An appreciation of the life of Elizabeth Edwards, a great lady who unexpectedly touched our lives


by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. John and
Elizabeth Edwards had a plan…. and were entirely,
happily focused on its achievement.

Having failed to achieve the Democratic presidential
nomination in 2004 (which didn’t worry this
effervescent pair one whit), their task was clear: persuade
Massachusetts senator Democratic presidential
nominee John Kerry that they (for then they were always
a couple) were what he needed for victory.

Then work relentlessly to move up…. a second
vice presidential term in 2008…. then the heady
joys of the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination…
then,  as they strode into their inaugural ball, “Ladies
and Gentlemen, the President of the United States
and the First Lady, Elizabeth Edwards.”

Theirs was more than a plan… it was a reality so clear
and certain they could taste it.

In these days, Elizabeth Edwards did as she was
told.  Her task (unannounced of course) was nothing less
than helping America swallow John Edwards, preparing the
way for his all-but-certain coronation.

Even in the early days, America was cautious about
Edwards… he was too handsome, too glib, that
Southern golden boy smile flashing too often, too
automatically. We might be persuaded to like him…
but we didn’t entirely like him yet.

Which was where Elizabeth Edwards came in.
She we could identify with at once. Her smile was
warm… her manner congenial, believable.  People didn’t
know her then… but as they did, they liked her. While catty
commentators purred that she looked like his
mother, mothers everywhere thought: “if he could
truly love this good woman of a few extra pounds, he was indeed
a good man and worth a second look.”

It was a winning formula.

But, it was threatened from its earliest days.

John Edwards, you see, had the wandering eye… and
Elizabeth now had cancer. Fate, the master of irony,
was not such an easy thing as they had supposed.

Now choices had to be made. Elizabeth needed
constant treatment… John Edwards, in the time-tested
behavior of men who did not stand by their gals,
decided to give infidelity a whirl, with his own
particular bedside manner.  Why not? He was,
after all, the golden boy… and Elizabeth would, he
knew, stand by him whatever he did to her.

Bit by bit the facts came out. Had the senator had
an affair?

No, he said, he had not. It was all a tissue of lies
perpetrated by his political opponents.

Are you sure, senator? Well, okay, I erred  but just
(he was adamant) for one night and the child being
hawked as his own was… someone else’s. Not
his, so help me God.

Are sure, senator? Well, okay, the affair was longer
than I said… but, I swear, the child is not mine.

Are you sure, senator? Well, okay, it is my child, sure
as shooting.

And what of Elizabeth Edwards? Struggling as she
was with an illness getting more and more serious
she had, at that exact moment, to confront the fact
that her husband, the man she believed in,  had lied
to her and lied and lied  again, always confident of  the
forgiveness that golden boys believe is theirs when their
mates are plainer with extra pounds. There was here, as there
always is, the whiff that she was lucky to have him,
then flash that thousand-volt, always-winning smile, the
one that makes friends and influences people.

This time it didn’t work… for, in Elizabeth Edwards,
America was already aware of what she had that was
so deeply lacking in her unrelentingly cynical and
prevaricating mate. She was real, genuine, authentic,
a woman confronting the failure of her body and her
mate with self-control, dignity, and honesty. Thus,
John Edwards learned the hard way that you cannot
cheat on the woman you have lied to when that woman is
in the process of becoming a saint.

In her last Facebook session, Elizabeth Edwards
said a graceful good-bye to her many friends worldwide,
people whose lives her authentic behavior and courage
had inspired:

“I have been sustained throughout my life,” she wrote
“by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and
a faith in the power of resilience and hope. The days of
our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.”

Thus, simply, Elizabeth Edwards ended a life of events
spectacular and heart-rending. At the end, she was no
longer defined as John Edward’s wife, the designated
junior partner. She had long ago surpassed him in importance
and stature. It was she America looked to for inspiration,
kindness and care.

Scourged by the tragic death of her beloved first-born
son, by the blatant betrayal of her mate,  and by insistent, weakening
health crises, Elizabeth Edwards showed us all how to grow while
confronting issues which cripple and demoralize so many. In private,
she no doubt gave way to doubt, pain, and that sickening
feeling when one confronts the loss of life and love.
But whatever her private demons, publicly Elizabeth
Edwards moved towards her destiny with a manner invariably
gracious and an unshakable message of inspiration and joy.

Thus, at her deathbed, there was the feeling that a great
lady was passing. Thousands worldwide stopped to inquire
how she was… and to wonder at her unfailing generosity
even at this penultimate moment.

And what of John Edwards, now separated from the
woman he had spurned and lied to? “A family friend said
John Edwards was present.”  Did he flash his mega-watt
smile, that now seemed so contrived? Did he whisper
death-bed condolences to the woman he had insulted
and who knew just what any of his words were worth?

I think in the end, seeing for him a long life without
any of his dreams achieved… or even an ability to
dream at all; I think she smiled at him, knowing all,
forgiving much, and held his hand for a moment,
ready for an eternity she did not fear.

drlant

About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of
Worldprofit, Inc.,
www.worldprofit.com where
small and home-based businesses learn how to
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