I saw Elizabeth Edwards the week the news broke about John Edward's infidelity. Her advocacy in health care prompted her to stand in as a last minute replacement for Chris Matthews, as key-note speaker at the American Association of Diabetes Educator's national conference in 2008. I was there.
It was only the second diabetes conference I'd attended. I remember the news playing continuously on the TV monitors outside the lecture hall, with Elizabeth inside. I remember the majority of the attendees shocked and saddened on her behalf while marveling at her strength.
I only saw Elizabeth Edwards that once. Yet, some deaths on the national scene seem to hit you in the gut. I felt that way about Natasha Richardson, beautiful, everything to live for, seemed so nice, and in a moment gone due to a freak accident.
I feel that way about Elizabeth Edwards. I think many of us do. She was so strong, without self-pity, bore public shame with grace and was taken away far too soon.
In the coverage of her death, I keep hearing in my head what a friend of Elizabeth's is purported to say. She didn't lose her battle with cancer, she won it everyday. She lived with cancer fully, with joy and grace, and each day was still committed to making a difference for others.
I think about that living with my condition, diabetes. It's likely not as hard as living with cancer. But then again as Tom Karlya, Vice President of Diabetes Research Institute, and the dad of two children with type 1 diabetes, once told me: "I knew a parent whose daughter had cancer and she said to me, "Tom, my daughter is going to win or lose with her cancer. It was horrible but she beat it. Now she's cancer free. I could not go to bed every night for the rest of my life, as you do, thinking my child might not wake up tomorrow. I could never live like that. I could never be the parent of a child with diabetes."
Much is being written about Elizabeth Edwards and how she modeled dignity and grace and what her life during her death taught us. I want to thank you, Elizabeth, and just say this to those who live with a chronic illness. Look up, look up and see what there is to live for. And live for it. If you're lucky enough to be able to improve your health, don't wait a minute longer. That's part of living with dignity and grace.
None of us know how many days we have. So we may as well live each one with all that we have. That doesn't mean the load doesn't ever get heavy living with illness, many days it does. But knowing you're striving for something is a type of mental amnesia - you often forget there's something on your back.
In my recent post, "What Does It Take To Stay Happy When Times Are Tough?" I ended saying, This holiday season give yourself the gift only you can give yourself, the richness of a more meaningful life.
Seems worth repeating. Thank you Elizabeth.