Minding Elizabeth

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Stoic, wrote that “Life is like little dogs biting one another.” I thought of that today when I visited the historic Oakwood Cemetary in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina for maybe the twentieth or so time. I began coming to this particular spot on the hillside when I worked nearby in the State government complex and went for walks at lunchtime. I had read the newspaper account of the tragic automobile accident that claimed Wade Edwards’ life and morbid curiosity led me to his grave. There I was awed by the huge angel that clasps Wade’s face in her hands as she pulls him heavenward. She rises, unformed, from a slab of white marble, part stone and part heaven.

So now I am here again, visiting Elizabeth. I was wowed by Johnny Edwards’ good looks and charisma years ago when he spoke to a group of folks at the Poverty Center in Chapel Hill. I attended the kickoff rally at North Carolina State University when he and John Kerry announced their campaign for the Presidency. I found myself actually inspired by  their words of hope that at last, through politics, we could make the world a better place. I was a convert and believer.   That was all pre-Elizabeth’s diagnosis with cancer and pre-Reille. I, like many others, was fascinated by the tabloid drama that played out before our eyes when Reille, Riley, Reale, Really? Hunter caught Johnny’s eye in a bar in New York. When the fall came, I watched with morbid curiosity and disbelief. All those shining images of the two of them, Johnny and Elizabeth, overcoming the terrible grief of losing Wade, smiling and parenting on the campaign trail with their two new little children. It was hopeful. But it wasn’t. It turned ugly and sad. I watched Elizabeth’s funeral service, broadcast from the downtown Edenton Street Methodist Church. It was poignant. I wondered about where she was buried and what marked her gravesite, because it was said that now Elizabeth would join her beloved Wade in Oakwood.

I’ve begun a ritual daily bike ride to Oakwood. It’s quiet, beautiful, and peaceful. It’s safe for me because I’m terrible on a bike and there aren’t many cars.  Sometimes I sit on the granite bench in front of the angel sculpture, where Elizabeth sat in life and read the high school required reading to Wade in death . There’s a small marble slab that’s new. It bears a fitting inscription to Elizabeth, and was placed there by her brother and sister . You’d miss it if you weren’t looking.  A small faded silk hydrangea tilts to one side in its plastic pot. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the site looks abandoned and forlorn.

I thought I’d sit on the bench this morning and think about life and come to a major decision. Then I laughed aloud and realized there were no more major decisions to make, I’d pretty much made them all.  That’s when it occurred to me, there among all those dead, that the stuff of life really rests on all those little decisions we make on a daily, hourly, even minute by minute basis. I believe Elizabeth realized this, and it may help us all to remember it.   That’s why I like the quote by Marcus Aurelius. Life IS like little dogs biting one another.


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