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So, off to Edinburgh we would go, and to this day, close to three years later, I am unsure as to why, except that my mind said, "Just go to Edinburgh, Elizabeth" and this was our plan. In fact, the only plan that seemed to pop into my mind from within me at this stressful time and it seemed a random thought to select Edinburgh, Scotland.
Or so I thought. In our lives, do we ever wonder about our many small mishaps along the way in our own lives, or what seems like a simple change of directions, or unplanned chance encounters that happen across our life's journey? How many of us in the hustle and mad rush of living in the 21st century with countless emails and text messaging across the globe, stop and contemplate about these times in our life that may transform the pathway of our existence and the destiny of our souls?
I believe now, in writing this, that if I had known that this journey would alter my life's direction and that there would be no turning back, perhaps, I would have asked the God's of fate to seek a stand-in for this actress starring in the life drama of Elizabeth Edwards! I believe that I would have been inclined to take the easy exit out of this chapter of my life, and just might havewanted to walk out off the stage! I would have asked for the exit door to any stage whatsoever, and anywhere in the world, other than Edinburgh, Scotland.
There is a beautiful song, written by the American country western singer, Garth Brooks, entitled, "The Dance." For those of you that have not heard this song, I caution you to have several hankies readily available when you turn the song on to listen, and by all means, be alone when you hear the song! I still can not listen to the song, without uncontrollable tears rolling down my cheeks. The song asks the question, if "I had known what was going to happen at the end of the story in this particular chapter of my life, would I have still wanted to dance," (or gone forward into the story of our lives?). Mr. Brooks' sagely ends his song, stating, that "if he had left the story, he would have missed the pain, but also the dance."
For Garth Brooks, the dance was so precious to remember for him as memories that the pain of the parting with the loved one at the end of their time together, was worth the price. In my life, I am still struggling with those words of this impressionable song, and with this intense and overwhelming journey which would begin in Edinburgh, Scotland in the fall of 2006.
When I was younger, I always wished that the guardians of fate or those who guide us from above which lead us through our lives, sometimes gently, and often times, quite abruptly; might not be benevolent, take pity on us, and say, "Well, of course, Elizabeth needs to know what will happen in this life chapter," and throw down the book from the heavens or beyond above! No, not The Book, or what is commonly called the Bible, but The Book of our Lives...... a series of plots, stage scenes, and set guidelines for each of the subplots of our lives. The Book would have the chapters neatly laid out, and would include the full cast of characters, stage sets, heroes, heroines, villains, and of course, the full line-up of our lost loves, and life experiences.
I often have asked my younger siblings if they had indeed received such a book from our late parents, as I would have enjoyed knowing the twists and turns of fate in my own life. There has been many a time, I have said, "If only I had known that this would have happened, I would have done this differently," as many others, oh so much wiser and sager, have said years and centuries before me, as they have reflected back upon their lives.
I am not the first woman to think this, and am not alone with these thoughts. It may help others reading this mystifying journey of mine, to understand that there are other people living on this planet that have experienced these same questions, same controversies, and same misgivings upon reflection of their lives.
My colleague eventually calmed down as we sat down upon the seats in our row, as we headed back to Victoria Station on the short Gatwick Express commuter train. She was hoping that I would have the answers for moving us forward through the next three days. For my colleague, she knew that I was reliable and steadfast, and she could trust me to deliver a plan and answers for the itinerary for our impromptu upcoming journey to Edinburgh, Scotland.
If only I did have all the answers for my life, perhaps this book would have ended in a different light; but, this is jumping ahead to the final chapter, and as this is indeed a true story, and a story of four lives, I will start out with the beginning, as stories, (and our lives) must always have a starting point, or a birth to the rest of our life's story. And so we begin.
As we arrived at Victoria Station, the kind reception agent was working at the front desk. We had spoken to him during our previous three night's stay at the Thistle Victoria, and he readily remembered us. We had bid adieu two hours before in the morning, and he appeared startled to see the two American ladies return! He had been gracious and assisted us with securing taxis and dinner reservations whilst staying in London.
My colleague and I had been thoroughly fascinated with his appearance, as his dark hair was standing straight up on end, in a modern Mohawk! This hair style seemed to be the rage of all young men living in London within the city, and we had noticed the haircut on many throughout our stay.
I explained to the receptionist what had transpired since our earlier morning departure to Gatwick Airport, and would he be able to inquire if we could secure an accommodation at their sister hotel, the Edinburgh Thistle, for the night? Fortunately, he was able to secure one night's lodging for a late arrival in Edinburgh for that evening. He directed us to the rail station to inquire upon the time and travel arrangements for the next departing train from Victoria to Edinburgh Waverly Station.
As we waited in the queue for inquiring about train departure times for Edinburgh, we noted a sign that stated, "Regular Fast Trains to Edinburgh Are Not Running on Sundays".
"This is all we need," stated my colleague from the university whom was traveling with me. As we approached the reception for the departing trains, I inquired as to what train would be appropriate to travel upon to Edinburgh for that afternoon.
"The only trains that leave to Edinburgh on Sundays leave out of Kings Crossing station and if I am not mistaken, you have only close to fifteen minutes to travel by cab across town to catch the train. Now, it will take about six hours to travel from London to Edinburgh today, as we don't run the fast trains on Sunday, per a new ruling".
As my colleague again began to yell out in despair, I grabbed her arm, and said, "This way, hurry to the taxis!" As I think back on this fretful taxi hunt, and consequently fastest taxi ride of my life; I now can say I have no idea how we ran in time with our luggage to the taxi ramp to catch a cab, nor how the driver literally flew across town on a Sunday crowded afternoon of people and cabs, to triumphantly cast the two of us at the entrance to the King Crossing Station with one minute to spare!
We ran down the plank way on the train track that contained the Flying Royal Scotsman train heading for Edinburgh. Neither one of us could breathe or talk freely, from the rapid running along the station that we had just completed in less than a single minute!
We jumped and blindly hopped onto the first train car that had seats available. As we entered the coach, the train began to promptly depart the station. We were off to Edinburgh, without much money, but we did have an accommodation, and a train voucher to ride north along the coast to Scotland!
As the conductor came along the aisle to "inquire where we, two single American ladies, were traveling to, alone, on a Sunday night" I again realized that we really did not know. I was making our travel plans based upon the memories of traveling with my university nursing students to study in Edinburgh, Scotland from a trip from ten long years ago!
And, so we were off! Three and one-half minutes and we missed our baggage check-in.
My colleague began to lament along the first leg of the journey that "it was indeed her fault that this happened" as she had insisted on retiring after the early morning breakfast at the Thistle Victoria in our bedroom upstairs. She was tired from the evening earlier, in which we had taken in a play at the theater.
At the time, I felt uneasy and remembered being somewhat frightened about her proceeding after breakfast to the room upstairs in the hotel to rest, prior to our departure on the commuter train to Gatwick Airport. Sometimes, in moments of our lives, we have uneasy feelings, or "gut instincts," or even as you will, call them 'intuitive moments of thought', but I did have this tremendous dreaded feeling about staying in London that morning while my colleague rested. And, indeed, I should have, as I learned later in Edinburgh, and throughout the past three years of experiencing many mixed emotions, unsettling events, and turmoil within the months that followed this Sunday afternoon in October, 2006.
We settled into the train ride. We were both extremely tired, and virtually unable to speak to one another. My colleague sat in the seat across from me, and wrote in her trip journal about the events of the day. She had kept a journal throughout the trip, and had taken notes of the educational partnership venture we had initiated within this reconnaissance planning trip with two universities in the United Kingdom.
I, on the other hand, had grabbed the first novel I could find at the Boots chemist station when we had arrived in London three days earlier. I had wanted a book to read at night before retiring, and simply, grabbed the first title I could find....... something about a village with vampires, and the plot taking place in both today's time and several hundred years ago.
Little did I know then, that the subject of vampires would cross my life's path at a later day and time in a village that I had never heard of in my life, along the North Sea. If only we knew the events and chapters of our lives which were to come into our future; would we really willingly move forward into the next chapter, or would we plead, beg, and bribe someone, actually anyone, to be our stand-in for the part?
As the hours passed, we both were absorbed into our own worlds. My colleague was writing her thoughts in her journal, and as for me, I had gathered my shawl around me in the cold train car, and kept reading the most absurd story about a man and his brother that somehow was a vampire, and was living abroad in Ireland. I was very tired, and after the traumatic day of travel, the story made little sense to me. It would be two long years later before this story about a castle with vampires, would have a synchronistic meaning for me and my life.
As we approached the city of Newcastle, England, I looked outside of the train coach window, and noticed the stark interior of the walls and columns within the station. The décor was unusual for a train station, as it seemed to have been designed during the art deco period of architecture. The train drew to a stop, and for several minutes, passengers were able to alight onto the train from the Newcastle station.
It was getting late at night, and I remember that it was quite dark outside from the night sky encircling the rail station. I vaguely noticed the doors to our train cabin opening. I then glanced upward towards the door to our cabin, away from reading the novel about the strange life of modern day vampires living in Ireland, of all places!
And, then it happened. The "it" was a gentleman with longish silver hair who had entered the train car, looked around the coaches' interior, and immediately took stock of the empty car, without many passengers riding along on a Sunday evening.
He walked forward and came directly back to the nearest row, which was one row ahead of our seats, on the opposite side of the train. Literally, in the entire train car, there were rows of seats available. There was only one other gentleman sitting on the row across from my colleague and me, apparently a soldier who was wearing an Irish armed forces uniform. The four passengers were now the only individuals in the train car as we sped merrily along to Edinburgh on the pathway of the Flying Scotsman rail express.
As I watched the gentleman with the silver hair walk along the corridor of our train coach car, I had the immediate shock within me, that somehow, somewhere, in some way, I "simply knew" him. To this day, I will never forget that startling moment, and having never experienced such a sense of "knowing" as this, I can only describe this strange "sense of knowing" someone, a total stranger, as profound, and profoundly unsettling.
To describe such a "sense of knowing someone", without having ever seen or having spoken to them before, appears to be somewhat bizarre or unusual, even to the most rational of people. The truth of the encounter was that I had no doubt in my mind and body, that not only did I know him somehow, but that I knew him "well," yet I had never seen him in this lifetime. It had been a decade since I had been in the United Kingdom.
Many famous renowned authors and military leaders throughout history have spoken of having "memories" or "sensations" of places, periods of time, or geographical areas throughout the globe. I believe that we call this sensation, "deja vu", or having a sense that we have been somewhere before or seem to know someone, prior to this first time of encountering a new place or person in our lives.
Up to this day, I had never experienced an overwhelming "sense of knowing" with a complete stranger, yet as it happened; it was an emotional feeling that made my entire body quiver uncontrollably. I simply knew that not only did it seem that I had known this gentleman forever; it was as if it had not been for many, many years.
I was completely caught off guard and froze in my seat on the train car, attempting to remain serene, calm, and dignified. Of course, not many would be able to remain dignified in meeting strangers while reading and holding in their hands a novel about roaming 21st century vampires in their hands! Nevertheless, I was attempting to be cool and collected as my colleague moved over across the row to speak to me.
My colleague asked me if I had noticed the new passenger, and I assured her that it was difficult to not notice someone like him. "I really didn't think that they made that type of the male species in Scotland," I told her. "I always thought most of the male species in Scotland were supposed to be rather short, with balding heads, and have the same round, kind face."
I believe that each of us has our own bias of the world, depending upon our native culture and beliefs. For me, my heritage has been a mixture of having parents with Austrian heritage, (my mother) and Welsh, (my father) and I had not known many men or women from Scotland.
I had a musical friend back in the states that performed on concert stages around the world and was an international Celtic harpist born in Glasgow. I had known him throughout my professional academic career. He had a lovely round face, and sparkling eyes that were often mischievous with his uncanny way of playing practical jokes upon his friends. From his acquaintance, I did have a mental impression of what the appearances of people in Scotland were supposed to look like in my mind.
This gentleman seemed to have materialized before our eyes in the rail station of Newcastle, appearing as a modern day noble, or someone of royal birth with regal stature. He certainly did not visually fit my mental impression of what current men from this time period were to visually look like in modern day Scotland!
This gentleman was tall, very tall, and over six feet three or four. He had silver hair that glistened in the light of the train car. He also seemed to have a merry twinkle in his eyes that was somewhat unnerving to me.
Excerpted from The Countess of Erroll by S. Elizabeth Edwards Copyright © 2009 by S. Elizabeth Edwards, Ed.D. Excerpted by permission.
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