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Why the death of Elizabeth Edwards breaks our hearts

Categories: Mommy Angst

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All day yesterday I saw and read reactions to the death of Elizabeth Edwards on Facebook, Twitter, and on blogs. Everybody was talking about it, and this only one day after the announcement came that she was stopping treatment and was “resting comfortably” at home. Waiting to die.

I stayed away from reading about the scandal that enveloped Elizabeth Edwards when news of her husband’s infidelity exploded all over the internet. I stayed away from reading about the controversy surrounding her decision to remain on the campaign trail instead if staying home with her two small children after receiving her cancer diagnosis. I stayed away from dark hints and blatant suggestions that the Edwards’ children were conceived to replace their older son Wade, who had died.

What did all this matter? Elizabeth Edwards was a woman and a mother. Like me. Like you. And she has died, and whatever our politics is we feel a cold ache in our hearts when we hear a mother has died, the visceral fear that our children will be left alone without us.

I traversed and transcended that fear earlier this year with my own cancer diagnosis, but hearing about Elizabeth Edwards brought it all back again. I think that’s our biggest fear as mothers, that our children will be alone, needing us, and we will be powerless to stop their pain. It’s one thing that connects us in a shared experience of what it is to be a mother. It breaks our hearts because Elizabeth Edwards experienced something that scares us and that we know so little about. She faced her immortality. ¬†We can imagine what her last weeks and days might have been like, with family and children gathered close perhaps, hopefully remembering the good times and forgiving the bad, but we don’t know for sure.

Let’s remember Elizabeth Edwards as a sign of our own vulnerability and immortality. I don’t know about you but I intend to hug my kids as soon as I can. Tightly. From the heart. Because we just never know how many more hugs there will be.

[Photo: NCBrian, Flickr]

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