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(http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/elizabeth-edwards-older-mother/elizabeth-edwards/)There’s nothing I can say that will materially add to the avalanche of accolades and condolences flooding the media on behalf of midlife mother Elizabeth Edwards, who died on December 7th at 61.
But like many ordinary people, there is one thing I can do: put myself in her shoes.
For more than a decade, her soul-destroying challenges and heroic triumphs brought her close to the hearts of the public—everywoman could identify with Elizabeth Edwards.
In fact, when I hear her speak, so clear is the ring of truth that her words seem to echo my own innermost perspective.
I’m 50—with 8 and 5-year-old children, and certainly close enough to her in age and generational motherhood (meaning our kids are young) to feel the wind from the scythe brush my cheek, as it cut the tenuous thread of her life only a few days ago.
But the truth, and the sense of sisterhood, cuts deeper than that.
Instinctively, I know it was her experience of death, more than life, which shaped her values. Death made her a miner for her own heart of gold (http://www NULL.google NULL.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2&sqi=2&ved=0CCAQtwIwAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww NULL.youtube NULL.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DEh44QPT1mPE&rct=j&q=neil%20young%20heart%20of%20gold&ei=jKoBTaOvCoqusAO80ezACQ&usg=AFQjCNEeS6KA5MkW8rOOYkqcLCZ1eIglDA&cad=rja)—it shaped her sense of what was precious and what was worthless metal, when it comes to humanity.
Having two of her children at 48 and 50, and after having lost a teenage son to a sudden tragedy, must have packed more poignancy than a bevy of average run-of-the-delivery-room births.
You can imagine the bittersweet beauty infused into it all—like blending a sunset and sunrise together while attempting to resist as the two realities, so juxtaposed, burn the tears of joy and grief from your eyes at once.
It’s probably safe to say that later life mothers are more likely to have experienced death close by, or have had a brush with it.
I know this. I know it because death re-made me in another image when my sister, 2 years older, died of lymphatic cancer when I was 21.
It was then the meaning of the term “senseless death” was branded in my thoughts for perpetuity.
She was followed 3 years later by my mother, who died at 54.
In watching them painfully slip away, I was marooned in life. I was flailing far out to sea, desperately in search of meaning—a life ring for the sort of encroaching madness that only existence without sense can create.
In the end, I learned that, in attempting to navigate the unpredictable sea of our existence, relationships are the only real means of grounding us.
And I realized that integrity—and the essential connection between truth and trust—was going to be the bedrock for any real relationship.
When I was waiting for Frank—waiting until I was 40 years old—I was waiting for a heart of gold.
Common parlance in religious or spiritual circles is that faith can overcome any challenge in life. But what motivates us to faith? It must be our belief in the presence of something infinitely greater and the knowledge that a kernel of that greatness exists in all of us.
In the end—after all of the tests of her spirit—Elizabeth Edwards admitted that she no longer believed in a God “that intervenes”. She saw that the only God she had left was the one on the other side, holding aloft a cup of salvation and enlightenment.
And that is where the angels of Elizabeth Edwards and me come from two foreign universes, and meet, or as another renowned Elizabeth (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Sonnets_from_the_Portuguese) once put it: “Our ministering two angels look surprise/On one another, as they strike athwart/Their wings in passing.”
I know that the death of a child and the betrayal of a husband would kill me, whether my demise occurred at the tip of a knife or under the attack of a biological assassin (For that is what breast cancer is to all women).
The first is felt as a betrayal from a God (who no longer intervenes) and the second, betrayal from a man (whom we took to our hearts).
As far as dying was concerned, Elizabeth said that, having lost her son, “the worst day of my life had already come.”
The only reality I’m not clear on, is whether I will have the dignity, grace and aplomb to gracefully exit as worthily and memorably as Elizabeth Edwards did only days ago.
With, or without, an “intervening god,” I pray, for the sake of my young children, that day of discovery is still a long time in coming.
By the way, Shhhh! Can you hear it?
For once there is silence. Not a word of condemnation for Mrs. Edwards, who dared to give birth at 48 and 50.
Amidst all the noise and hubbub surrounding her passing, not a creature of criticism is stirring, not even a mouse.
In his CNN broadcast honoring her (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=tumG1r6XEYQ), Andersen Cooper said, quite simply, “Being a mom was the most important thing to her.”
At last, a role model of modern midlife motherhood we are all united in looking up to. And it took nothing less than a mother sacrificed to political avarice and sainted on the cross of parental bereavement.
Long live Elizabeth.
Notes for this blog:
Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/) (www.flowerpowermom.com (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/)), a regular blog featuring news, commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40.
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