A hope note
Elizabeth Edwards, presidential candidate John Edwards’ remarkable 57-year-old wife, has advanced cancer. This very intelligent woman, having lived three years with the knowledge that her breast cancer might return, was probably as mentally prepared for the news as is possible.
The day she got the news, Elizabeth Edwards decided that, instead of withdrawing from life to die, she would throw herself headlong into her husband’s campaign: ‘I expect to do next week all the things I did last week. And the week after that, and next year at the same time.’ She’s set her face according to Dylan Thomas’ counsel: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light.’
Is that denial? Viva la Denial! I suspect she’s very aware that she may not live to see her young children grown, but nevertheless intends to live all the days of her life, whether they’ll be measured in months or years.
She reminds me of Dr. Tom Dooley. While serving as a medical missionary in Vietnam, he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his chest. During his hospitalization, he had a dream, about which he later wrote: ‘Whatever time was left, whether it was a year or a decade, would be more than just a duration. I would continue to help the clots and clusters of withered and wretched in Asia, to the utmost of my ability.’
Around his neck, Dooley wore a medal etched with Robert Frost’s words: ‘I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.’
‘If I stop now, I’ll probably die sooner,’ he wrote. He worked 20 hours a day until he died, one day after his 34th birthday.
You go, Elizabeth Edwards! Make it more than a duration.