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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Where do broken dreams go?

The news tonight of the death of Elizabeth Edwards stopped me dead in my tracks.

Whatever else I was thinking about - ruminating over, fretting about - seemed to instantly disappear. The "hostage" situation of the American middle class and the unemployed. The tax "compromise". The failure of courage in the name of compromise. The Anglican Covenant (why do I even bother?).

Even thought I knew it was coming. Knew she had stopped all treatment a few days ago.

"Further treatments of her cancer would be unproductive," her doctors had declared, in the clinical, emotionally detached way of medical professionals.

She knew she wanted to die. The cancer had metastasized to her liver and her bones.

I couldn't blame her.  I just didn't think it would be this fast.

She was a lawyer. A best-selling author of two books. A wife. A mother. She had advised her husband in two bids for the presidency. She convinced him to lean more to the left than he was comfortable on the issue of health care reform.

She also differed in her husband's view on marriage equality. "I don't know why someone else’s marriage has anything to do with me," she said. "I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage."

Wouldn't she have been a grand First Lady?

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She thought she was in remission. In 2007, even though she was asymptomatic, she and her husband and her doctor announced that her cancer had returned and spread.

And, that she would continue to be active in his campaign bid for the presidency.

"We are not in denial," Edwards wrote in an updated version of her first memoir published in 2007. "I will die much sooner than I want to.

In 2009, she revealed that she knew that her husband had had an affair with a former aide to his unsuccessful vice presidential campaign - that, in fact, they had had a child together. They were legally separated, living out the year required by North Carolina law, before the divorce.

"Nothing will be quite as I want it, but sometimes we eat the toast that is burned on one side anyway, don't we?" she wrote in the memoir "Resilience."

She said that she wasn't afraid of death because the death of her son Wade, in 1996, had changed her perspective and made her strong.

She once said that sometimes the wind does not blow your life the way you want, but you stand up to the storm, readjust your sails, and move on.

She called that "Resilience".

Others might call it "Resurrection". 

I wonder, as I look at this picture of her and her husband, taken on their wedding day. I wonder about the hope in her eyes. The happiness on her face. The love in her heart.

I don't wonder so much about "resilience" or "resurrection".

I wonder this: Where do broken dreams go?

Are they just toast, burned on one side, that we eat, anyway?

Writing on her Facebook page that "the days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered," Edwards expressed gratitude for the love and support she's received during her years in the public eye.

"You all know that 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 wrote. "These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined... It isn't possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know."

Elizabeth Edwards is dead. She was 61 years old. She died surrounded by her three children, her siblings, and her estranged husband, John.

No matter how resilient you are - how much you believe in the resurrection -  news like that stops you dead in your tracks.

You know.


Ann said...

Yes -- I am just sorry she has to eat burnt toast that another made. I too have been thinking about her ever since I read she had stopped treatment. So very sad.

Paul Powers said...

When I look at that wedding photo, the Portuguese word "saudade" comes to mind.

walter said...

So I know. Make compromise Mr President because sometime we have to saddle our dreams with the hard facts of life: Let us talk to the Middle Class. In order for us to comprehend the meaning of compromise, any compromise, we have to give up ideals, our ideals. Now it is clear that you, Middle Class have an ideal, which may be the distribution of wealth by appropriate taxation of the wealthy. Well the call is to give up, to offer to the God of Life Inherent such ideal. In doing so you may be able to sense the charity of the extension of unemployment benefits. Also it would help you to begin to meditate the work ethic to you so dear as the unfortunate outcome of a superstition. Doing so I am sure that in the compromise you will see a deeper Christianity. As for President Obama I understand there was life before him and there will be life after him. In the name of the One who keeps us centered and focused and truthful. Jeaime my Little Girl, Jeaime my Girl, Jeaime my Brother-Jeaime Fran-Jeaime yoooou Libby.

Walter Vitale

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Paul - "Saudade" is exactly the word. The Portuguese have it right. Thank you.

Paul Powers said...

Of course, now that you're one of the Ladies of Llagollen, you may want to use its welsh equivalent: hiraeth.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Isn't it fascinating that there are things in the human experience that are understood across cultural barriers and boundaries but there's still no one word in any language that fully expresses the emotion?

Paul Powers said...

Yea, language is powerful, but it has its limitations. I think that's the idea behind speaking in tongues: human language is insufficient to worship God fully, so some of us (not me, at least not so far) are given the ability to worship in the divine language.