Elizabeth Edwards: A Graceful Woman against Ugly Media.

by Meredith O’Brien



The life of a political spouse isn’t easy in this harsh, often cruel 24/7 media climate. And for Elizabeth Edwards, who passed away this past week, it was particularly ruthless.


Edwards, 61, wife of two-time presidential candidate John Edwards, struggled with breast cancer for six years. She tried -- in the face of incurable cancer -- to soldier on, raise her young children and support her husband’s political efforts. When she became aware that her husband of three decades had an affair, she dealt with it by writing about it. (This was before she learned he’d fathered a child with the woman and the Edwardses separated.) And for her troubles, she was mercilessly lambasted, called everything from a “bad mother” who hurt her children by writing about her husband’s betrayal to a “crazywoman.”


While I felt a great deal of sadness for her three children after learning that she had died, I also felt a twinge of anger that during the last years of her life she had to put up with so much crap from loud-mouthed, vitriolic writers, pundits and bloggers who knew not what it was like to stand in her shoes and to still remain standing. At the same time, I felt a deep admiration for her because I don’t think I could’ve handled myself with the publically graceful strength she exhibited time and again.


I recalled the time when a blogger said that she hated the fact that Edwards took her young children along with her on the presidential campaign trail instead of staying at home with them. “Elizabeth, I don’t like the choices you’ve made,” a blogger sniped, casually lobbing the label “terrible mother” at her. “Get off the freaking campaign trail.”


Now me, I think I would’ve been devastated by reading that garbage. Edwards had already buried one child – a son who died in a car accident at age 16 – and was looking her own death in the face. To be told I was being a bad mom to those two little ones in my limited time would’ve been crushing. But Edwards gave it back to the blogger saying:


“With all due respect, what you would choose to do is relevant only once: When you choose how to spend your remaining days. I made my choice, because of our lives it was a public choice, but the choice doesn’t belong to the public, it belongs to me . . . You don’t get to say I am a terrible mother because you think you wouldn’t make my choice in my situation.”


I was in awe of her strength of conviction.