To the bereaved, after the death and decision making can be very difficult.
In my case, letting the funeral home or mortuary handle all the legal stuff to include pertinent notifications was very important. When I entered the funeral home, I had no idea what I was doing, and they knew it and took over. It was a blessing.
“When I entered the funeral home, I had no idea what I was doing, and they knew it and took over.”
This last article will cover the funeral home experience and take you on a trip to England where Annie is resting.
It was a sad reality for me, as Annie and I had spent over half of our lives together, and never once thought this could happen to one of us. Well it happened, and in the process really rocked my world. I’m now of the understanding of just how vulnerable and fragile life really is. I didn’t just lose a spouse, I lost a child too. I was also in love with “Little Annie,” Once again I must reiterate, that “If you love someone today, try to love them more tomorrow.”
If you love someone today, try to love them more tomorrow
That was a bad night for many reasons; and even though I had accepted the fact that she was gone, the thought of her lying alone and cold in the morgue was troubling me. That’s just a sad reality of life and death. But it made me more determined than ever to honor her core wishes. I needed to get her out of the morgue and back home as quickly as I could.
I only had two instructions for Watson Funeral Home. These were also two of Annie’s wishes as said by her: “Don’t let lie around in the morgue, and have me cremated as quickly as you can.”
Fifteen hours after she left our home she was cremated.
Thanks to a great team effort at Watson Funeral Home, her ashes were handed over to me at the 36th hour from the time she left our home. Her ashes were in a beautiful ebony container which would have pleased Annie. Some of us put little love notes inside the container that would be placed with her in her final place of rest.
The morning after Annie passed away, Andre and I went to the funeral home. I had Doug Watson, the owner, and his office manager, Chancy, help me with the logistics of getting Annie’s ashes back to England. They handled all the TSA paperwork, ordered the death certificates and notified other pertinent agencies, like the Social Security Administration, of her death.
November 10, 2010
Andre flew Annie’s ashes back home to England, and with the TSA paperwork in hand, he had no problems with customs officials. I had asked him to retain custody of the ashes at all times if he could. He said he was able to keep her safely in his arms. It was so important to me that this part of her journey went flawless. And I knew he would not let me down.
That is the rose garden I talk about and she is in there to your right.
Just over a week later, Annie’s ashes were sprinkled in the “Chelmsford Crematorium’s Rose Garden.” That fulfilled two more of her wishes. Getting her ashes back home quickly and sprinkled in the rose garden with her mother and two sisters.
In the old days they literally sprinkled the ashes. They don’t do that anymore, although they still call it sprinkling of the ashes.
I will be going over May 2nd, 2011, to visit her. While there, I will make a plaque for the crematorium’s wall and add her name to the Book of Remembrances. I can’t wait! I could have made the trip sooner; however, Annie and I always knew when the time came, Andre would be here, and take her ashes home.
Approximately three weeks after Annie passed away, I made the journey up to the cancer center to see Dr. Moore Sr. He really had no idea of the circumstances surrounding her death, and I knew he would want to know. Once I arrived, I walked by reception and went straight back to the nurses’ station. None of the nurses had seen me since a short time before Annie passed away, and were overwhelming with their condolences. They all thought very highly of Annie and felt her loss too.
I asked Sarah if I could see Dr. Moore Sr., she said I could, and had a nurse escort me to a private room next door to the doctor’s office. I sat and waited for about fifteen minutes until he came in. He listened intently while I explained to him how she died. When I was through, he put a beautiful smile on his face and said, “they know when it’s time, don’t they! I always thought they did. He went on to say that under the circumstances her death was a blessing as she died of low plates and not multiple myeloma. He told me multiple myeloma is a horrible excruciating death, and during the process, if the patient rolls over in bed, or has to be moved, bones simply break, causing an almost uncontrollable pain. So it would appear, that Annie was spared a very painful death.
May 2, 2011
I flew out of McConnell Air Force Base on a KC-135 Tanker bound for England at 5:00 P.M. The flight took approximately eight hours and was very interesting, as during the journey I got to see the sun set in the west and rise in the east. We landed at RAF Mildenhall in England at 7:00 A.M., May 3rd, 2011.
From RAF Mildenhall, I hired a taxi to take me to Annie’s hometown of Chelmsford, Essex, England. It was a seventy-mile drive, but went by quickly, as luckily I had a very attentive taxi driver, whom I had a wonderful chat with about my beautiful English lady. He enjoyed the story and gave me some wonderful positive feedback.
The ride also gave me time to check my emotions, as I’d made that journey many times before in 1971. As a young Sergeant, I was stationed at RAF Lakenheath, which is next door to RAF Mildenhall. I made that drive almost every day to go spend time with Annie when we were dating. A lot had changed with the new motorways (highways), but I still went through some small villages and saw some familiar sights.
I arrived at Andre’s house around 10:00 A.M., and after a warm greeting and a couple cups of coffee, we walked to town, where I rented a car. While doing the paperwork, he asked me if I was ready to visit the crematorium. With anxious anticipation, I told him I was ready.
We left the car rental agency, and drove straight to the crematorium. It was around noon when we arrived at their gates. As you turn off the roadway into the crematorium grounds, you’re immediately surrounded by beautiful trees and gardens. I was a bit disappointed as the roses were just starting to bloom, but that was only for a fleeting second or two, as my goal was to find Annie. As we wound our way down the narrow roadway, we started seeing people everywhere. A large funeral had just ended, which made things feel a bit awkward at first. But as I settled in and refocused on my goal, I could feel the excitement racing through me as we got closer to her site. Still, I was able to see the pain on some of the faces, as I navigated the vehicle through the crowd.
As I parked the vehicle, it became apparent we’d be walking through a crowd of grieving people. As we walked through the crowd I was nervous, but it went well. Many of the people acknowledged us as if they knew why we were there; and of course we returned the courtesy. As Andre guided me over to Annie’s site, I looked back and noticed that many of the people were watching us. I guess the look on our faces must have made the nature of our visit obvious. We walked between the rose bushes, and about five feet away lying on the ground was a red rose, that Andre had put there last week. He then pointed to a spot about six feet away where there was another red rose. That’s where his mum Wendy was resting. Annie would have been pleased being so close to her sister Wendy.
As I looked down on Annie’s site, I could clearly make out the shovel marks from what looked to be an eight—by twelve-inch dig. As I got down on my knees, with my right hand index finger I was able to traced the outline of her site. I put my hand, palm down on top of her sight and said a few words. I stood up with tears in my eyes, and said to Andre, “She’s not there!”
He just stared at me; but I knew immediately that all my questions had now been answered. Annie was tucked away safely in my heart, and in that better place she called “Heaven.” She was safe!
As we walked away, Andre confided in me. He said he felt the same way when his mother was placed there.
It was a comforting feeling, knowing that when I left for home in a few days, everything was going to be okay.
May 5, 2011
Andre and I went back to the crematorium, this time with Joe, one of Annie’s good friends. When Annie passed, I called him in England and gave him the sad news. He asked me, and I made him a promise, that I’d get in touch with him when I arrived and he could come to the crematorium with me. Joe helped us start our antiques journey in the mid-1970s. He wanted to see her site, and leave her some flowers, as did I. He also wanted to be there when I ordered her plaque and entered her name in the Book of Remembrance. After we drove away, we went out and had a wonderful English Country Pub lunch, and of course, we had a pint of ale to go with it. It was a good day.
I was in England a total of six days, and only went to Annie’s site those two times. In the future when I go there, it’ll be out of respect, as I won’t be looking for her. I know where she is, and going to stay. I will tell you a little secret; Annie not being there was a blessing. I was so worried and afraid that I was going to leave England and feel like I was leaving her behind. That would have been a heavy burden for me to carry.
While I was in England I had this plaque made to place on the “Wall of Remembrance,” in the Rose Garden.
On Sept 4th, 2011, I started slowly building Annie an online memorial – you can still see it here.
Currently she has had over 63,000 visitors. There are over 80 pictures on there and all have a short story attached. Annie was a true humanitarian, and her love of humanity will not be forgotten.
Because of Annie
Written by Bob Harrison.