Saving Graces

Remembering Elizabeth Edwards (1949 – 2010)

December 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm , by

Here at Ladies’ Home Journal, we received the news of Elizabeth Edwards’s death with particular sadness. She was a good friend of the magazine, and we twice published excerpts of her memoir Saving Graces—first when the hardcover came out in 2006 and again with the paperback edition, which included a new chapter about the return of the cancer that would eventually take her life.

I was lucky enough to attend the luncheon that LHJ hosted in her honor after the first excerpt was published. It was an intimate gathering—perhaps twelve of us assembled around a single table—that gave everyone present a chance to chat informally with Elizabeth, who immediately revealed herself to be a powerhouse. She was unfailingly charming—warm, funny, compassionate—but what struck me above all was her lively intellect. As she fielded questions ranging from what she really thought of Teresa Heinz Kerry (read the book) to how she would fix healthcare in America, she was insightful, provocative and original. She truly was that rare individual who was as comfortable chatting about her kids as discussing foreign policy—and she did both with aplomb.

She also was a beautiful writer and her books are lasting testaments to that fact. (At the lunch she mentioned that her publisher, upon signing Saving Graces, had provided her with a ghostwriter, but after trying out the arrangement, she quickly decided she preferred to write her own story.) I happened to be an editor at Broadway Books (a division of Random House) at the time her second bestseller, Resilience, was slated to go into paperback. The hardcover version had been published before the news hit that Elizabeth’s husband of thirty-plus years had not only had an affair with a campaign videographer but had also fathered her child; for the paperback, Elizabeth wanted to write an afterword that told her readers the truth. I was honored to work directly with Elizabeth on this new chapter, and, again, I was stunned by the quality of her writing and amazed by her refusal to indulge in even a smidgen of self-pity (to which, given the tragedies she endured, she was more than entitled). That final chapter, which was written last April, began with her recollections of Christmas 2009 (“our last as a family”) and ended with her simple wish for just “eight years”—enough time to see her son Jack graduate high school, her daughter Emma Claire choose a college major and her older daughter, Cate, hand her “at least one child to hold.”

It pains me beyond measure to think that she got only eight months. Rest in peace, EE. You were an inspiration to millions of women.