Vicky Edgerly knows all about pain. Then why is this woman smiling?

  • Vicky Edgerly’s son and husband committed suicide, and her daughter died from cancer. Now she’s teaching others how to grieve in a very spiritual manner. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 2/19/2017 11:28:54 PM

I searched for a sign, a crack in her optimistic, happy armor.

Maybe Vicky Edgerly’s eyes would drop to the floor, avoiding eye contact with me. Surely that would mean something, that her claim of utter joy, despite losing three members of her family to suicide and cancer, was far from sincere.

Or perhaps her body language would give her away. Slouching in her chair. A nervous scratch of her thick, curly brown mane that drops past her shoulders. Something. Anything. The world needed to make sense again, and Edgerly’s demeanor made no sense.

Nothing surfaced.

“Are you truly happy?” I asked the woman whose profession is helping others view their grief in an entirely different light.

“Ecstatically so,” Edgerly told me. “Are there things I still want in my life that I don’t have? Yes, but I don’t spend time fixated on what I don’t have.”

She no longer has her son, Adam Webster. He hanged himself in 2002. He was 18.

She doesn’t have her daughter, Tierra Webster, either. Cancer took her life in 2010, at age 30.

Gone, too, is Leo Ellis, Edgerly’s husband of four years. He shot himself to death at their home in Barnstead five years ago.

Moving forward

She now runs a business in Pittsfield called White Elephant Services. Cliches like “Wake up and smell the coffee,” and “Always look on the bright side,” help someone like me, who once viewed spirits as a few glasses of scotch, understand.

Edgerly goes deeper as she tries to help clients to – well, wake up and smell the coffee. She spoke about positive energy and its relation to our universe. She spoke about staying in touch with loved ones after they die. She spoke about maintaining optimism and appreciation and its relevance to meeting goals later on.

“Bringing people to awareness of the soul,” she told me. “When we become more aware, a whole new world opens up if we embrace the concepts along the way. We’re able to face anything that comes down the pike in a calmer manner.”

We met at her studio, which she leases from Deborah Blais-Godin, who hosts her Natural Choice Therapeutic Massage business in the room next door. Edgerly’s space is hardwood floors, wood-paneled walls and brightly lit. Books with titles like How To Go On Living When Someone Else Dies sit on a table in the corner.

It’s the title of her life as well. Edgerly’s background makes her qualified to help others. It also says you’re an idiot if you choose not to listen to what she has to offer.

“People keep asking, ‘Show me,’ ” Edgerly said. “Being in my presence tends to give what people need to survive. It tends to give people the inspiration. Understanding what I lived through makes them want to know more.”

I certainly wanted to know more. Edgerly is a writer’s dream, a source who made it clear from the start that no subject was off limits. She never once paused to collect her thoughts, never once wiped away a tear, never once grew uncomfortable because I had asked something that still had plenty of sting left.

Loss of a son

Instead, she told me about her son, Adam Webster. He was kind and funny, she said. But when he wasn’t up, he was really down, sometimes spiraling over something that might have seemed trivial to someone else. Maybe he was bipolar, Edgerly wondered. Maybe he needed medication.

“People were still looking for answers back then,” Edgerly said. “It was not well-known. Looking back, he exhibited bipolar.”

Adam had dropped out of Somersworth High School when a drug test detected pot in his system, spoiling his chance at a job. He also spotted a car at his ex-girlfriend’s house, telling him her new boyfriend was visiting.

On Mother’s Day, 2002, Adam used a belt buckle to hang himself. His aunt, Linda Foster of Dover, Edgerly’s sister, found him.

“Adam was the start of her spiritual journey, although she was somewhat interested before that happened,” Foster told me by phone. “Adam was the catalyst. If not for him, I don’t think she would have explored this as much as she does.”

I asked Edgerly about guilt. Did she blame herself for missed signals connected to Adam’s death? She answered without a trace of indignation.

“I don’t know if this is where the resiliency gene comes in or I’m just different,” Edgerly told me. “But I recognized immediately if I was going to survive this, I could not take any guilt. I accepted it. Of course I wished I had another day. I had talked to him on the phone on Mother’s Day. He told me he loved me.”

Loss of a daughter

We moved on. Tierra Webster was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer five years later. A terminal diagnosis soon followed. But so did the reconstruction of a bridge deemed irreparable years before, when Tierra snuck out of the house late at night and partied a lot.

With a death sentence and three children, however, Tierra didn’t want hospice care. She wanted her mother, so she moved in with Edgerly, going from Plymouth to Center Barnstead.

“It was an example of tragedy bringing gifts,” Edgerly said. “I knew it was happening, that we were repairing the mother-daughter relationship, and it was the cancer. As soon as she found out how sick she was, she wanted to come home. When faced with death, she knew she needed her mother.”

Cancer had helped Tierra extend an olive branch. It didn’t reinforce to Edgerly that time had been lost. This was time found.

They traveled together, to a cottage in Maine. They meditated together. Edgerly, a reiki master, did reiki on Tierra. They talked about the past, leaving anger and regret outside.

“It played out this way for a reason, and it’s all part of my training,” Edgerly told me. “Learning about releasing judgment and what we offer in relationships and torment being our biggest teachers. She dropped all attitudes. It was a huge opportunity, spiritually speaking, for us to grow. We could now openly discuss the past and laugh it off and it didn’t matter anymore.”

Loss of a husband

Her path, her vision, her role, already clear, sharpened even further when her husband died. Edgerly suspected that Leo Ellis also suffered from bipolar disorder. He was a hunter and a drinker, a big drinker, and his verbal and physical abuse ran counter to her paths of peace and tranquility.

“I still loved him,” Edgerly told me.

Right up until the end, although Edgerly had had enough. She told Ellis she was moving out and wouldn’t return, at least until he got help. She feared for herself, and she feared for her granddaughter, who was living at the couple’s home.

“I will give you a year of my life and work with you and go to counseling with you,” she said she told Ellis. “But we are getting our own place.”

A long, dramatic phone call between the two followed. Edgerly said she heard a click, the insertion of a 9 mm clip into Ellis’s gun. She told the police. She drove to the house and waited from a distance. She heard a shot. She saw an ambulance leave the premises, without its emergency lights flashing.

Was Ellis inside, unhurt? “I think I knew better,” Edgerly told me.

Later, once she was allowed inside her home, Edgerly said she knelt on the very spot where her husband had shot himself. She offered him reiki, trying to ease the emotional pain he had felt before shooting himself. She said she’s been communicating with him and her two children ever since.

A calling

Foster summed up her sister’s comfort this way: “It’s her strong belief that she still has relationships with deceased loved ones, and that keeps her going.”

In the years since losing the three most important people in her life, Edgerly has fine-tuned her spiritual growth, sharpened it, nurtured it. She quit her job as a graphic artist last summer, saying she knew it was time to leave mainstream work and start mainstreaming her philosophy, make it more accepted, eliminate the smart-ass comments she knows people direct toward her beliefs.

A “calling” she called it. And it began with Adam’s death.

“It lit a fire in me to seek more information,” Edgerly said. “Don’t tell me he just ceased to exist. Where did he go?”

She went to Blais-Godin, the masseuse, looking for relief. Despite her meditative ways, Edgerly was tense, moving through her savings, looking for a studio in which to start her new full-time career. The two connected.

In fact, Blais-Godin had space to lease. The two now work side by side, in the same building. I asked Blais-Godin about her friend’s happiness and zest for life. Was it real?

“She’s excited about the future,” Blais-Godin told me. “She’s incredibly optimistic, and I love that about Vicky. You can feel it.”

One more time

Throughout my hourlong interview, Edgerly did her best to enlighten me, show me, make me understand how she came to grips with the past, and, in fact, flourished from it. Sometimes her concepts seemed crystal clear. Other times I felt lost.

“We get into energetic vibration,” she told me. “Positive thinking. I show you how that works in the field of spiritual energy. It has to do with vibration, and vibration starts with thought.”

So I thought I’d ask her one more time, about her place in life. Was she really, truly happy?

“Yes,” Edgerly answered. “Joyful.”

Then she laughed.

A very real laugh.

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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