Many of us who did not want it, at times in our lives, have been pushed into public for just a small amount of time. Elizabeth Edwards made a conscious decision to live her life, the joy, worried, crises, and journey of her life in a very public way.
She often talked of her son Wade, who died at the age of 16 and when asked about her children she still said “I have four children”, always in the present tense. She had a picture of Wade at her bedside when she died and will be buried next to Wade today.
She changed her last name when her husband, John Edwards, began his public journey in politics from Anania, her maiden name and the one she used to practice law, to Edwards.
In 2004 when first diagnosed with breast cancer instead of retreating she was very open and public choosing the most aggressive form of treatment as well as reaching out to women and often talked about not overlooking having mammograms. She talked about her putting off having some for years and that perhaps if she had not she would not have been battling breast cancer. She became a champion for others fighting cancer.
When the cancer returned in 2007, she again was open about it and talked about the difference in treatment in 2004 and 2007 and referred to it as a “chronic condition” that would require her to be on medication for the rest of her life. We only learned on Monday that the cancer had metabolized to her liver and she had went off of treatment and into hospice care at her home with her three children, siblings and estranged husband by her side.
Elizabeth Edwards shared who she was with us. Her worry over aging while her husband remained youthful looking; her battle to control her weight, her illness and champion of medical treatment for all of us and the woman who came into her life uninvited and unwanted as the mistress of her husband. She talked openly that there was a need for a DNA test because the child, Frances Quinn Hunter, deserved to know who her father was and to be supported by the father.
In January she decided to separate from her husband, put her home on the market for sale and to move on with her life, all of this she lived openly and answered questions about her life even when it must have been personally difficult for her.
It is said she spent this last year helping to prepare her children for the inevitable day of losing her, she did this with grace and courage and always doing what she felt was best for them. That included letting her estranged husband back at the end, she knew they would need him and so once again as she had done throughout their lives she thought what was best for them, perhaps not what she would have wanted for her, but what she felt her children needed. She asked her family and friends to never speak disparagingly about John Edwards because he was the father of their children and they needed him so much now.
She decided to live with and through all of this very publicly and women identified with her from the weight, to the aging, to a chronic illness to a husband who betrayed her at the most difficult time of her life; she always talked openly about her life..
She was an advocate and supporter on subjects such as universal health care, gay marriage and she was against the war in Iraq,.]
Her legacy is all of that and that she said “I fight change like we all do but in the end with each difficult time in my life I return to the perimeters of the reality and then decide with those perimeters how to proceed”..
I know I am a better person for following Elizabeth Edwards life and her lessons, and I have great respect for her as well as thankful of her legacy of how to face very human things head on. Elizabeth Edwards elected to have a very public funeral, keeping with the life choices she made along her journey.
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December 11, 2010.
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