What Elizabeth Edwards means to me

Like the rest of the world, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Elizabeth Edwards yesterday. I knew the day would come, but wasn’t prepared at all. The news hit me like a wave – another gifted soul lost to a horrible disease – A mother who won’t be able to see her children into adulthood and a women who had to deal with unimaginable sadness and loss yet never let pain dictate her life.

I first became aware of Mrs. Edwards when her husband John ran for the presidency in 2004. Life seemed simple back then, they were known as the couple who celebrated their wedding anniversaries at Wendy’s. I could tell they had a deep love for each other (or at least bought into the media’s idea of their marriage) and were a special couple.

I remember being in my dorm room at college glued to the television, March 22, 2007, watching the press conference announcing her cancer had returned. At the time I was caught up in the breaking news of it all but I couldn’t believe it was happening again. I never could have imagined the press conference marked the beginning of the end.

Later that year I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Edwards when she came to Colby-Sawyer to stump for John. I remember it was a beautiful Saturday early in September. I made my mom come up because I knew this was an event not to be missed. We had been following her on TV for the past few years and I was excited to see her in person.

I vividly remember how sunny it was that day and thinking, wow, why isn’t she wearing sunglasses? I know I would never have been able to stand in the sun that long without them. But the truly remarkable thing was her kind spirit.

At the end of the event, we were waiting in line to have our picture taken with her and our camera died just before we could get the photo. Being the amazing person she will forever be, Mrs. Edwards made sure one of her field producers got the picture before she left. She cared about each and every person there and even though we didn’t know her personally, she made sure we got the photo. That’s what I will always remember when I think of her.

My mom and I with Elizabeth Edwards during her visit to Colby-Sawyer College September 22, 2007 (six months to day of announcing publicly her cancer had returned) 

I was looking at that photo this morning on my computer and thinking about how happy I am to have that moment as a memory in my life. Getting to meet her was a tiny moment in my college career but one that now shines equally as bright as everything else that defined my life those last four years.

When I look back on that visit to Colby-Sawyer, I think about what it must’ve taken for her to make all those public appearances after knowing the truth about John’s relationship with his videographer. To be able to put that all aside and support him in his bid for the presidency, took an unbelievable amount of courage and grace.

In fact, Mrs. Edwards deserves praise for how she handled herself amidst that whole mess. How a woman battling terminal cancer can add a stress of that magnitude to her life and still hold herself with dignity is truly remarkable. She faced so much sorrow in her life and never let it affect her negatively. I wish I could be half as strong when face battles in my own life as she was with hers.

What I’ve come to learn throughout my life is the cancer seems to effect some of the nicest most kind people ever put on the plant. I find those who deserve it least get hit the hardest. I know so many good people who were struck down in their prime from this awful disease.

But what I believe is that in every death there is a lesson to be learned for each of us fortunate enough to still have life. We are put on earth with the purpose of growing into ourselves and learning just what the limit is to what we can handle. In that regard, Mrs. Edwards was the ultimate warrior, fighting for her spot in life.

So, what does Mrs. Edwards, mean to me? When I reflect on these past six years of seeing her make countless television appearances promoting her books or talking about the end of her long marriage, I don’t see the hurt or the pain. When I look back, I see a woman, who until she took her last breath, held herself with the highest integrity. She had a strong will to live when others would’ve thrown in the towel. Mrs. Edwards, is a beacon, a symbol of not letting go or giving up until the bitter end. She, like so many others who succumbed to cancer, will be remembered for their battle to rid their bodies of the awful disease that would take their lives.

But I will remember the compassionate soul who wouldn’t let me go without getting that photograph; the woman who cared about everyone she came in contact with no matter for how long – the reluctant celebrity who wouldn’t be around that long yet we felt we knew forever.

One Response to “What Elizabeth Edwards means to me”

  1. My Blog Health in 2010 « Jonathan Pappalardo's Says:

    […] What Elizabeth Edwards means to me December 2010 4 […]

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