11/18/07 - posted by Frank Dunnigan
Ah, JB--you've touched a nerve again! I always thought that I was the only one who enjoyed cemetery visits. I like to stop in at Holy Cross at least twice a year, once on spring or summer day (fog and/or drizzle permitted) and once again on a glorious sunny day at this time of year.

My grandmother initially got me into the cemetery habit on those long-ago Sunday afternoons, after a visit to Shaw's Ice Cream on West Portal. After she was gone, one of my dad's cousins started giving me the guided tours of where every single cousin (and their cousins & their in-laws--virtually all were prior residents in the Western Neighborhoods!) happened to be buried.

I have old maps of Holy Cross before the receiving chapel was built in the 1960s, and you're right--the place IS growing. There are dozens of new areas built since Grandma left us in 1970--indoor & outdoor mausoleums, row after row of flat markers (to make the lawn mowing easier, I'm told), and closures of certain roadways to make room for even more graves.

One set of gr-grandparents is in the oldest section, near the western edge--they came West to San Francisco from Washington, DC before the start of the Civil War, and heart conditions brought them to Holy Cross in the early 1890s when the place was still brand-new.

I used to be able to drive down a short road from a corner grave of another set of gr-grandparents and their children and in-laws (relative newcomers, having bought the spot a mere 90 years ago) to the corner grave of gr-grandfather's sister & her family, but now there's a lush new green lawn where the road used to be, and it's filling in quickly with new monuments.

Just after a visit with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, I always stop at the old and new mausoleums to visit a couple of S.I. friends, one who arrived there by his own hand at age 25, the other by cancer at age 37.

Out in the far reaches of a newer section, St. Rose of Lima, there's my wonderful 3rd cousin, still in a dazzling sparkler of a dress from her last New Year's Eve party, yet gone since 1994, also felled by an aggressive cancer, leaving behind her husband and 4 young boys.

Finally, a visit to the tiny white cross of Grandma's cousin Kate who died in 1945, and who is buried with her husband and their tiny baby--a 100-year-old family tragedy that uprooted Kate's relations in Leadville, Colorado, and brought them all out here to help her cope with those 2 overwhelming losses.

At the end of my visit, I always end up reflecting how all of these wonderful people, including those who were gone before I was even born, have managed to shape my life somehow, and just how all of them have contributed in some way to the very fact that I'm here today, remembering...

Happy Thanksgiving to all of them, and to all of us!

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