The Burial at Oakland Cemetery

In America, people usually have the funeral services within a week of their loved one passing. In England there is a much longer gap between the two events. I don’t know why, so if anyone can enlighten me, I would be very interested. In America, there is a regular embalming process.

Lohr passed away on a Monday night in March 2010 and we held the funeral services and the burial on the Friday. (See ‘What He Left Behind’ for further details). That week was a very busy time; so busy that one didn’t have time to think too much and to grieve.

Tuesday morning, we were woken up early with a telephone call. The caller was asking if we would be willing to donate Lohr’s organs. This call deeply distressed my husband. If the organs were going to be donated, we had to be asked as soon as possible, but with Lohr’s death being such a shock, the call made my husband extremely angry. He had been up most of the night sobbing until he fell asleep exhausted. Then was woken up early by this call.

We spent the first few days finding a plot to bury Lohr. My husband’s father was buried in Oakland Cemetery and he wanted his son to be buried near his dad. We were able to find a plot about eight yards away from his dad underneath a beautiful tree. Oakland Cemetery is the resting place of over 50,000 people of all walks of life and is historically significant in Minnesota.

I drove my husband to the cemetery on the Wednesday after his son died. My husband was in great emotional pain and distress. On the way, I felt Lohr’s presence very near. He was very concerned that his mother and father were in so much pain. I felt him whisper ‘Tell my dad that I love him’. I hesitated to tell my husband. I’m sure he would think I was nuts. But the feeling persisted. I let my husband know, but on recalling these events to him a couple of months ago, he did not absorbed the information at the time.

We spent a lot of time at the mortuary. Sonny went to visit Lohr as often as he could that week before he was buried. The morticians did a great job of getting Lohr ready. He wore a white shirt and the white trousers that I had hemmed. The mortician had closed the eye that had been slightly open. He looked very peaceful. It seemed surreal that he had died.

Each evening we came home to find food on our doorstep. One day we found this tiny vase with a single pink carnation in it. That meant so very much to me. I still have the vase and it fills me with great love every time I see it.

My son, who lived at home then, looked after himself for the days that we were busy. He got himself off to school and got his homework done. He didn’t have to cook as our church family had provided food everyday in abundance. He, at least, was eating it and my husband was eating a little. My daughter and grandson flew in from Connecticut for the funeral.

All too soon, the day of the funeral arrived. Funerals to me are the hardest part of the whole grieving process because it is so public and I am a very private person especially with regards to my emotions.

We had the funeral services at the funeral home. We had two rooms. We used one room for the viewing and we used the other room for the service. Initially it was going to be a closed casket service, but Sonny and Annette changed their minds on that decision during the week.

My husband was speaking at his son’s funeral as well as Annette, Lohr’s mother. I was holding up well, supporting them, taking care of all the communications with everyone including the morticians, and the little details. I did okay until the movie with the music was put on.

Some kind friend of Annette’s had produced a short movie of about four minutes or so. The movie showed photos of Lohr growing up and a two or three short videos of him.

When Lohr was little, my husband would sing John Lennon’s song, ‘Beautiful Boy’, to him when he went to sleep. The movie played John Lennon’s recording of this song throughout it’s duration.

The movie was put on in the viewing room on a repeat cycle. I was pleased that it was put on later in the proceedings because I started to loose it a bit at that point. Music does that to me.

We had a lot of guests come to the funeral. A few of Annette’s family came and most of Sonny’s family were there. Sonny’s work colleagues came from St. Paul. I was working in downtown Minneapolis at the time and was surprised when my team turned up. A lot of Lohr’s friends came to say goodbye.

When the music went on, I had to leave being the hostess to our guests and walk out to compose myself in the foyer.

My husband did really well when he spoke at Lohr’s funeral. Annette had a harder time but she got through it. It was an honourable service. As soon as Annette had finished her talk, she left with her therapist. She was very distraught.

As the service concluded, my husband said goodbye to the mourners. The morticians closed the casket and the took Lohr out to the car. We travelled from Plymouth to Oakland Cemetery, in St.Paul.  It was March and we were in Minnesota. The snow was deep on the ground. I had changed out of my dress shoes and into my boots. When we got to the cemetery, they had cleared the frozen snow from around the grave and the grounds leading up to the grave.

This for me was the most harrowing part of the proceedings. Watching my husband carrying the coffin of his son from the hearse to the graveside. My husband’s friend walked me to the graveside and stood with me whilst Sonny escorted his son. The tears began to race down my face (just as they are doing now as I write this). My tissue did nothing to stem them. My heart ached so much for my husband and for all that was happening at that moment.

My husband is the most gutsy man that I know. As a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood, he dedicated his son’s grave after some short words from the Bishop. Then the mourners left. My husband took a few minutes and then we went back to the car to attend a small meal put on by the ladies at the church for our immediate family.

As I drove away, I saw them lowering the coffin into the ground in the rear mirror. It was all I could do to see through the haze of tears. My heart was fit to burst.

Not One Of My Finer Moments …

I absolutely never wanted to live in America. Ha Ha – my famous last words! Everytime I made a close friend, they would end up emigrating to the USA. I even started joking with new friends – ‘Just a warning, by being a friend to me you risk ending up living in America!’

When my last friends emigrated, I ironically said to myself. ‘Well, if you become your own friend, you’ll end up with your friends in America.” A year later, the children and I were already to leave England.

My fiancée lived in Irvine, California. He was eager for me to arrive in America so that we could get married. I had phoned the American Embassy several times and just got an answer machine which told me that I needed to apply for a fiancée visa. I wanted to know further details but couldn’t get through to a person to talk to – just the same old answer machine.

When I let my fiancée know, he was exasperated. A few days later he called me to say that he had spoke to some lawyers in the U.S. and they had told him that I could go over on an I90 and then file the paperwork in the states.

“Are you sure”, I asked?

“Quite sure”, he assured me.

“Would you phone the Immigration and Naturalization Service out there and see if you can get further information. They told me on the answer machine that I needed to get a fiancée visa?”

My fiancée didn’t sound too pleased about this suggestion but reluctantly agreed to call them. He told me a few days later that he couldn’t get in touch with them and that we should follow the advise of the lawyers that he had consulted.

I put my house on the market and it sold in a day! I packed up my house; sold a lot of stuff and gave some furniture to my cousin. I had all my stuff shipped out to the States.

I was living in the Midlands at the time. I drove down south for a few days to spend time with my family and all too soon, we were on our way to Heathrow Airport to fly to America and our new life.

It was cheaper to get to Los Angeles Airport by having a stop over in Missouri. As this was the first stop in America we had to go through immigration. This was the part of the trip that I felt the most nervous about. I didn’t feel one hundred percent confident about the I90 vs Fiancée visa information. But the lawyers ought to know, right? I had bought return tickets so that if the paperwork didn’t go through in time, then we would go back to England.

Well, it didn’t go well. After the children and I had queued for awhile, we eventually got to present our passports to the immigration officer. I don’t know what sparked their interest – maybe the fact that we had entered the States about four months ago for a week? They asked me what the purpose of our visit was.

I’m not very good at lying even if I wanted to. So I told them that I was visiting a friend in California. I gave them his name and address. The children and I found ourselves in a set of small connecting rooms to the right of Immigration Control. They then separated me from my children and began interrogating me. I was honest in all my answers even if my initial answer was not the whole story. They wrote my answers down and when they gave me the final draft of the interview, they had changed the order to make it look like I was lying. I was not pleased.

After the interrogation, I was back in the room with my children, where I found that they had let my seven year old go to the bathroom on his own in a crowded airport. I was beginning to simmer with anger.

They then lined us up by the wall and took our picture. Now I felt like a criminal. This was not one of my finer moments. I had no idea what was going on. They said I could have a phone call so I called my fiancée who was out at work and left a message to say that we were with the Immigration Department.

They then escorted the children and I to a plane. They gave our passports and the papers that they had written to the pilot. We were seated on the plane. It was not until the plane took off that I realized that we were on our way back to England.

As soon as we took off and the pilot began speaking to the passengers, I learned that we were flying into Gatwick airport. A million things went through my head as I frantically wondered what I was going to do. I decided to shelve some of them and just focus on how I was going to get back to Fareham where my mum and dad lived. I was really glad that we were going to Gatwick as I did know how to get home from there on the train.

I was worried that my mum and dad would be worried about me when I didn’t call on getting to my fiancee’s. I wondered if my fiancée had got my message before he was due to pick us up from the airport.

As we started to land, my son threw up. It went all over him. We had no warning. We had been flying for nearly twenty hours with a couple of hours in Missouri. We had been awake for quite a few hours before we had left to travel to the airport. It was no wonder my little boy had thrown up.

So now my immediate concern was to get my son cleaned up. I had used the paper serviettes to clean up most of it on the plane, but it still wasn’t pleasant. After we left the plane, we had to go through the British Passport Control and pick up our luggage before I couldn’t even consider getting him some clean clothes. When we got our luggage, I couldn’t get the three of us and the luggage into the toilets together and my daughter was too young to be left outside with the luggage. So I decided that we would do it when we had gone through customs.

As we exited from customs and emerged on the crowds that were waiting for their loved ones, I felt very conspicuous and I was very, very embarrassed. As we got through that ordeal, I headed for the bathrooms that I knew were a bit bigger. Imagine my surprise and my great relief when I suddenly saw my dad. If I wasn’t in public, I would have probably cried.

My dad said that they were worried when I hadn’t turned up at my fiancée’s. My fiancée had called them asking where I was. My dad had made an educated guess as to which airport I would come back into and got in his car and had been waiting at the airport.

Even thinking about this now, all these years later, I still get choked up regarding what my dad did for me!

My dad looked after my luggage and my daughter whilst I went to the ladies to get my son cleaned up. Then he drove me back to my parents home.

For the next three months or so, we stayed at my sister’s house. I got the children back in school and picked up some temping work. My fiancee’s mother was old friends with the secretary to a senator. Somewhere in this adventure I had been given the forms to apply for a fiancée visa. Once these were submitted to the INS, the senator was able to expedite my application.

We arrived in the States in January 1999 and my fiancée and I got married. In 2003, I started divorce proceedings from my husband due to his abusive behaviour. Looking back on this event with greater hindsight, I don’t believe that the lawyers were ever contacted.

I learned the hard way that I should trust my gut when it comes to making decisions and never rely on the advice and decision of another person. If a choice is made and the consequence picked up, I want to be in full control of that choice.