Visiting Holy Cross Cemetery

A few weekends back I took a 20 minute drive north to visit Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.  This is the cemetery where my mom’s brother, Eugene, and my Grandma Doerflinger are buried.

For years I’ve known that my Grandma and Uncle Gene were buried in a cemetery near our house.  I knew it was somewhere in the Los Angeles area but I wasn’t sure where.

Then while scanning some old family documents, I came across the bill from the mortuary from when my Uncle Gene passed away in 1962.  That bill gave me the exact plot that he, and later my Grandma Doerflinger, are buried.

I knew that going to the cemetery would be an emotional experience for me – and it was.  When I got to the cemetery, I was a little anxious because I already didn’t know where I was going (had never been here before) and I didn’t exactly know where the grave was.  

As I wandered around the cemetery, it took me a while before I found the stone with Eugene Doerflinger’s name on it.

When I finally found the spot, I was a bit overwhelmed with emotion.  My Uncle Gene died when my mom was only 2 years old and I wondered what life would have been like for her if he had survived the fatal car crash.  I wondered if my grandparents would have been different people (from what I’ve heard from family members and friends, my grandparents were never the same after Gene’s death – but then again, how could they not be different after burying their first-born son?).  Would he have gotten married?  Would he have had kids?  Would my mom have been a different person if she had her oldest brother around?

Then I remember that I will never have the answers to any of these questions.

One thing that brought me comfort was knowing that my Grandma Doerflinger is buried there in the same plot with Gene.  I think it makes my Grandma happy knowing that she is with her son again.

I also liked how beautiful the cemetery was.  It was so peaceful and calm with the trees all around.

I sat there next to Uncle Gene’s grave for about a half hour.  As I sat there, I started thinking about my mom.  I cried a bit thinking about all of the questions that I should have asked or about how I can’t remember some of the questions that I did ask.  I wish that I would have memorized everything that she said.  I wish that I had asked more questions.  I wish that we had talked more.  Talked about what it was like growing up for her.  Her favorite things.  Her favorite memories.  What it was like to be a single mom.  Why she chose to be so adventurous with me.  Where she got that adventurous spirit.  And then I cried some more because I realized that I would never be able to ask her those questions.  I would never know the answers.

But in a weird way, sitting there and crying my eyes out was therapeutic.  It even felt good to take a moment and cry for the loss of my mom.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t take enough time to just sit in the silence, cry for her, cry for me.  I think it is because I am just so busy now.  My mom’s illness and eventual death in February has catapulted me into “growing up”.  I now know how to manage a household 100% on my own (not that I didn’t had help but I only had myself to depend on), and how to push through the pain even when you want nothing more to do than bury yourself in the blankets of your bed and never come out.  There are moments when I wish with all my might that I was that 5 year old kid again, sitting in my mom’s lap, with her reassuring me that everything was going to be alright while she rubs her finger nails up and down my back.  She always had the ability to calm me down and bring me back to center by simply rubbing her fingernails up and down my back.

But it isn’t that I don’t feel like being blasted into adulthood has been a bad thing.  In many ways, it is exactly what I needed.   needed to grow up, gain confidence in myself, and trust that I can survive any hell that life puts me through.

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8 responses to “Visiting Holy Cross Cemetery

  1. Elyse…I feel your tears and your pain. No greater pain is there than losing someone you love. In reading your blog posts this last year I (and many others) have seen you grow, not just in your writing but from a girl to a woman. I think many of us feel like moms to you…we are proud of you!

    Wonderfully written post. I cried as I read it. I recently visited the grave site of the sister of my dad’s, she died before he was born. I had many of the same thoughts and feelings you had.
    Mary Warren´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday

    • Mary, thank you so much! I do feel so fortunate to be a part of the genealogy community because I do feel like I have 50 + Moms and Dads. Thank you so much for the kind words.

      I’m also glad that I’m not alone in the emotional experience that I had. I really did not expect to get so emotional. I figured that this was just another cemetery trip. But it became so much more than that.

  2. Beautifully written. I feel your pain in losing someone so close that you love.
    Michelle Goodrum´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday – The End of Summer

  3. Visiting loved ones at the graveyard is supposed to help you sort out your thoughts, assist you with your emotional connection and give you a sense of peace. With us genealogists, putting those gravestone photos in our family tree gives us a concrete and visual sense of purpose.

    Best blog post of the week. Randy Seaver take note!

    Love, Midge
    Midge Frazel´s last blog post ..Reminder from the Grave

    • Midge you are so kind! Thank you so much.

      I didn’t really expect much of an emotional reaction when I planned on going to the cemetery. I had always wanted to go to the cemetery where my Grandma and my uncle are buried. However, I’ve never met my Grandma Doerflinger (she died before I was born) and I had never met my Uncle Gene (He died when my mom was only 2 years old). But I think because I’ve heard so many stories about them, and I know that the death of my Uncle Gene forever impacted my Grandma, and that not knowing her older brother always effected my mom (if I had been a boy, I would have been named Eugene in honor of him), and I know that my mom had so many issues with my Grandma. When I was standing there, I just became overwhelmed with emotion in a totally unexpected way. The more I cried the more I thought about my mom and I just began to miss her.

  4. Elyse, thanks for posting this. That’s great that you can go visit the gravesites of your relatives. I’ve only done that a few times myself, but it’s been a very powerful experience every time. Nothing brings home the reality of someone’s life and death like visiting their gravesite.

  5. Elyse: Thanks for being so open and sharing with your thoughts and emotions as you visited the graves of your uncle and grandmother. And by expressing your wishes about times with your Mom, you made many of us remember those exact same kinds of reflections. I think that your Mom passed to you her many strengths and her spirit is so alive in you. I had a sister who died two years before I was born and many times I’ve wondered how it would have been if she had grown up with my sisters and brother and me. Maybe some part of them all goes on. Thanks again.
    Nancy Hurley´s last blog post ..How and Why We Make Our RV Home Choices

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