“something in common?” edwards and madoff

Children is what they had in common, Elizabeth Edwards and Bernie Madoff. Beyond that, very little it would seem. Edwards, a mom who couldn’t give enough of herself to her offspring; Madoff,  whose son Mark hung himself with a dog’s leash today, his young son sleeping nearby. Edwards, whose children “led the way;” Madoff, whose sons “trailed behind.” Edwards, who would have crawled into Wade’s grave offering maternal comfort; Madoff, alive, his needs met, his son dangling lifeless, no parent offering comfort.

When I hear of children’s lives gone awry, I always imagine them as “clean slates” upon which we adults pen the first pages. It’s hard for me to fathom the responsibility. We don’t come to the task empty-handed. We bring an arsenal of “tools,” gathered in our own journey from childhood to adulthood.  What manner of “tools” these are, is dependent upon the words that were inscribed upon our “slates.” “Unless you walk in someonelse’s shoes…” is another image that readily comes to mind, stopping me short of passing judgment.

Rather than dwelling upon Madoff and his sins against his fellow-man, not the least of whom are his wife and sons, I prefer to focus upon Elizabeth Edwards and the legacy she has left. She showed us how to make “lemonade” of the “lemons” she was served, a son who died at 16, an unfaithful husband who fathered his mistress’s child, and a disease that stole her from her 3 remaining children.  Praise for this selfless mother as she was laid to rest today, diminished any news of Wall Street tycoon, Bernie Madoff, except for word of his son’s suicide.

As she ended the eulogy to her mom, Kate Edwards, the eldest daughter, spoke of the children’s running “game” of one upsmanship with Elizabeth. Back and forth, they assured one another “I love you more.” And as would be expected, their mom always had the last say. So in conclusion, Kate said to Elizabeth “I’m proud to be able to say, I love you more, mom,” which, of course, brought me to tears, as I’m sure it did the attending congregation.

Perhaps Elizabeth Edwards was on hand to comfort Mark Madoff, when he passed from this life.

a lesson for all…hugmamma.

elizabeth edwards, a mom

One of my earliest posts was of Elizabeth Edwards, who lost her battle with cancer today, dying at age 61. Exactly my age, I had nothing in common with her, yet I had everything in common with her, everything that mattered, that is. She was a mom who cherished her children, as much as I cherish my daughter. That made us sisters in faith. Birthing and nurturing a child is primal. When that invisible cord is severed by the death of an offspring, a mother who has invested, carries that loss forever. Edwards seemed to return her dead son’s memory to the womb from whence he came. There he remained in safe-keeping, until she could be with him again. I would do the same, if I lived longer than my child.

So while the media rehashes Elizabeth Edwards’ life, mainly its tragedies, including the disease which finally claimed her life, and the public scandal of her husband John’s infidelity, and the resulting birth of his mistress’ baby, I remember Edwards’ legacy as a mom, just a mom like me. She willingly enabled the lives of those she loved, helping them be the best they could be. All she wanted in return, was their love, and support. That’s all I want. Even when life takes a detour, and Edwards’ life took many detours, as has mine, we adjust for the good of those we love, and our own good.

“Resilience,” authored by Elizabeth Edwards, read as a love story, that special narrative between mother and child. In that instance, “blood is thicker than water,” even in the case of adoptions. Moms always give their life’s blood to their children. It’s part and parcel of maternal love. I may not agree with the manner in which Angelina Jolie garnered a father for her children, but I grant that she genuinely loves them.

Moms lives are “messy,” things never happening exactly as planned. But their maternal love is steadfast, as much as it is possible within the framework of their own personal “baggage.” I don’t think they set out to be bad moms; life happens. So while Edwards’ life seemed wrought with discord, loss of a son, loss of her marriage, loss of her life; her soul was like the eye of a hurricane, calm and steady, knowing that the storm always passes. Elizabeth Edward’s cyclonic life has finally brought her to the serene shores of eternal salvation, with her beloved son, Wade.

for a mom who weathered life’s storm… with love and courage… huge hugs…hugmamma.

facing death, and living

A thin paperback, only 237 pages, Elizabeth Edwards’ “Resilience” was not a book I could breeze through easily. It was written as though she were talking to me, but not seeing me. I might have been a tape recorder capturing her innermost thoughts and feelings, as if their release might ease her chronic pain, more emotional and mental than physical.

Chapters 1 through 6 explored the anguish she endured from the loss of her 16-year-old son Wade to a car accident, whose cause might have been considered “an act of God.” “Wade was driving to the beach when he died. The invisible wind crossed the eastern North Carolina fields and pushed his car off the road, and he could not right it and it flipped and, crushed, it fell in upon Wade, and he died. The invisible wind. The hand of God? The hand of Satan that God has loosened on Job? Is his death a response to his or our failings, or is it a test of God? How can I lean on a God who had taken this righteous boy, or even on one who had allowed him to be taken?” After much soul-searching, Edwards decides that the God about whom she was taught is not the God of whom she has now gained a better understanding.

“God…does not promise us protection and intervention. He promises only salvation and enlightenment. This is our world, a gift from God, and we make it what it is. If it is unjust, we have made it so. If there is boundless misery, we have permitted it. If there is suffering, it came from man’s own action or inaction. Cain killed Abel; God did not. Wade’s death didn’t belong to God. It belonged to this earth. I could still pray for Wade’s eternal soul because I no longer had to blame that same God to whom I prayed unsuccessfully for his return to life.”  

While she continues to reference her son’s death through the remainder of the book, Edwards also speaks at length of her bout with incurable breast cancer. In the midst of John Edwards 2004 vice presidential campaign, Elizabeth learned she had breast cancer. It seemed that in 2005 she’d been cured. But 2007 saw its return. Among other things, she discusses her struggle in coming to terms with death. On one hand it is not totally unacceptable, for “Death looks different to someone who has placed a child in the ground. It is not as frightening. In fact, it is in some way buried deep within you almost a relief. The splendid author Mark Helprin wrote, in the introduction to “Almost Spring” by Gordon Livingston, ‘If you were on a ship battered by immense waves (and, believe me you are) that swept your child from your arms would you not (given that you had no others for whom to remain) throw yourself into the deep, hoping for the chance that in the vast black ocean you might grab onto him? Comforted just to know that you would suffer the same fate? And if you had to remain, to protect others, would you not dream all your life of the day when, your responsibilities over, you would finally get to the sea?’ It is not a death wish. It is an appreciation that there might be in death some relief that life itself could never offer.” But Edwards concludes that her son’s death is a reminder not to take the gift of life for granted.

“I knew that I have to get ready to die. There is still no prognosis on which I can rely. All I know is that it will be at my door more quickly than I want. I don’t think, as it comes, I will have my father’s grace. Now, despite my words that I have a reason why death would not be so terrible, I want to live. I admit that I spend a great deal of time pretending that I would be fantastically lucky to live a decade, that I would be happy to have another decade when I know I want much more. But just as there is more than a decade, there is also less. There are moments when I believe death is only a whisper away. I try to get the teeter-totter to balance somewhere in the middle; it is rarely possible. When my mind teeters to death, I push off as hard as I can, trying to land on life. Mostly I can do that.”

Elizabeth Edwards comes to terms with her life, as it is. She has adopted lines from “Anthem,” a song by Leonard Cohen, as her anthem. She has had them inscribed high up on her kitchen wall as “…a reminder that the pain, the loneliness, the fear are all part of the living. There is no such thing as perfection, and we have a choice about how we integrate the imperfect into our lives.” Her anthem reads “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

A stranger who happened to be in the audience during Edward’s speech at the Cleveland City Club in March, 2007, inspired her to work harder in her efforts to bring affordable health care to the unlucky among us who go without. After the luncheon speech, the stranger whispered in Elizabeth’s ear “…I am afraid for my children. I have a lump in my breast, but I cannot get it checked. I have no insurance.” When she went in search of someone who could help, the stranger disappeared into the crowd. And so it was that Elizabeth felt the woman believed “…that we live in a country where things can change if we just whisper in the right person’s ear.”

I share “Resilience” with you because there might be a lesson in it for all of us, for we begin to die the minute we are born. Facing imminent death, Elizabeth Edward focuses on living…

a new day always dawns…hugmamma.