This was not a day, said one relative, to ponder the question that haunts everyone who knew Dr. Marsha Edwards.
Last week, Edwards, 58, who founded a medical equipment supply company, fatally shot her two adult children — Christopher Edwards II, 24, and Erin Edwards, 20 — before turning the gun on herself, according to police.
But on Wednesday, at a memorial service for all three, Edwards’ niece, Kamil “Missy” Finister, said: “As we grieve, I urge you to not focus on what we don’t know but instead on what we do know.”
The standing room only crowd at Cascade United Methodist Church in south Atlanta started to arrive three and a half hours before the service began. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop were among the mourners.
“This family was the embodiment of love,” Finister said.
The bodies of Edwards and her children were discovered on Aug. 21 after prominent surgeon Dr. Christopher Edwards, father to Chris and Erin, directed a relative to contact Cobb County police to conduct a welfare check at his ex-wife’s Vinings townhouse.
Police have not said what prompted the shootings, and there will likely never be a satisfactory answer for those devastated by their loss. Marsha Edwards, according to Terrie Porter, her friend of more than 50 years, was “hands down one of the best mothers that I’ve ever known” — a widely shared assessment.
She was proud of her children’s achievements and, by all accounts, shared a tight bond with both. Just hours before their deaths, Marsha Edwards posted a smiling selfie on her Instagram page with the caption, “I’ve had the best summer, first with (Chris) in Miami, and Erin in Italy. I could not ask for better children.”
Mayor Bottoms, friends with the Edwards family for 20 years and, later, boss to the Edwards children, spoke about how well Chris and Erin had reflected on their parents.
“Little Chris was a breath of fresh air, a true gentleman known around City Hall for opening doors for others — imagine that,” she said. Chris Edwards worked as a digital content manager for the Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment.
Bottoms said it was clear Chris was bound for bigger things, though he remained humble throughout his time in City Hall. She recalled the simple but poignant advice Chris shared recently with a group of students visiting the mayor’s office.
“‘Be kind,’ he said. It’s just the basic thing you do.”
Erin, who interned in the mayor’s communications office last summer, “could have run the whole department,” Bottoms said. “It brings me great joy knowing Erin lived her life so fully.”
“It’s not about the fact we’re going to die, it’s what you do with the time you’re given,” Erin was quoted as saying.
This summer, the Woodward Academy graduate interned with WNBC-TV in New York City. Her mother shared one of Erin’s first bylines on her Instagram page, captioned, “Start Spreading The News!!!! Erin Victoria Edwards, journalist.”
But there was much more to the Boston University junior than an impressive résumé.
“She was one of a kind in so many ways,” said Maya Foreman, close friends with Erin since childhood. “She was bold and unapologetic.”
Yet she was still caring and considerate, and far from cynical, friends said.
“Hope is believing that things will be different,” said Foreman, quoting Erin. “Hope doesn’t say goodbye.”
Steven Smith Jr. said his best friend Chris, a graduate of Elon University in North Carolina, “treated everyone he encountered with the same empathy and kindness.”
Smith said he had looked forward to trying to persuade Chris to relocate to the west side of Atlanta so they “could be neighbors again, like old times.”
Dr. Christopher Edwards has yet to speak publicly about his loss. His sister, Kelli Jessica Edwards-Stamp, said Edwards has relied on the wisdom of their father, one of the first African-American surgeons to practice in Columbus.
“He encouraged us to always get back up, to lean into the wind,” Edwards-Stamp told mourners. Her brother is doing just that, she said.
“He has dad’s DNA in the bloodstream,” Edwards-Stamp said.
And, likewise, Chris was clearly his father’s son.
“My family,” the young man once said, “has been the honor of my life.”
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