I can still see her glowing smile and her eager eyes and she glanced at us on the platform at St. Louis Union Station. It was the summer of 2004 and myself, along with about 150 volunteers were handpicked by local Kerry/Edwards campaigners to represent our city and meet Senators John Kerry and John Edwards as they stumped for the presidency. Elizabeth, holding her husband tightly, shook each and every one of our hands and then stood at the podium to speak. She thanked us for our service and went on to let us know how much she loved her husband and how he and Kerry would make a great President and Vice President of our nation.
I admired her spirit that day. John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz, also spoke to the crowd but she didn’t connect like Elizabeth did. I remember thinking that Elizabeth would make a great First Lady.
Fast forward to 2006 when John Edwards threw his hat into the presidential campaign, this time as the front-runner and not the Vice President. He had me at hello until it was announced in February 2007 that Barack Obama would also run. I continued to follow John and Elizabeth, especially since she had come out after her Edwards and Kerry lost their presidential bid disclosing that she had breast cancer. I was sad. I wanted her to prevail and beat the disease.
Things then got ugly. Rumors began to fly about an affair between John Edwards and his “videographer” Rielle Hunter. Denial after denial. And then a pregnancy. And then, defeat. Elizabeth’s husband had sired a child with another woman while she was going through the biggest fight of her life. She never once played victim, never once held her head down. She was a class act through and through—she was defeated—for awhile. But she would never stop fighting. For her life and for her marriage.
Some judged Elizabeth for not leaving her husband like Jenny Sanford did former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. How could she “stand by her man”? I don’t like to judge people in difficult matters such as this. When there are young children involved, it is only human for a woman to want to hold on tight and to see through the tough times.
‘Til death do us part…
So she wrote a book. And she continued to speak about cancer and other matters of political nature. She approved of gay marriage. She was a supporter of woman’s rights. The cancer had returned. It wasn’t looking good.
Elizabeth’s family gave a statement saying that she would no longer be receiving cancer treatment. She was resigned to her fate.And a day later, she was taken away from her three children at 61 years of age.
Call me being dramatic or emotional, but I felt a connection to her from that brief meeting in 2004. I wish I had gotten a picture with her but back then,I didn’t even own a digital camera. My phone barely took a clear picture.
But I do have my memory of her to remember her by. And she engulfed us with her spirit, which I will never forget. Cancer is such a horrible disease and one death is one death too many by cancer.
We need to find a cure.
Rest in peace Mary Elizabeth Edwards.