Taking a walk among friends

Published 9:35 am Monday, January 7, 2013

On Dec. 15, I covered one of the events I have grown to appreciate.

The Wreaths Across America campaign, which has been held at Edgewood Cemetery in Windsor for the past two years, is a special event. It is something more people should be a part of and, hopefully, they will.

When the event was over this year I did something I hadn’t done in a while. I walked through the cemetery and visited the graves of people I love, people I miss and people who touched my life.

As it has been many times, my first stop was at the grave of Carolyn Hoggard. The shrine to her life always makes me sad and happy at the same time. I miss her smile and voice. She was a beautiful young woman. The grave makes me happy too, however, because it is so obvious that her life – though way too short – has never been forgotten.

From there I walked a few feet down to my grandmother’s grave. My father’s mother – Vivian White – lived next door to us most of my formative years. She took us to school and sometimes to church and I will always remember those things. My first-born, Alex, went to her house before we took him home for the first time because she couldn’t come to the hospital. I still treasure the photos of her with him.

Almost next to her is her brother and my uncle, Willard White. I don’t remember as much about him because I was so young when he died. I do remember he was a larger than life presence and my mom assures me he gave me my first cigarette at about four years old. He told me to suck on it like a straw and was the reason I never smoked again until I was in my 20s.

The next stop is still one of the toughest – and it has been that way for nearly 25 years. I never go to the cemetery without going to the grave of my childhood friend Shannon Jernigan. We spent so much time together in elementary school. I even sang in the choir – and I have a voice that would make a train take a dirt road – because she talked me into it.

For many years I would spend a lot of time there at her grave. Sometimes I would just sit. Others, I would talk to her. I missed her and still do.

From there I walked across the cemetery to the grave of Thomas Lewis. He was an officer with the Roanoke-Chowan Narcotics Task Force and was murdered while off duty. I knew him because I lived in the neighborhood with him and we always laughed and had a good time. He was the life of any room he was in and that laughter stays with me even today.

My last stop was at the grave of one of my closest friends in childhood. Tracy Byrum and I grew up less than a mile from each other and along with our friends, Stacy Mizelle and Lee Byrum, played more games of football and baseball than most professional teams in a year.

We were born days apart and spent most of the first 10 or 15 years of our lives not going more than a week without seeing each other. We each grew up, got married and had children. Distance and time separated us, but any time we did see each other it was like nothing ever changed.

His death haunts me as much as any of my friends that are already gone. His children deserved to know the wonderful man he was. They deserved the father that loved them. It is one of the great tragedies I know that he is gone.

Unfortunately, Edgewood isn’t the only place that holds the remains of friends and loved ones that I miss and think of often. There are many other places as well. It is the place I go back to the most often though. I think about those no longer here; what they could have and should have known in life.

I remember them, my love for them and their love for me. As long as that happens, they will live too.


Thadd White is Managing Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached via email at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or by telephone at 332-7211.