I was surprised to learn that Edith Wharton’s final resting place is miles away from the place she called home. She is buried at Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles, France. I was even more surprised to learn that her ex-husband, Edward Robbins Wharton (Teddy), is buried just three minutes away from The Mount, in Lenox, MA.
This was how I found myself joyfully piling into my old jeep on a perfect fall day, along with fellow Mounties Johanna Batman, Grace Leathrum, Patricia Pin, and Patricia’s little Pomeranian, Pipi. We were going to see Teddy!
We set off with only a tiny scrap of paper that said A Lot/96, which I believed was enough to tell us the location of Teddy’s grave. I suppose I expected that we would arrive at Church on the Hill cemetery and be magnetically drawn to his headstone, perhaps by an unseen guiding hand or by uncanny instinct.
I did not expect the cemetery to be as large as it was.
Equipped with our tiny scrap of paper, we searched for Teddy (along with his mother, whom he is buried near) grave by grave, eventually dividing the cemetery into sections and splitting up. Besides Teddy’s mother’s memorial, we only found a stone cross in the back of the cemetery with a red ribbon tied to it. I pointed it out to my companions, wondering what the significance was. Eventually we left, disappointed that Teddy would have no visitors that day. Back at the office, fellow colleagues confirmed that many people have difficulty finding Teddy’s grave.
Exactly one week later, we embarked on another journey to the cemetery, this time with Mount Librarian Nynke Dorhout and directions from Mount House Manager Laurie Foote and local historian Cornelia Gilder.
And that’s how we found Teddy’s headstone, flanked by the graves of his mother and sister. We placed three hydrangeas from The Mount on his grave and sat on crunchy fall leaves to take a group photo with Teddy. We shared favorite Teddy stories, remarked on what a magnificent view he had of the colorful Berkshire foliage, and mused about how hard it must have been for Teddy to suffer from bipolar disorder, at a time when there was no treatment and in an age where there was very little understanding of the disease.
As we left, I pointed out a particular detail on Teddy’s grave to everyone else. Why did it have a red ribbon?* Looking around, we saw it was the same cross with the same red ribbon from our first visit.
So we had found Teddy that day, we just didn’t know it!
*I later discovered that red ribbons on gravestones signify upcoming repairs. Click here to take a self-guided tour of Church on the Hill cemetery!