Rethinking Elizabeth Edwards
From the first moment I saw her, all I could think about was that Elizabeth Edwards had lost a child. That was what defined her to me. It continued to define her until her death last week. Saturday at her funeral it was clear by the eulogies that the loss of Wade had been a life changer for her in every way, especially in her religious life.
Since then I have not been able to get her out of my mind.
For years, my son was sick and near death. We were in and out of Children's Hospital in Washington. Every day I saw sick and dying children. In the ICU there were children on either side of Quinn's bed who lost their struggles. It wasn't the children I wept for but their grieving parents.
The statistics of divorce among families who have lost a child are astronomical. They are high as well for parents of children who are chronically ill or have special needs as my son did. They warn you about that at the hospital. They tell you that mothers and fathers have different ways of dealing with their pain. Mothers often give in to it. Fathers often deny it. My husband and I had similar differences in the way we dealt with our son's problems. But it was nothing compared to what I have seen from those who have actually lost a child.
There are chaplains at the hospitals who come around to talk, counsel, console. They have chapels where you can go to pray. I once went into the chapel at Children's but all I could think of was how could a loving God let so many innocent children suffer. I left feeling sad and empty and alone. Occasionally, out of curiosity I would peek in the chapel. It was always empty. Did the other parents question God the way I did?
My son's illness defined my life. That is why, after Elizabeth Edwards died, I began to rethink hers.
A while ago I wrote a column that was critical of her, saying I thought she had been wrong to encourage her husband to run, knowing of his affair and the certainty that it would be discovered. What was she thinking? I often asked myself. Why would she want to put herself and her family through this?
Now I realize. It was about Wade.
She has written about how she went to his grave every day for two years before her next child was born. There she sat and read him the entire Bible. One of her favorite Passages was 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 1 about the God who consoles us in our affliction. It was there that she wrestled with her faith.
In her final message on Facebook she said, "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." No mention of God. Bloggers have questioned why a woman of faith would fail to mention God when she spoke of her saving graces.
Yet she told Larry King that after Wade died, "I had this idea that God was going to find some way to turn back time and he was going to be alive. . . The God I wanted was going to intervene. . . I was going to pray for good health and he was going to give it to me....And then I realized that the God that I have was going to promise me salvation if I lived in the right way and he was going to promise me understanding. That's what I'm sort of asking for...let me understand why I was tested."
The minister who gave the eulogy, in the same church where Wade's funeral was held, spoke about how "Elizabeth did not come to faith easily" and said there were candid moments when she expressed doubts, although she hoped her son was in the Lord's care.
Several years ago, the minister, Roger Elliott, said, Elizabeth came back to God. "I asked her, 'do you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior? And she said, yes sir. I asked her, 'Do you want Christ to forgive you your sins, and she said, yes sir I do. "He told her, "In the name if Jesus Christ you are forgiven."
The question is, did she ever forgive the Lord.
Marriages are hard enough without tragedy. We will never know what happened in the Edwards marriage. But Wade's death had to have had a huge influence. John could never be Wade or take his place or make up for his death.
At her funeral, her minister said: "Now she has claimed the promise of God's heaven. Paradise." And "a glorious reunion with her beloved Wade."
I hope for her sake that is true. Somehow I believe it is.
December 16, 2010; 3:37 PM ET
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Posted by: WmarkW | December 16, 2010 8:41 PM
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