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With her passing, Elizabeth Edwards leaves a legacy of hope and optimism in the face of serious adversity.
While her final years were sadly defined by her role as a devoted wife standing by John Edwards during his scandalous affair and paternity revelation, the way Elizabeth approached life -- and her battle with cancer -- is her true legacy.
Elizabeth was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her husband lost his bid for vice president in November 2004 as Sen. John Kerry's running mate. After treatment, the cancer was thought to be in remission, but in 2007 Elizabeth learned that the disease had returned and spread. Still, she encouraged her husband's 2008 presidential campaign, which he ultimately withdrew from.
Elizabeth wrote two books about her battles: Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities, in which she describes how she weathered the storms of the campaign trail, her disease, the death of loved ones and her husband's infidelity, and Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers, which she wrote after her initial cancer diagnosis, chronicling her battle with the disease along with coping with the death of her son Wade, who died in a car accident in 1996.
Elizabeth helped to create the Wade Edwards Foundation in the memory of her 16-year-old son, with funds directed to the Wade Edwards Learning Lab going to produce resources for teens, including free after-school computer access. In lieu of flowers, Elizabeth has asked that donations be made at www.wade.org.
In the days before she died, Elizabeth addressed her family and friends on her Facebook page, saying, "The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful."
In the hours following her death, President Obama said of Elizabeth, in part, "I came to know and admire Elizabeth over the course of the presidential campaign. She was a tenacious advocate for fixing our health care system and fighting poverty, and our country has benefited from the voice she gave to the cause of building a society that lifts up all those left behind. In her life, Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain. Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration."
Elizabeth leaves behind her three living children, Cate, Emma Claire and Jack, along with her estranged husband John. She was 61.