Remembering Elizabeth Edwards, 1949-2010

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.



  • Elizabeth Edwards Dies of Cancer at 61: Elizabeth Edwards, who as the wife of former Senator John Edwards gave America an intimate look at a candidate’s marriage by sharing his quest for the 2008 presidential nomination as she struggled with incurable cancer and, secretly, with his infidelity, died Tuesday at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 61.
    Her family confirmed the death. A family friend said Mrs. Edwards was surrounded by family and friends when she died shortly after 10:15 a.m. On Monday, two family friends said that her cancer had spread to her liver and that doctors had advised against further medical treatment.
    Mrs. Edwards posted a Facebook message to friends on Monday, saying, “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.” She added: “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.”
    In a life of idyllic successes and crushing reverses, Mrs. Edwards was an accomplished lawyer, the mother of four children and the wife of a wealthy, handsome senator with sights on the White House. But their 16-year-old son was killed in a car crash, cancer struck her at age 55, the political dreams died and, within months, her husband admitted to having had an extramarital affair with a campaign videographer…. – NYT, 12-8-0
  • Elizabeth Edwards told not to treat spreading cancer: Elizabeth Edwards announced Monday that her cancer has taken a turn for the worse and has now spread to her liver. Edwards, 61, the estranged wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Now, with cancer in her liver, her doctors have advised her not to undergo any more anti-cancer treatments, according to a family statement. “For them to say that she is not strong enough to benefit from further treatment, that says to me that her disease is far advanced and she is facing the end of her life,” says Ira Byock, director of palliative medicine at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, who has no personal knowledge of Edwards’ case. Doctors say it’s hard to predict how long someone in Edwards’ situation will survive, especially without knowing details of her case…. – USA Today, 12-7-10
  • Elizabeth Edwards was her husband’s biggest asset: When John Edwards declared himself a candidate in his first presidential campaign, his South Carolina rally was interrupted by rowdy critics who ridiculed the trial lawyer-turned-politician as a liberal and an ambulance chaser. Elizabeth Edwards stepped forward, took the microphone and asked for “good Southern manners.” Hecklers hushed.
    The moment showed why Elizabeth Edwards was her husband’s biggest asset. She was his chief defender, even when many people thought he didn’t deserve it, and helped propel his political career with charm, humor, intelligence and directness.
    After I had written about their appearance that day, I headed to catch a flight back to Washington only to see her waiting alone at the same gate. We were both tired after a long, hot day of campaign rallies in our dark business jackets as I approached her to reintroduce myself since our last meeting months earlier.
    “I know who you are,” she said — my first sign just how closely she monitored news coverage and everything else involving her husband’s campaign. “Let’s go ask them to seat us together since no one else will be able to stand the smell of us.” Here she was, a potential first lady joking about body odor.
    Her wit and willingness to acknowledge her imperfections and setbacks, whether a struggle to lose weight or the later loss of her hair during chemotherapy — turned her into a hit in the campaign. She could draw crowds as large as her husband’s, especially among the all-important female voters. They related to her as a mother toting along two young children on a campaign bus where she forced everyone to sing from songbooks.
    And in the second campaign, many women would approach her with tears in their eyes to relay their own experiences with breast cancer. That continual grappling with grief could visibly wear her down some days…. – AP, 12-7-10
  • Elizabeth Edwards’ Final Days: New Details
    Friend Says Devoted Mother Spent Her Last Days in a Very Nurturing and Warm Environment, Preparing Her Kids for a Good Life:
    In Elizabeth Edwards’ final hours, she was surrounded by loved ones, including her children, her estranged husband and close friends. In her final hours, she was surrounded by the people she loved most: her son, Jack, just 10-years-old, daughters Emma Claire, 12, and Cate, 28. Also there, her estranged husband, John, and a handful of close friends, including Jennifer Palmieri, who spoke about Edwards’ children.
    “To say that she prepared them for her death, I don’t think that is correct,” said friend Jennifer Palmieri. “What she wanted to do was prepare them to live a good life.” Edwards was determined that her last days with her children be joyful. “She was able to have you know, normal, good night mom, give them a kiss and go to school, and so it was a very nurturing and warm environment,” said Palmieri. “It was not a sad place if you can imagine that. It was a very warm and nurturing home.”… – CBS News, 12-8-10
  • John Not a Speaker at Elizabeth Edwards Funeral Her Estranged Husband Missing from List of Those Slated to Give Eulogies’: Mourners will hear tributes from her daughter and two close friends – but not her estranged husband, former senator and presidential and vice presidential candidate John Edwards. The funeral will be held here at the Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, N.C….
    The funeral service, says Quijano, will be open to media cameras and the public, giving people the chance to pay their respects for a woman who inspired so many people. The burial service will be private…. – CBS News, 12-10-10
  • Elizabeth Edwards, Through Many Eyes: The goddess of frumpy wives and older mothers? The cancer patient who would not be defined by her disease? The noble, betrayed wife? The political operative whose complicity in covering up her husband’s infidelity could have cost the Democratic Party the presidency? A modern Job? Or Icarus?
    With her warm smile, left-leaning advocacy, generous hips and personal tragedies, this political spouse — wife of a one-term senator who failed twice in bids for national office — became an extraordinary canvas upon which many different public constituencies projected their narratives. Over time, as Mrs. Edwards’s life, in private and on stage, grew less saintly, more perplexing, anguished and sour, the public seemed to struggle to realign its relationship with her.
    Certainly Mrs. Edwards, who died on Tuesday at 61 and whose funeral was planned for Saturday, was keenly aware of her impact. Much like any politician who publishes a pro forma biography, she tried to control her narrative. With two memoirs, countless public appearances and, even the day before her death, a statement on Facebook, Mrs. Edwards persisted in shaping her image, determined to have the last word on herself…. – NYT, 12-11-10
  • Mourners gather for Edwards funeral: Miller joined hundreds of mourners who went to the church to remember Edwards and join a counter-protest against a controversial fundamentalist church from Kansas. Edwards’ funeral will take place today at the church that became her sanctuary when her son, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996. Her services will be begin at 1 p.m. Edwards will be buried in a private burial next to Wade…. – USA Today, 12-11-10
  • Elizabeth Edwards Eulogized as Defender of Her Family: In the moments before the funeral for Elizabeth Edwards began here Saturday afternoon, women from the Methodist church removed a spray of white lilies and yellow roses from the casket. Men wiped the rain from the lid, preparing it to be wheeled into the sanctuary where 1,100 people waited.
    …For the next 75 minutes, Mrs. Edwards, 61, was eulogized as a smart, authentic and always optimistic friend who was as intense a foe at the game Boggle as she was in law and politics. And above all, speakers said, she was a fierce defender of her family. “One thing that is true and will never change is that we are a family,” said her daughter Catharine Edwards, 28, who, along with two longtime family friends, offered eulogies for Mrs. Edwards. “She would do anything in the world to protect us.” The church held hundreds of friends, former campaign staff members and politicians who arrived to pay respects to a certain breed of political spouse whose high-profile life became an inspiration for people who, like her, had faced the death of a child, cancer and marital infidelity. NYT, 12-11-10
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