Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Never Say Never

Elizabeth Edwards*Getty Images
July 3, 1949 - December 7, 2010
Never say never.

I thought I'd said all that was possible about Elizabeth Edwards.  Since the announcement last night about her worsening condition, lovely attributes of good will (from Doug Ulman on Twitter "@livestrong is thinking about our dear friend Elizabeth Edwards. Living with such grace.") have continued nonstop.  In the process, the accolades continue to grow. It almost feels as if her obituary is being written in the here and now. It has been some time since a female public figure, one who had never sought public office on her own, has so captivated our attention.

There are many qualities about her we love:  her intelligence and the kind of strength that attracts us like moths about warm light. She is a grounding force, not just in the slippery world of politics, but for life in general. Those who have met her and wrote to me invariably mentioned her kindness, a beauty that flows beyond the photos. Her ability to move forward following the unimaginable death of one of her own children draws us to her.  Add in her extraordinary way of communicating ANYTHING, then her cancer.  By her own description she is resilient. Plus, in many ways she was a far better politician than her cartoonish husband could ever aspire to be. He slipped and fell headfirst into the beauty of his own shadow and she kept on going.

For the better part of this morning, and some of last night as well, I've reread news articles and am about to search for others that profiled Mrs. Edwards from the early days of the campaign. But when her cancer recurred, and she opted to continue on the campaign trail, I remember angrily writing my sister, "how could she DO that?" Step aside, I remember thinking. Go take care of yourself. But I also know how easy it can be to get caught up in something that feeds you.  It is often much harder to step aside than it is to keep on going.

What came clear to me about Elizabeth Edwards is that in addition to her many incredible qualities she also became a canvas on which we might paint life's very best qualities.  As anyone we admire starts to slip away the feelings of grief, of anger, of sadness, for our combined cancers begins to multiply.  Public figures like Elizabeth and Lance Armstrong serve us so incredibly by gently and generously extending the best of themselves.  It it's as they offer their best qualities, and in the beauty of our shared humanity - we take what they gently extend and in any way we can,  play it forward.  No one can accurately describe the dance we have with those we don't' know but love and admire none-the less, and no one can tell me it isn't real, either. Somehow in her life, many of us found more of our own.

Elizabeth, thank you. Bask in the love of your family and friends. Surprise us, yet again.  Let all these prayers take you far past your expiration date.  It will be a long time, before we'll let you go.


Katie Ressler said...

Beautiful, Jody. Elizabeth Edwards will continue to capture our fascination - she was a wonderful woman who overcame adversity is so many different ways.

Missing you (and the whole gang). Hope you have an excellent holiday season with your husband and adorable dogs!

Katie R.

Elaine Schattner, M.D. said...

Thank you for writing this, Jody. It is a sad day for all cancer patients and their loved ones.

Annemieke said...

Dear Jody,

I know you wrote this before you knew Elizabeth Edwards already passed away but what a wonderful blog to remember her by. You captured her essence and that of people like her (like Lance), people who teach us how to deal with adversity and give so much back to the community. You never mend it to be but you wrote a fitting In Memoriam. Thank you so much for that. Big hug, Annemieke

Jody said...

Thanks for your thought Katie, Elaine - Annemieke -

This morning I felt premature in writing what felt like a eulogy. At one point in writing I simply started crying. Now I see that was near the time of her death.

Many things we can't explain. This is one of them. I'm deeply saddened to lose her. That's how deep her strength was - we feel as though we knew her.

Blessings to all,

Jody said...

I am now reading some of the articles, now in remembrance, that I mentioned this morning. Here is an excerpt, from Time Magazine, on her decision to return to the campaign following her recurrence:

On the Edwards' decision to keep campaigning, despite Elizabeth's cancer:
-- When it comes to the never-ending debate over Elizabeth and John Edwards' decision to continue his campaign after her diagnosis with incurable breast cancer, much of the blame has been directed at her. In devoting herself to her husband's goal, was she ignoring what might be best for her children? Earlier this month, Edwards got into a public spat with a Clinton supporter, who had blogged that she was a "terrible mother." Elizabeth, a lifelong insomniac who spends her wakeful hours surfing the internet, came across the post and wrote back: "You don't get to judge me because you think you know exactly what you would do if you had my disease. I want to be really clear: you don't know." (September 13, 2009)

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/12/07/elizabeth-edwards-from-times-archives/#ixzz17TJt1hdL

BreastCancerSisterhood.com said...

What a beautiful tribute to Elizabeth Edwards. She was controversial, that's true, but she was right in that none of us get to judge her. Even those with late Stage 4 breast cancer have not walked in her shoes.

I will forever be grateful for the piece she wrote especially for my "Breast Cancer Sisterhood" book. We bonded on many levels: We were the same age, daughters of military fathers who gave us the ability and desire to reach out to others and make life changing connections; were diagnosed the same time, began treatment the same day and were both accomplished professional women who'd been married to powerful men who betrayed us.

John Edwards was going to write a piece for my "Husbands & Heroes" book, but for some reason, I dropped the ball & never felt compelled to pursue it. A thousand times since then, I've been glad I didn't. You phrased it so well, Jody, when you said "he slipped and fell headfirst into the beauty of his own shadow." I think Elizabeth spent much of her time helping her children "reconcile" the situation with their father, knowing he would always be in their life.

For me, Elizabeth was the face of Stage 4 breast cancer, full of resilience and hope. Those of us who remain must take those Survivorship qualities and make them our own.


Nancy's Point said...

Elizabeth's death hit me hard for many reasons, which I intend to post about next week. She wasn't perfect, but she was a remarkable role model for many of us, including me, on how to carry on. I am really saddened by her death.

Jody said...


In retrospect I'm glad you dropped the ball as far as John Edwards was concerned. It seems right though, that Elizabeth wrote an introduction to your book. And I agree, she was resilience, hope and continued GOOD life in spite of (what turned out to be) terminal disease). Thank you for writing -- every time you do I get to know you better. How awesome,

Jody said...

Hi Nancy,
I know what you mean about the grief. I also find myself feeling as tho I have to qualify it (like, gee, that hit me hard) when maybe the point is: thank God we can feel. And I feel blessed by the community of cancer survivors who mumur, I know. I get that. Because we do.

Debbie said...

Beautifully written my dear friend. Thank you for sharing your passion and thoughts with the rest of us:) Love, Deb