E edwardsElizabeth Edwards passed away yesterday ending a long battle with breast cancer. All to rarely, we have amongst us, one who rises from adversity and trial and points the way, by example, of how life should be lived.

While the early parts of her life might have seemed charmed, she was well educated and had a storybook marriage and family, but it all unraveled before our eyes.  We came to know her struggles as they played out in a very public way. The death of her son at age 16 in an automobile accident, her contracting of breast cancer during her husbands presidential campaign, and then the public humiliation of her husbands affair, were struggles that all were witness to. Amidst all of that, we also witnessed her courage, character, wisdom, integrity, resolve and dignity.

Her struggles were personally important to me for two reasons. As a cancer “survivor” I very much appreciate her example of how to live with this disease. How to approach life without letting the disease change who we are. She truly decided to live and not die.

Randy Pausch Phd gave a like example in his struggle with liver cancer.  He gave his famous “Last Lecture” a few months before his death.  In it he commented that he was “having fun” and would continue to “have fun” till the end, “There is just no other way to play it,” he said.  I am sure both Randy and Elizabeth got it right.

Elizabeth Edwards also helped me come to understand something much more personally painful. As an addict I made victims of those I loved. As her husband ignored the gift of her love, trust and devotion, I also have been guilty of such a crime.  She helped me see in a very profound new way, how that behavior hurts the innocent. She held a mirror for me that revealed the reality of my actions that I could never attain alone.  She helped me realize what I had become.  My addict blindness and pride would have hidden that from me. That understanding is guiding my amends and my repentance.

Two quotes were attributed to her on an ABC report.  One from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem:”  Ring the bells you still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything.  That is how the light gets in.

And from her autobiography, she explained how she hoped her grandchildren would think of her, She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her away, and it surely did not, she adjusted her sails. Would that we all could so conduct our lives.

She will be missed, but in finishing her life she also completed her example. We can honor her by learning from her and trying to emulate her amazing example. Her suffering is not in vain if we can learn and benefit from it. I hope we all can honor her.

Blessings, roger