The day before she died, Elizabeth Edwards wrote this on her Facebook page:
The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.
Elizabeth had a powerful influence on many people, but especially on married women who are mothers managing professional careers. She achieved everything we want, and suffered everything we fear.
Married for decades to her law school sweetheart, she became an attorney, supported her husband’s ambitions, and delivered a healthy son and daughter. She had friends, family, wealth, and talent. I was living in the Raleigh area in 1996 when her son Wade was killed in a car accident. It was the beginning of the genuine revelation for many young people in a thriving part of the world that even the perfect and powerful and insulated are not immune from pain and loss.
Elizabeth went on to have another daughter and another son. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 50’s during her husband’s bid for the U. S. vice-presidency on the Democratic ticket with John Kerry. No one but the people in a married relationship ever truly knows why it ends, and perhaps not even those; but in extreme shorthand, Elizabeth separated from her husband after his involvement with another woman. Elizabeth gained a passionate admiration from many women when she terminated her living arrangement with her husband but refused to divorce him for the sake of their children. She publicly proclaimed how angry she was, and how confused. Rather than stand at his side, eyes downcast, she said out loud that she was no longer sure who she was to the man she married. Women cheered, even as they shared her heartbreak, again.
Her husband John was at her side when she died yesterday.
Elizabeth Edwards did not face adversities unknown to many people. Marriages end, children die, and serious illnesses strike individuals every day. It was her dramatic reversal of fortune in such a short time span that shocked us. It was also her incredible grace and strength in managing more degrees of loss and pain in barely over a decade than many of us will face in a lifetime.
Some people have launched their comments on her life with, “I didn’t agree with her politics, but……….” I believe that line of thinking misses the point. Are we so far apart as human beings that political opinions lead our thoughts on such a figure of devotion and commitment? I hope not.
She was not a saint. She was a human being. She was every woman in her hopes and dreams. She was every woman in her grief. And Elizabeth Anania Edwards will remain an exceptional woman in her example of the personal victory of the heart over the challenges of a fully human life.