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This past Tuesday, marked the passing of Elizabeth Edwards, one of the nation’s most courageous casualties of cancer, politics, marriage and religion. Though her life was not an easy one, she leaves behind a remarkable legacy of faith, family, friends as well as encouraging words from her two books: Resilience: Reflections on Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities and Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Family.
In the end, Elizabeth died of metastatic breast cancer–something she fought for a little more than three and a half years. In America, one woman dies every 14 minutes from this disease. Though some women with this condition live a few years longer than Edwards, once the cells have spread, there is no known treatment that can stop it. Elizabeth put a face on this disease; and, perhaps her fame and prestige will help researchers raise additional funds to combat it.
Across the country, Elizabeth was best known as the wife of John Edwards, the once powerful senator from North Carolina. John was a charismatic man who, after serving six years in the senate, was selected to be the vice-presidential running mate of John Kerry. It is no easy task to be the wife of a famous politician but Elizabeth made it look easy. She too was an attorney; and, she served as Senator Edwards chief policy adviser behind the scenes. It is said that she pushed her husband to support universal health care and gay marriage. She tried to discourage him from voting in favor of the Iraq war–something John ignored that came back to haunt him during Kerry/Edwards presidential bid.
In more recent years, America learned about John’s extramarital affair and child by former campaign worker Rielle Hunter. Like so many other men, John denied the affair and attempted to cover it up by convincing his former staff member and campaign aide Andrew Young to claim responsibility. As the web of lies began to unravel, Elizabeth learned the truth of her husband’s infidelity and all that went with it. After 33 years of marriage, she filed for separation in early 2010 with the intention of divorcing John at the conclusion of the North Carolina mandatory one year waiting period.
Though Elizabeth has passed on, there remains one more indignity to be endured. Fred Phelps, so called pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas has announced his intentions to hold a protest just outside of the area where her funeral will be held. Phelps has condemned Elizabeth to hell and has written a press release explaining it all.
Pastor Phelps, Elizabeth Edwards has already been to hell. Cancer, the failed presidential bid, the betrayal by her husband, the death of a 16 year old son–and the indignities of a crazed preacher are a special kind of hell that few have ever endured. Elizabeth, we’ll miss you; but, I just can’t help but believe that you’ve gone on to better things.