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Remembering Elizabeth Edwards
She was one of the nation's most high-profile political spouses. What lessons can we derive from the way she handled her controversial life, and faced her death?
Elizabeth Edwards died Tuesday at age 61.
Elizabeth Edwards died Tuesday at age 61.
Corbis
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lizabeth Edwards died Tuesday, at age 61, after a long battle against incurable breast cancer. She became a national figure as the plain-spoken and sometimes feared wife of former senator and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards. Near the end of her life, Edwards was widely admired for how she dealt with hardship — including, years ago, the death of her teenage son, and later both her illness and her husband's infidelity. (Watch an AP report about Edwards' death.) Here is how some are remembering her:

She was a new kind of political wife: Elizabeth Edwards "helped change the way political wives were viewed," says Rob Christensen in the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer. "She was the self-proclaimed 'anti-Barbie,'" who was as comfortable participating in campaign strategy meetings as she was "chatting with Oprah on TV, or even going head-to-head with conservative columnist Ann Coulter."
"Elizabeth Edwards' death closes full, public life"

Edwards had something to teach people of all political stripes: Even those who stood on opposite sides of the issues, says Kathryn Jean Lopez in National Review, could sense that "she truly believed she and her husband could do something good for their country through politics." Her children must have learned from the way she handled so much pain in her life, especially the way she kept going after the loss of her 16-year-old son, Wade, in a 1996 car accident. "It doesn't get much worse than losing a child."
"Elizabeth Edwards"

Elizabeth Edwards outshone her husband: "The way she faced her terrible illness was a model of forthrightness, of courage," says Emily Yoffe in Double X. "Your heart breaks for her and the children she won't be able to raise. Elizabeth's life is a lesson in the dangers of a woman investing everything — her ambition, her intelligence, her dreams — to be fulfilled by a man. I wish long ago Elizabeth had said to her husband, 'Guess what, I'm the one who's going to run for the Senate.'"
"Brave Elizabeth"

Her final gift was to those with cancer: America has heard from a number of celebrity cancer survivors, says Dr. Barron H. Lerner in The New York Times, but Elizabeth Edwards' "candor in her final days taught us what it means to be a cancer 'non-survivor.'" She talked openly about how cancer can return and be fatal, but there are effective treatments to help patients survive for many years. She opened up a discussion about confronting the end of life. "That legacy, at least, will survive her."
"Lessons from Elizabeth Edwards"

The scandal coverage looks truly "gratuitous" now: Elizabeth Edwards had "reason to apologize" for not insisting that her husband drop out of the presidential race when she learned of his affair with Rielle Hunter, says Jonathan Alter in Newsweek. But, really, much of the scandal coverage and criticism of her was "gratuitous," even if she did handle the aftermath badly with "score-settling" interviews and a book offering "Too Much Information." There's no denying "the culture kicked Elizabeth Edwards when she was already down. Now everyone is sad and sorry, but it's too late."
"Elizabeth Edwards, 1949-2010"

We thought we knew Elizabeth Edwards. We did not: "In a sense, her time in the public eye was a long, slow death, a literal mortification," says David Von Drehle in Time. It began when, after the death of her son, Wade, she and John Edwards decided to do something "big and important" in his memory, and entered politics. She was probably "never really the comet that she appeared" when she made her splash in Washington, "and likely not quite the wreck she appeared to be at the end. Whoever she was, really, Elizabeth Edwards paid full price for her hopes and dreams."
"Elizabeth Edwards: Public life, public death"

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