I have not spent much time learning a lot about Mrs. Edwards, yet I felt I knew her. She was that kind of woman, open and seemingly honest. She seemed stronger that I could ever hope to be, courageous in her battle with cancer, and elegant as she suffered the humiliation of her husband’s unforgivable behavior.
I say his behavior was unforgivable, but I suspect she forgave him, if only for the sake of her children who now look to him as sole parent. I can think of no worse betrayal than to cheat on a spouse who is in the throes of a life-threatening illness, or who has become seriously incapacitated. At a time when a husband or wife needs their partner as never before, John was off giggling like a randy thirteen-year-old, leaving Elizabeth to go it alone.
I am sure that like every marriage, there were ups and downs, and perhaps deeply flawed personalities on both side. That is not the issue for me. It is simply that you just don’t do that to any human, let alone one you have spent decades with, walking away emotionally to dally with someone else.
Don’t start telling me about how such a caregiver partner can be drained and susceptible to the warm arms of another. It’s a matter of maturity and acting as an adult. Surely in that moment, John Edwards showed us he was in no way suited to lead a nation. He had lost his moral compass.
Elizabeth, publicly, held up her head and honestly confronted the challenges before her. She carried on. No doubt there were plenty of times when she broke down away from cameras and perhaps even family. One can only guess, and sympathize.
She indeed serves as a role model to other women of how to get on about the business of living in the face of fatal disease, in the face of the dissolution of a marriage that from the outside had looked rock solid. We can, again, only guess, of what it appeared to her from the inside.
It seems she devoted her remaining months to helping other women struck down with cancer, and, more importantly planning and preparing her children for the time when she would leave them. I suspect they are handling this much better than many of us.
She said that the death of her sixteen-year-old son, Wade, prepared her for her own death in some ways. Nothing could ever be as bad as that had been. And I suspect she truly believed she would join him at last. She said she didn’t fear death nearly as much as she would have otherwise.
None of us, rich, poor, accomplished or not, knows when our next trial will arrive and how severe it will be. We can remember Elizabeth and give life to her legacy by remembering the grace and quiet dignity she brought to the ugly business of dying. She showed us, as few others do, that in dying, we can learn better to live.
She lived these last few months, it appears, fully, connected at every moment to her family, her friends, her world. She helped everyone around her, it appears, make peace with the inevitable end to come.
I shall miss her occasional public pronouncements, championing health care, and breast cancer awareness. I shall miss her laugh, and I shall miss her honest embrace of all life-the good and the bad.
Blessings and safe journey, Elizabeth.
- Reactions to Elizabeth Edwards’ Death (abcnews.go.com)
- Elizabeth Edwards: Resilience Remembered (npr.org)
- Elizabeth Edwards dies at 61 (boston.com)
- Elizabeth Edwards and Her Final Days in Hospice Care (politicsdaily.com)