Elizabeth Edwards has passed. She wrote, in her book Saving Graces of having witnessed a ceremony, in Japan, in which candles were floated offshore, out into the water. She had the vision that the bobbing, twinkling, moving lights were souls dying at the same time, passing together from this world to the next. She "saw" that what in the West we think of as the lonely last journey is in fact, a journey undertaken in the company of thousands we didn't know on earth, but who suddenly become our community, those who give us hope and strength! What a stunning, hopeful vision of human solidarity and its enduring power!
She was a mother who'd lost a child, which no doubt gave her a greater need to believe in eternity than most. She hoped to see her son again. I have no doubt that she is with him right now, that he received her, and that they share knowledge of why they had to endure the separation, and so many other sorrows that particularly she met in life.
Is it selfish of me to hope that somehow the good she did in life, and the endurance of the pain of having been disappointed by it, might give her some kind of karmic standing, as it were, to help those of us still laboring on earth to increase peace and justice in the human family, using, specifically, the levers of politics that remain to us ("if we can keep them," as Ben Franklin said)?
I have no idea how things work in the life beyond what we know with our senses. But six decades on this planet has taught me that there are forces around us that do help because they are strong enough to remain attached to a human condition they are free to escape, if they choose. I think if you have tried to help in this life, you win the right to help after it (see Dickens' A Christmas Carol for Scrooge's observation of the pitiful souls who had the power to intervene for the good when they lived, never used it, and now suffer grievously, with constant, mournful wailing, their impotence.) Elizabeth Edwards goes to joy and reunion. Because of her vision of solidarity having extended even to an event that we in the West often envision as the loneliest journey, to be feared, I dare hope that she will still be with us as we work towards peace and justice and solidarity in the human community she's left behind -- at least in the realm of our senses -- here on earth.
This photo shows the immediate aftermath of a high-five we exchanged. I'd never met her before. I am flipping out because she said, "Didn't you write I Am Dog? Hysterically funny!" I had written that parody (of what I had considered, in my twenty-something irreverence, the much-too-serious, annoyingly inescapable I Am Woman) three decades ago, and we hired to perform it on the debut show of Saturday Night Live. The parody laws were different then (SNL eventually helped change them) and permission was needed from Helen Reddy and Jeff Wald -- who did not grant it. The parody had only occurred in print, in a compendium of women's humor ("Titters." ) It blew my mind that she knew. Good briefers, and she was brilliant and personable.
However she knew, I had made her laugh. I'm proud of that now. (Oh vanity -- here I am mourning her loss and already it's tinged with me, me, me. What can I say? The stories we can tell are those that happen to us; we meet, work, live, laugh, love, demonstrate, strive in community. We have this time to meet and do something, or just be together, and then we lose it and move to another kind of time, another kind of being, I guess. Those left behind must mourn, remember, and live on as we know. Some of us only meet in the most fleeting moments; some of us never meet, but still hear about one another and therefore cherish what we know from what we've heard, and mourn the loss, even though we're spared what the close-loved ones must endure -- the ongoing pain of an empty place in the heart for the rest of life.