Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thank you Elizabeth Edwards

On the second day of 2011, I struggle with what this year will mean.

This is our first year without Samantha. What will happen during this year? Will I be expected to move on? Will people forget about our girl? Will people no longer ask?

Who will I be on this first year?

I have recently felt a strong connection to Elizabeth Edwards; a mom her lost her son but never forgot, a woman who held her head high in the face of public adversity. She seemed stronger the harder life became.

So today I googled her and found a wonderful article by Phillip Lister.  And I found her thoughts on moving on. And I found how I will move on in 2011.

“After our children die, we need not give up the role of parenting, but now, instead of parenting the child, we are parenting the memory of the child. It gave a strong counterpoint to our culture's push to mourn and then get over a loss and be done with mourning. It offers an alternative vision of converting mourning into a continuing bond, to grow through our pain and press on with optimism in a meaningful life while still being connected to the one we miss.”

I love this. I love this idea. Because we will never forget, I will never forget. The thought of ‘getting over a loss’ makes me so very sad. And it is impossible. My solace in this world is to move forward while still remembering who Samantha was and how she changed my life.

She goes on to say, “For me it is not about religion. It is about grace. I honestly believe that if we are not enlightened by the death of our children to the frailty of man, we will never be enlightened. And if we do not respond with compassion to that frailty, we have failed a very easy test. I hope that since the death of my son I have learned a few things about what is important. Maybe what guides physicians is a good guide for all of us: first, do no harm ... We need only examine what we say to see first if it might do harm."

Thank you Elizabeth Edwards. Thank you for your candidness. I never knew you but I think I will miss you. You sound like my kind of lady.

She left me with a lyric from Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

May I remember in 2011 to let the light in.

Heather Schichtel is a marketing professional and free lance writer. You can find her at Samsmom.


  1. I am not so sure that I would lift up elizabeth as a model of parentlng. She talked a lot about parenting, but in fact there were a string of nannies and other care givers a mile long since they were both babies. She wrote eloquently about parenting, but in fact was a not-so-present parent for much of her younger children's lives. Beyond this, she exposed them to a lot of unnecessary publicity and information through her books that children should never know and opened the door to a life lead in the public eye. Though she claimed to decry it, her every move was about attracting attention to herself and allowing the public to view what should have been private. If you want a wonderful and realistic role model for parenting, look to your friends and neighbors. Elizabeth spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on material memorials to Wade: the 10 foot angel statue, the "comet" sculpture at the high school, an elaborate all-school memorial tribute, the learning lab, etc etc. Material monuments representing vast expenditures of money are not the norm for most families. Bigger, better, flashier, more costly does not quell grief. I say this with compassion for your loss. You will somehow find your own way. But don't glorify her way.

  2. Michael:
    This was not a post about finding a role model for parenting, it was finding a role model for grieving the loss of a child. Grieving this loss is a very personal journey.
    The learning lab went to the school for other students, kudos for her. And we are also thinking of errecting a statue at Children's Hospital in Samantha's name. It will be a big, glorious, beautiful staue and it will make me smile every single time I look at it.
    I'm sorry if you missed the point of my post.

  3. I think I did get the point of your post, and hope the statue you erect brings you peace. My point is only that perhaps a woman who moved away and forgot all about the learning lab and put her ambitions before her children may not be the role model you seek. People tend to glorify those in the public eye, and sometimes they are not who or what they represent themselves to be. There is indeed a crack in everything. Elizabeth did not lean on religion or faith in God because she had neither of these, she leaned on her own understanding and after Wade's death she did not focus on what was "important" in terms of her family, she focused on what was important to her public image. She had a huge hole in her heart and tried to fill it with things. That never works. Really, never. I guess that is my point. I wish you well.

  4. A lovely post. While I have not lost a child, I have lost many of those near and dear to me. It is quite impossible - not to mention profoundly sad - to "get over" a loss like that, and I, too, have found that grace has become even more of a pillar for me. I find that i teach it consciously and point it out frequently to my children. I am acutely aware of what is important and, while I would heave all my learning from the "school of grief" overboard in a flash for the return of those dear to me, my children, my students, their parents, and my friends get the better of me for it all.
    Deeply sorry for your loss, I am glad that you are finding a way into this new year. and a different journey than you had intended.
    Peace to you and yours.

  5. "....parenting the memory of the child."
    What a beautiful concept.
    Wishing you comfort and peace in the new year.

  6. Thank you! Really nice post. I do think we need more public models of how to deal with grief and the illness/death of a child. I'll take whatever I can get because right now I'm feeling a bit at a loss as to how best do this with any grace.

  7. To "Michael", I can assure you from my own personal experience you are wrong on every count regarding Elizabeth. She was always a very hands-on and loving mother. She not only mothered her own children but "mothered" others she recognized were in need. You presume to know her motive for her activism - wrong again. In the last months of her life, under strenuous chemo she would fly from coast to coast for cancer research fundraising - all in one day to be home with her children. You claim she was no longer involved with the WELL (Wade Edwards Learning Lab), another falsehood. She was involved up to the week she passed away. You criticize her for writing her memoirs. The nasty details were never mentioned, the horrid ugliness was barely touched on. Her children are 10 and 12 yo. They own computers, they read, their friends talk. Fortunately Elizabeth was able to leave them with her own perspective while helping them accept the only parent they have left. She was a remarkable inspiring woman who will be hugely missed by many - family, friends and strangers.

  8. Thank you everyone for your comments. I enjoyed reading them all. Peace in the New Year.

  9. What a beautiful and thoughtful post. Regardless of what some would say about her and regardless of whatever the truth may be, Elizabeth Edwards inspired you and gave you the gift of finding a way to move on without letting go...just when you needed it. What matters most is what it means to YOU and how you choose to view it.
    Your post moved me in a way that I truly needed to be moved today. I am struggling with my own grief, a very different kind of grief but no less real, and have been stuck. You helped me get unstuck, I think.
    Wishing you a beautiful new year full of peace and good memories.