It is often said no one really knows someone until they live with them, so as a part of public observation, I have a view of Elizabeth Edwards that is defined by the media. I have read a few opinions others have made about her, as well as observed her interviews on public television. Through these media resources, I have drawn an opinion about her which includes a sense of her compassion for others.
When I heard the news of Elizabeth Edward’s death this week, my thoughts went to what I have learned about grief and loss from her public life. I have learned she is a mother who suffered the sudden loss of a teenage child. Her way to cope with the loss was to honor her son through sponsoring a learning center. When my infant grandson suddenly died, I knew I couldn’t do something as grand as what Elizabeth did for Wade, but I knew I was going to have to find a way to honor Brennen’s life too.
I have learned she is a woman who accepts self responsibility and places parenting as a top priority. She readily admitted to putting herself and her family at risk by not placing the importance of getting a mammogram. Then she set into motion her desired plan for her health, numbered days and her children’s future. This set in the reality that life events happen beyond our control, but we can take action when they do in a constructive manner.
She also taught me how she wanted to be remembered by the coping skills she used. I remember a time when she was being interviewed and she said denial wasn’t all that bad because it helped her accept the factual news of a terminal illness a little at a time. I learned my own short-term denial was really a part of the grief and loss process. In time I too accepted the family changes necessary to move forward with my life.
Most importantly, I learned Elizabeth Edwards was a person of authenticity, which reminds me of a quote by Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
This quote says to me that how one responds to adversity or joy should always be done with wholeness of heart. Elizabeth displayed time and again a gracious spirit when adversity came her way, and she seemed to shout from her whole being with intense joy that the only things that she highly valued was family, friends and faith in the power of resilience and hope. I learned from her you cannot experience resilience without a support system and faith in a hope for a better future. Indeed all of these values are nurtured with authenticity.
Thank you Elizabeth Edwards for allowing me to see a glimpse of the real you. You will be sadly missed.
Jewel Sample–Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses (New Forums Press, Inc; 2010; Second Printing).