A Father’s Tribute To His Son

My husband gave a magnificent tribute to his son, Lohr, at his funeral. He spent a lot of time that week, writing down what he wanted to say. He wanted to write it down, not only to consolidate his thoughts, but also to have something to lean on should he find himself overcome with grief at the time of delivery. I saved a copy of the talk and my husband gave me permission to share it with you.

As you can see from his talk below, my husband is a deep thinker, very wise, and has great love for people especially those who are close to him.

Sonny:

“I was a very imperfect father for Lohr, but I loved being his Dad. I could get very frustrated and annoyed with him but at the same time, he would tell you, that he got very frustrated and annoyed with me. But the path of love is a thorny path. As the scriptures say, “Love hopeth all things, is patient, and endureth all things” and so both of us had to endure a lot of stuff!

Anyone who truly took the time to get to know Lohr would know how truly sensitive, intelligent, creative, and how wonderful his sense of humor was. He also liked to raise a little hell, maybe a lot of hell! But his friends would know that more than me, being his dad, but I found out sooner or later.

I just can’t help loving him. His sweetness was always before my eyes. I just saw so much goodness in him and yet so much sadness. Lohr always had such a struggle to fit in. Lohr’s death is such a hard, hard thing to get my head around. Lohr, to me, was the iron man surviving the toughest of times. He is my hero.

Lohr lost his battle with depression just like anyone would lose their battle with cancer. But because of how our society perceives mental health issues, he had even a harder battle to wage.

Think about it. People who have cancer are in and out of hospitals, trying to get whatever treatment they can, even experimental treatment, and take medicines that make them deadly sick. They are supported, honoured, and treated as heroes for their courage and tenacity as they battle their disease. While people who battle depression with the same courage and tenacity are seen by many as hopeless members of our society.

I can never imagine the pain that Lohr must have felt to be able to do what he did. Again, people with diseases battle the pain that takes away their dignity and quality of life! Imagine yourself being so young with the stigmas attached to mental illness, battling just to be accepted as ‘normal’.

I remember how he would express to me, whilst working at Eddingtons, that his medication would make his hands shake and when he tried to serve a patron with his shaking hands he was given a look that made him feel like a freak. I told him that I loved him; God loved him; and to hell with the world! It is not easy to say ‘to hell with the world!’ because the world has such a grip upon all of us. It defines how we should look; how much we should weigh; how smart we should be; how rich we should be; how we should feel; and what we should think.

I have come to the conclusion that there are three things that give us a chance of loosening that grip:

  1. A kind word;
  2. A loving touch;
  3. A smile of affirmation that says I care who you are and you have the power within to decide how to define yourself. Yes, smiles that validate the goodness, the sacredness and the beauty that lies within all of us.

I believe with all my heart that God knew Lohr’s pain even better than Lohr. And that the heavens wept for him.

Romans 8:38-39:

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I know that even the dark demon of depression has not separated me from the love of my son. For those of you here who have loved ones near and dear to you that have been battling depression, please treat them as heroes.

I testify that Christ is the tender shepherd and through the power of His atoning sacrifice He will soothe and heal all of Lohr’s pains.

I love Lohr so very much but I know that my Heavenly Father loves him more. And even though it is hard to trust his care to another, I know that he is now in a place of eternal kind words, loving touches and smiles of affirmation which communicate to him how much he is loved and how free he is to decide for himself who he is.

I am so honoured to have the privilege of being Lohr’s earthly father. I know that he loved his family and friends so very deeply. He was, and is, and always will be my beautiful, beautiful Lohr.

Love You,

Dad”

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.

Money! by Luke Martin-Jones

Ah money.  What a strange relationship I have with money.  From my earliest memories, I remember, I never had much money and to be honest never had a need to deal with it, in the same way other kids did.  I was given no pocket money as a child and as a consequence, never had to save.  I never had a bank account as a child, because there was no need. I truly believe that if lessons were given in school, on how to deal with finances, this would go a long way to helping children deal with the day to day need, to have a good level of understanding and achieve successful financial Management.

Bipolar brings another difficulty into sound financial understanding and planning.  It has been the biggest factor in my success and failures in life.  I have always been a person who likes to spend, spend, spend.  Not having a lot of resources as a child has always taught a binge and purge ethos where spending is concerned.  When I have it, I will spend it, in fact even when I don’t I will.  I do not understand the concept of ‘Saving for a rainy day’ or ‘putting a little aside each month’.

I only really noticed there was a problem, when I went to University.  Within the first year I had run up two huge overdrafts and maxed my credit cards.  I was spending money like it was the last day on earth.  I had a cheque book and unlike today, each cheque could be guaranteed up to £50.00.  I was often cashing cheques in The Student Union Shop or the local co-op!

I remember a representative from the bank turning up at my house early one morning.  My spending had got so out of control they wanted my cheque book back.  I just went to my room, ripped out half the cheques and handed the rest to a rather stern looking gentleman, gave him a wry smile and he left.  I know now during very manic periods I would spend out of control.  There was a lot of mania, a lot of spending, a lot of debt at university.

The next time I really noticed there was a problem was when I ran my own business.  It actually wasn’t the next time there was a problem, but rather when I started to notice there was a real problem.  I took on a business without thinking through the consequences of my actions.  I opened up a Business Bank Account and for a short while things went well. I owned a garage, shop and restaurant.  It relied heavily on passing trade.  So when road works began on the dual carriage way passing my business, we were doomed!  As Jason has said, I am probably the most unlucky person he has ever known!

I was taking ever larger amounts of drawings, which the bank mistook for the business doing well.  I certainly wasn’t going to tell them any different. I was given more and more lines of credit, totalling well over £150,000.00 at one stage.  I was borrowing money to keep the business going.  Credit and money was easily obtainable at the time, 2001, so I was really just doing what everyone else was doing.  I bought a brand new car, took three holidays a year and even went further.  During one manic phase, after watching a programme on Morning TV and discovering you could buy a house in a pub, as easy as a pint,  I went up to a place called Nelson and bought a house, because I could.  We then bought a holiday home just down the road from there and bought a house in France called Le Choix.

Now being financially illiterate, I was using all the takings from the three businesses, to fund an extremely lavish lifestyle, travelling to New York, Italy and Malaysia in one year alone, on top of the three houses we had bought.  I was such a spend thrift, I got addicted to Shopping Channels, in fact I would buy anything I saw, just because I had the resources to do it.  Of course one can’t keep on spending £5,000.00 a week, without the business doing well and making money to pay for my mania.

There were ever increasing lines of credit, an overdraft totaling thousands and another illogical decision to invest thousands in the Stock Market, without knowledge of the Businesses I was investing in.  It was just like picking names out of a hat.  Still I was on a high and it all made perfect sense to me.  Unlucky me strikes again. I invested £2,000.00 in Marconi shares, a few weeks later, they collapsed.  Being the unlucky person I was I invested around £20,000.00 in total exactly one week before 9/11.  The markets crashed and I lost the lot.

My accountant was useless.  Charging me £1,500 a month – well this was Salisbury and dodgy, useless accountants don’t come cheap.  Either I was good at hiding the mounting debt or he was really that bad that he couldn’t see it.  Anyway things just went along as usual, more spending, holidays to France once a month and expensive jewellery from TV shopping channels.

I suppose I knew the end had come, when Jason had to remove £10,000.00 from his credit card to pay the staff wages.  I just kidded myself it was a temporary blip.  More money removed each month to pay the wages.  I was paying Jason £30,000 a year, I had a full time chef and ten other employees, because I was too busy spending to work myself.

I had become extremely ill.  I weighed 7 stone in weight and was getting worse by the day.  I had debts totalling a quarter of a million pounds and my stress had reached dangerous levels.  I remember working in the kitchen of the restaurant one hot afternoon.  I felt so weak and collapsed.  I had had a mild stroke.  My Doctor told me if I did not give up the business I would be dead within the year.  Now mania makes you do things in the most destructive way possible. I did a runner, left the business and just walked away.  I could not deal with the legalities behind bankruptcy.  I buried my head and became extremly depressed.  I was a shadow of my former self.

Unable to work through illness, Jason became the bread winner and we had to survive on a less than a tenth of what we did before.  It was a dark time for us. I admit it now, but I even tried to stab Jason with a knife. It was time to be admitted to hospital. From 2003, really up until 2010, the process of diagnosing Bipolar began.  It was such a long time, with many medications and highs and lows, it was truly painful!

I am still a nightmare with money.  The last two years we wasted £10,000.00 on a lifestyle where those we trusted just took as much as they could.  I am glad that happened.  We had to learn for ourselves just how bad these people were.  I may have lost money, but I regained my life and the battles I fight now are real, not petty lies and dramas used to cause harm to others.

Still learning the value of money! Still making mistakes, still battling! That’s life.  At least I’m doing it with the man I love!

(First published on the 27th April, 2015 in Luke’s Blog called ‘Bipolarcoaster‘. This blog has now been published as a series of books.)