopping with his daughter. They would go on days out together. “We enjoyed each other’s company,” Megan says.
Paul and Marie, Megan’s mum, would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in September. “My mum always joked that when I came along, my dad and I ganged up against her,” says Megan. “Dad used to wind her up. He’d say: ‘When I get older, we’ll put your mum in a home and I’ll come and live with you.’”
Paul and Marie met when Paul worked as a steward for Liverpool FC. Marie was a special – a volunteer police officer – working at the Kop end of Anfield stadium. Liverpool FC is a family affair: Megan now works for the club, giving tours. At the time of his death, Paul was working as a cashier at a local cash and carry. “He only worked at the club for pocket money, really,” says Megan. “When he retired from the club, it was because he wanted to sit down and enjoy the game.”
He was partially deaf in one ear, as a result of a perforated eardrum that occurred after a family holiday in Turkey. “I dunked him under the water so much that he got an ear infection,” says Megan. As a result, Paul would have the TV on so loudly that Megan would often text him, telling him to turn it down. “I’d say: ‘Dad, think of the neighbours!’ He’d say: ‘Sorry, hun.’”
On 1 April, Paul started to feel unwell. He had a cough and felt lethargic. Megan called 111, who instructed Paul to isolate in a separate room from the rest of the family. In the early hours of 5 April, Paul told Marie to call an ambulance, because he could not breathe. He was taken into hospital. “Even then, we thought he’d be OK. He never got sick. We thought he’d get over it,” says Megan.
On 7 April, at about 6am, Paul called Marie. Doctors were putting him on a ventilator. Marie woke up Megan, to talk to her dad. “He told me that he was so proud of me, of how I was handling it. He couldn’t look at me when he was speaking. I knew he was worried then. I told him that he’d be able to get some rest on the ventilator and that it would help him. I said: ‘God bless, Dad.’ And he said it back. And that was the last time I spoke to my dad.”
He survived on the ventilator until 23 April, when doctors at the Royal Liverpool hospital called Megan and Marie and told them to come in, because Paul was dying. “I was frightened,” says Megan. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was going into an ITU ward and it was full.” Staff told Megan not to look left or right as they were leading her to Paul’s bed, but she looked anyway. “They were trying to get the curtains shut as quickly as they could,” Megan says. “I wasn’t the only person losing a parent that day.”
Megan is enormously grateful to hospital staff for allowing her to say goodbye. “Even though it was impersonal, because we were wearing PPE and everything we said was muffled, we were still able to touch him through gloves,” she says. “To hear that other people had to say goodbye over FaceTime is just heartbreaking. I thank God that those doctors and nurses made it happen for us.” Megan could not bear to watch her father die, so, after saying goodbye, she left him with Marie and went to a waiting room. “A doctor came to tell me that my dad had passed away and a nurse cradled me as I cried. I’ll never forget those doctors and nurses.”
She is trying to get used to life without her beloved father by her side. “I always planned to have my father there when I had children and got married,” Megan says. “I can’t believe he won’t be there any more. But for the 21 years I had my dad in my life, he gave me that much love and attention, it will last an entire lifetime.”