“It would be a good idea to find your mother’s grave,” spouse gently suggested.
“Sure, someday we’ll do that,” was my oft-repeated and irritated response.
The inevitable visit took place on Sunday.
All I knew was that Jean Haley, my mother, was in section H of Los Angeles’s historical Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery. Also in this cemetery are my matrilineal great-grandparents, grandparents, and an aunt and uncle. All people I barely knew in life. We never sat around a dinner table together.
Section H is pictured below and encompasses the “meadow” and the “hill” as defined by a friendly maintenance man on site.
“I think the only way we can do this is,” I began directing spouse while trying to not feel overwhelmed, “is you take the hill and I’ll cruise the meadow.”
As the morning fog burned off, a chorus of songbirds out sung the roar of cars racing here and there along Washington Ave. My sweatshirt was overkill and I wore the wrong shoes to trek up and down the historical graveyard, winding through thousands of old marble and granite headstones. Smith, Moore, Simpson, Hunter, Rodriquez, Woo, and Brinkhoff claimed their final stands. I did not know if I was looking for something tall or flat. I know my grandparents were frugal, so I assumed it would be flat.
A red finch landed on the Ferguson family plot. I thought to go back to the car and change into cooler attire. After all, I wasn’t leaving this place until Jean Haley’s burial site was under me. Heading toward the curved row of palms a diamond shaped granite monument, and the only architectural piece among the thousands, caught my eye. There she was–my great grandmother, the woman with the odd name of Zerilda. Her odd name helped me find my lengthy American roots. She was at rest with my great grandfather, Matt E. Copeland, one of Los Angeles’s early developers.
My mother had to be nearby.
One turn of my head and Jean Haley’s marker (1913-1951) was a flower’s toss from Zerilda and Matt. As if planned for reflection, my mother’s grave was next to a tall palm tree. The shade offered relief from the May sun–and an ability to see my computer’s screen—all while my feet touched her headstone. Spouse found a red hibiscus shrub and brought flowers for me to place at burial site.
I was a toddler in 1951. Now 58 years later I was physically close to my mother again. Being there was not like anything I’ve done before. I cannot find a proper analogy, but my inclination to cry was overwhelming.
Rosedale Cemetery was the first Los Angeles site to allow the burial of other races and cultures. When Matt Copeland purchased the family plots, at least before 1904 when he died, he clearly had no reservations about burial with people of other colors, cultures and religions.
I spent at least an hour sitting around an elusive table with Jean, Matt and Rilda, Janet, Arthur Jr., Osa and Arthur, Sr. It was a first for me. My seat against the old palm tree provided one part of the missing link to my soul in this old place full of old names, bones and ashes.
Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery is a cemetery located at 1831 West Washington Boulevard Los Angeles, California, in the historic West Adams District a short distance southwest of Downtown.
It was founded as Rosedale Cemetery in 1884, when Los Angeles was a small city of around 28,285 people, on 65 acres (260,000 m2) of land running from Washington to Venice Boulevard (then 16th Street) between Normandie Avenue and Walton and Catalina Streets, and became one of the most popular final resting places for California politicians, notably former Mayors of the City of Los Angeles. The interments include pioneers and members of leading families who had a conspicuous place in the founding of Los Angeles and its institutions, men and women who made history in the community and the state.
Rosedale was the first cemetery in Los Angeles open to all races and creeds, and was the first to adopt the concept of the new approach of design called lawn cemeteries, where the grounds are enhanced to surround the burial places of the dead with beautiful and decorative trees, shrubs,
flowers, natural scenery and works of monumental art. Among the more traditional structures, headstones and mausoleums, the cemetery also has several pyramid crypts.
In 1993, Rosedale was bought by the Angelus Funeral Home on Crenshaw Boulevard and was renamed Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelus_Rosedale_Cemetery#cite_note-0 for a partial list of notable interments.
2 thoughts on “A Cemetery Hunt Brings Me To The Table”
Simply great writing! You wrestled with a wide variety of emotions and in some ways heightened your readers’ awareness of the unavoidable reality — that with the death of our parents we begin to mourn our own mortality. I find that when I visit the grave of a loved one I feel free to talk to them in a way that allows for an emancipation of thought and emotion that unavailable elsewhere. If you didn’t do it on your last visit do try it on your next. Incidentally, I loved your “a flowers toss” phrase. With time I pray you continue to examine this theme — it helps us all!
The first anniversary of my Mom’s passing is a mere 6 1/2 weeks away – I don’t know how the time has passed so quickly, except that I have tried to keep myself very busy…
As you know, the last 8 years of her life I shared care giving responsibilities with my sister, and it was hard. And the last 5 months of her life, she was here with me, and it was really hard. And the last 5 weeks of her life she was bedridden, and I never thought I would be able to do it, but I did. But in the end, none of that really mattered because now I just miss her every single day. I have some 50 some years worth of memories to draw upon, and I am so sorry that you do not… But I am certain your Mother would be happy to know you as the woman you are today.