On the surface, the late Elizabeth Edwards, who was laid to rest Dec. 11, and the late Mark Madoff, who hung himself in the early morning hours of the same day, had nothing in common.
Edwards was reared a “military brat,” growing up understanding that life was about discipline, education and a responsibility to give back to the country that gave her so much; while Madoff was reared in a world of opulence where any and everything he desired was easily fulfilled.
Strip away the outside influence and material wealth, however, and it is clear that in the end, Edwards and Madoff had everything in common.
Both Edwards and Madoff were betrayed by the people they most loved. The people they trusted most in the world. And, as if betrayal wasn’t enough, both suffered world-wide public humiliation. Public humiliation that changed not only the course of their lives, but the course of the lives of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people, around the world.
In Edwards case, it was the love affair her husband, former U.S.Sen. and vice presidential candidate John Edwards had, and first lied about, with a filmmaker. When he finally began to come clean, he only did so in small increments, keeping the story - and the torture of his wife - alive for months.
In Madoff’s case, it was his father who betrayed him. As most sons, he believed his father, financier Bernie Madoff, to be an honorable man. A man who worked very hard to provide the lifestyle of yachts and airplanes that would outshine the most preposterous James Bond movie ever made.
Throughout the past four years, as Elizabeth Edwards fought for her health, she also was fighting a personal battle to come to terms with her husband’s betrayal. She wrote two unflinchingly honest books between the time her cancer was diagnosed and her death, hoping to find meaning in all that had happened, and hoping her story to help others better carry their own burdens.
Madoff, 46, was distraught about the press coverage of his father’s crimes of swindling billions of dollars out of thousands of people. People who had trusted the elder Madoff with their life savings. In addition, lawsuits had been filed against him and his brother, who worked in their father’s business, and more were reportedly on the horizon
. So, in the wee small hours of Saturday morning, which also just happened to be the second anniversary of his father’s arrest, Mark Madoff hung himself in the living room of his $6 million, 12-story luxury loft apartment in SoHo, N.Y., as his 2-year-old son lay sleeping in another room.
In the face of betrayal, Mark Madoff chose death.
A few hours later, at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, N.C. Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral was a testament to the grace with which she played the cards she had been dealt.
Like Madoff, she was a victim. She could have given up, and nobody would have blamed her. But she rejected the victim role, instead choosing to use whatever time she had left in a way that would bring hope to others.
In the face of betrayal, Elizabeth Edwards chose life.
Even in death, Elizabeth Edwards chose life….Nancy Cook