Right Opinion

A Lady's Goodbye

Roy Exum · Dec. 13, 2010

It’s not an easy thing to do but with grace, goodness and beautiful aplomb, Elizabeth Edwards softly said goodbye last Monday afternoon. Little did she know her words would bring tears to thousands … no, millions … who have watched her triumphantly vanquish each and every demon that has confronted her in an all too-public way.

Elizabeth, from her home in North Carolina, revealed last weekend her cancer, which was first diagnosed in 2004, is now in its final and fatal stages. The shallow among us will immediately cry, “Aha, there’s a demon that got her” but, no, if you’ll give me but a moment, I will share how my heart and my soul assures me this beautiful woman has just slain that dragon too.

Elizabeth, who died the next day, was indeed beautiful. We first saw her charm, her poise and her smile at the side of her handsome husband, then a young senator from North Carolina who had been a remarkable attorney. In the all-too-plastic political realm, it was her we trusted because one time shortly after her son Wade was killed in a car accident at age 16, she was in a grocery store and the mere sight of some Cherry Coke – Wade’s favorite – caused her to weep uncontrollably.

Yes, she was real. We’ve loved Elizabeth from the start and when the breast cancer popped up on the very same day John Kerry and her husband conceded the 2004 presidential race to the Bush camp, it was easy to believe that her chances were golden; the survival rate with early detection is now phenomenal.

But the political wrangle is hardly as successful. John, a Democratic aspirant for the White House in 2008, soon fell prey to a far more vicious disease that is every bit as lethal to men of power. At first he denied he’d had an affair, with Elizabeth standing faithful at his side, but then things began to brutally unravel and let’s just say when he finally admitted the mistress’s baby was his this January, she had already filed for divorce.

Don’t you see, this daughter of a Navy pilot had proven to be bigger than her child’s death, the political losses, and her husband’s infidelity. Through her words and a magnificent book, she had shared how we too can rise above just about any situation and earlier this year, as Elizabeth earnestly lent her heart to the country’s health-care dilemma, only she knew how bad her own health was.

Last weekend, with her children and friends gathered close, word got out that her doctors now believe further treatment would be futile and, with the disease spreading to her liver and elsewhere in her body, her life finally ended on Tuesday at age 61.

But, wait, you said she beat this demon … how is that so?

Just this; in her last Facebook message she wrote to us:

“You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined.

"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.

"But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.

"It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know.”

Yes, Elizabeth, we do. We know.

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