“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” …


I feel a wealth of gratitude towards you Harold Vance wherever you are. I talked to Holy Cross cemetery yesterday and heard the good news. Patty Vance’s brother placed a tombstone on the gravesite of his sister. The counselor I spoke with said it must have happened a month or two ago. I spoke with someone four months ago because I said I wanted to place a tombstone if I could get permission. He told me to hold off because her brother had the very same idea. And he is the one who is in charge of the plot as far as I know.

It’s a weird experience feeling so connected to a tradition I never really cottoned to growing up. I went to Catholic school — as did Patty — but the only things that moved me about it was the stories. And I instinctively thought them to be fiction even from the earliest age. I’m pretty sure although Patty was raised Catholic, there was no love lost between the church and her by the time she left the school she attended in San Francisco. I can still remember seeing her in her Catholic uniform, and her informing me that the skirt was too long, and the rule against smoking cigarettes too strict. She must have been in sixth grade then. I hadn’t attended Catholic school since about forth grade, and adored my uniform, thought it stylish with its blue plaid skirt, white button down and sky blue tie. I distinctly remember that there was a cruel streak among many of the nuns, however. Back in the day, the nuns smacked “unruly” children like me with rulers on the palms of our hands.

Still, much like my relationship with a few members of law enforcement — amicable — my relationship with Catholicism has thawed over the years. I couldn’t tell you why it was so important for me to see that Patty – like almost every other person buried at Holy Cross – had a symbolic tribute to her death. It really chafed me when I went to see her burial site, and found out that there was only a plot of grass where I thought a tombstone should be. I wrote about more extensively in a chapter I posted on the blog.

I wish Harold would contact me. I want to thank him personally. I don’t know if he’d like me to stay out of his family’s business, or he just hasn’t gotten any of the messages I’ve sent trying to reach out to him. Whatever the reason, I am really disappointed. Maybe one day when I get to visit her new tombstone I’ll tape an envelope to it addressed to him. I have to believe he visits her once in a while. I actually secretly hoped that my inquiring into commemorating her somehow — with a tree or bench if not a tombstone — was a small incentive for him to do it himself. I tried to raise money for a tombstone at one point, and not a dollar came in. So, bravo Harold. I wanted to believe that whatever tensions existed between you and your sister when she was alive, that you loved her. And with the placement of the tombstone, now I know that my hunch was right. Somehow that does my heart good.     

I searched for pictures of my visit to Patty’s gravesite to include in this post. I’d completely forgotten that I’d made a daisy chain and laid it on the grass in the shape of a heart. I hope it’s visible in the picture. Call this picture the “before” picture.  Someday I want to have an “after” picture of the new tombstone.


Here’s my diary entry writing on the subject of the tombstone. I thought I’d insert it just for fun.


I want to start a tombstone fund, so that if anyone visits Patty’s resting spot they won’t have to quadangulate based on the tombstones around her in order to find the place where she’s buried.  I don’t know if that’s something I could do via a fund raising platform.  Or I could organize a literary event to try to raise money for it.  I’m sure the people from my writing group would participate.  The thing is that’s not my forte.  But neither is social media, and I’ve started to dip my toe in that pond.  Necessity is a mother.

I wrote the new detective on her case, Daniel Cunningham, and asked if he could contact Harold and ask him if he’d be willing to talk to me.  What I really want to know is if he’d be supportive of my effort to do this.  I was told by Holy Cross that I would need to schedule an appointment with the head honcho in order to donate a tombstone, or a tree in her name.  I suppose I should start there.  It’d be nice to do both.  I know because the secretary let it slip on one of my two visits that her mother is buried in a double grave with her.  That’s made me wonder if a tombstone would require making notation of the two of them.  Likely.  I wanted to use her photograph, but then it would be silly not to use a photograph of her mother.  That would require Harold’s help.  I wonder if he’ll contact me.  I wonder if I should ask to meet in person.  It’s not a very doable option right now though I can if I set my mind to it do it in one day and leave the farm on its own.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s