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Elizabeth Edwards, 61, dies of cancer

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Edwards posted of herself on Facebook
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Edwards posted of herself on Facebook

EDITORIAL : No matter your politics, you have to concede the bravery of a woman who publicly battled breast cancer while coping with a cheating husband and the loss of a 16-year-old son in a car crash. I’ve long believed that if God exists, the evil are punished by having to endure the suffering of those they love.

The final photo Elizabeth Edwards posted of herself on Facebook

Elizabeth Edwards, a 61-year-old advocate for the poor and proponent of health-care reform, died this morning of cancer at her home in North Carolina, a day after the accomplished lawyer and mother of four told the world she had ceased treatment and was prepared to face death.

Doctors on Monday were talking weeks, not months — when, in fact, it actually was hours. It explains why her family and friends were around her yesterday, when a statement was issued and a courageous note from her was posted on her Facebook page: Elizabeth Edwards ends cancer treatments, bravely faces death

“Today, we have lost the comfort of Elizabeth’s presence, but she remains the heart of this family. We love her and will never know anyone more inspiring or full of life,” the Edwards family said in a statement. “On behalf of Elizabeth, we want to express our gratitude to the thousands of kindred spirits who moved and inspired her along the way. Your support and prayers touched our entire family.”

Jerry DeMarco (Publisher/Editor)

Not a single word came today from John Edwards, who had a child with another woman despite the entreaties of his wife — an indispensible political strategist known as the “anti-Barbie” — that he abandon his aspirations for higher office amid her illness.

However, President Obama said: “In her life, Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain. Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration.”

Her husband’s former presidential running mate, Massachusetts U.S. Sen. John Kerry, called Elizabeth Edwards an “incredibly loving, giving, and devoted mother” who inspired many through her public battle with cancer.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr also issued a statement: “She was a passionate advocate for issues she believed in and a caring and loving mother. Her legacy should serve as an inspiration to all of us. Her life was not without tragedy and adversity, yet through it all, she fought for her family and faced every challenge with courage, poise and grace.”

“Connections have enriched and sustained me; they have strengthened me by holding me up when I needed it, and they have strengthened me by letting me hold up my end when it was needed,” Elizabeth Edwards wrote in her 2006 memoir, “Saving Graces,” the first of her two books on how she overcame adversity in her life.

“I had learned long ago that it was typically the most ordinary days that the careful pieces of life can break away and shatter,” she wrote.

To fill the void left by their son Wade’s death, the Edwardses decided to have more children: After taking fertility drugs, Elizabeth delivered Emma Claire when she was 48 and Jack when she was 50.

Doctors told Mary Elizabeth Anania Edwards she had a breast tumor the morning after Kerry, a fellow Senator, conceded the 2004 election to George W. Bush. Three years later, with her husband this time chasing the top spot, doctors told her the cancer had spread into her ribs, hip bones and lungs, making it treatable but incurable.

She admitted in her second book, “Resilience,” that she wanted her husband to end his 2008 presidential bid as soon as she learned he was having an affair — primarily, to protect her family’s privacy — but she stuck it out, anyway, when he refused.

It was as if she had tacitly agreed to increase the odds of not surviving so that her husband could pursue his dream.

The thing was: This was no ordinary politician’s wife. She ran John Edwards’s campaigns from stem to stern: hiring, firing, writing, reviewing, tweaking…. Given her intelligence, wit and savvy, she might easily have been an even better candidate than the philandering haircut in a suit she married.

Then came word that he’d fathered a child with the videographer he’d been diddling.

His political future became academic after Edwards lost the primary in South Carolina, where he was born. He quit the race in late January 2008 and threw his support behind Obama.

Seven months later, he admitted to ABC News that he had had an affair in 2006 with Rielle Hunter, a 42-year-old woman who was paid $114,000 from Edwards’s political warchest to make campaign videos.

“[W]hen the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him,” Elizabeth Edwards declared in a statement.

By mid-2009, however, details of the affair came to light that left her with little choice. After more than three decades together, the couple separated.

There was no greater measure of this courageous woman’s character than in her decision to meet his illegitimate child on Christmas last year: She didn’t want the girl to grow up unaware that she was loved and accepted by a larger family.

As much as I hurt for those who loved Elizabeth Edwards, I cannot at the moment find the compassion in my heart that she did for a husband who was, and is, everything but a real man. If he suddenly decides he has something to say about his wife’s death, I, for one, don’t want to hear it.

In a final Facebook post Monday, she wrote: “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.

“But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that, I am grateful.”

The family asked that donations be made to the Wade Edwards Foundation, which supports a computer lab for high school students in Raleigh, N.C.

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