Headlines have been trumpeting the fact that John Edwards was not mentioned in his wife's will. They were estranged. He left after cheating on her even as she dealt with cancer. He fathered a child that he denied. He lied about all of it. And after all the denials, backed into a corner, he had no choice but to admit it. How foolish Elizabeth Edwards must have felt, how duped.
That must have hurt.
I try to imagine what it would be like to deal with a betrayal of that magnitude in the blinding white hot glare of an eager media. I think back to my own hard times. Even without the media spotlighting me, it felt as if the world was watching and judging. In some cases they were. In some cases, they still are. I've just stopped caring about it. It doesn't matter anymore.
I remember one of the things that shocked me, in the early days of all of my own hard time, was listening to a woman blast her ex. She was a bitter, angry woman, and I remember thinking plainly, "Oh, God, please don't ever let me be like that." I thank God for seeing what I saw that day, and making up my mind that bitter and angry would make me a poor parent. And I've tried very hard not to be bitter. I'm not a fighter. I'm more inclined, if you are angry, to step away, and let you have your mad. I sure don't want it. To me, it's a simple thing. I don't want to fight. I won't. I won't defend my feelings. I won't try to explain. I simply back away and turn my attention to the things that make a positive difference in my life. That's all.
Back to Elizabeth Edwards. She conducted herself with dignity. She did not argue, no matter what the provocation was. And Rielle Hunter, while dumb as rocks, was a mighty provocation. But Ms. Edwards was not bitter. She had every opportunity to blast her husband but she did not, and she did not for one simple reason. She had terminal cancer, and she knew that her children needed their father when she was gone. She did not destroy that relationship because she loved her children more than she hated her husband.
A friend has cancer, and we talked by phone. He was bereft, missing his wife, needing her at this lonely juncture of his life. She's not there, having died some years back. At one point, he wanted to give me a sum of money, to take care of Cara's college. He thought it an excellent gift, something that would allow me not to have to work for a while, to focus on school, but that his beloved Cara would be taken care of as well. "No," I said, gently. And he cried. He really wanted to leave this world having given us all a gift. "Why can't I?" he asked. I explained to him that part of the beauty is in the struggle. That, really, Cara was paying one half of her college, but that she was very responsible, and managing to pay off those debts semester by semester. As Tim and I struggled to meet our end of the bargain, hopefully, Cara knows the depth of our love and commitment to her. The struggle has brought us closer. He listened, and then he said, "What do I need the money for?" in a hopeless kind of way, and I said, "You are not dead. You don't even know for sure how this is going to go. So I would say that you use this money to visit your children and grandchildren, to make memories, to do nice things with them, because in the end, it is what matters, don't you think? The money will not matter. The relationship will be what you are remembered for. Let's focus on making relationships. That can be your gift." He cried some more. Cancer is an emotional time, and I totally understand that, and discovering that you have right before the holidays, that really makes it all the more emotional, I think. He'd also consoled himself with one too many mixed drinks. So we talked on the phone, and we cried together, and talked about the blessing of our own friendship, about his place within my own family.
All the headlines are blaring the fact that John Edwards was not mentioned in his wife's will. No. But the man was left something far more valuable than a share of his wife's estate. Likewise, what she has bequeathed to her children is far more than what is written in that will.
Wise people. This world could do with a few more of them.