“No man there who loves me, when I die”

With the John Edward’s court battle splashed across the news these days, one part of the testimony has stuck with me and bothered me quite a bit. We heard that Jennifer Palmieri testified about the role she played as the friend and confidant of the late Elizabeth Edwards. She attempted to convey the emotional pain and anguish Elizabeth grappled with in dealing with the infidelity of her husband. She said “She was concerned that when she died, there would not be a man who loved her there”. Palmieri assured her that she would be there.

I cannot imagine the pain Elizabeth Edwards went through battling an incurable disease and staring her mortality in the face, the prospect of her children growing up without her, the hard fact that she had been rejected and betrayed by her husband and was the victim of infidelity, and the prospect of her children suffering through and in all this muck. More than enough to cause someone to go off the deep end. And on one occasion at least, it seemed like she did when she fell apart in an airport hangar, peeling off her clothes and crying “You don’t see me anymore”. She fought for the chance to be noticed, to change the reality, to reverse the events, to have life as she was able to cope with – yes – even if it meant denial of the facts for as long as she could endure. She wanted the affirmation, the love and the comfort of someone whom she loved but who had hurt her, humiliated her and abandoned her. Sadly, he was unwilling to meet these needs; to hold sacred the thirty years of marriage they had shared.

Elizabeth Edwards’ reaction is not atypical of a child who waits for years – sometimes a lifetime – for the approval of an abusive or absent parent, or the spouse who clings to their ideal of a marriage waiting for this “love” to finally come around from (again) the abusive or absent spouse, or the sick patient that does not want to die alone and awaits the “family” who has deserted them.

What is it within the human condition that inhibits us from severing the ties with jerks when we know it would be best to move on? When we know that it is futile to keep hoping. When we know deep down that there is no changing but just accepting the reality. When we know that our ideal is a “mirage” that cannot be achieved. What is it that causes us to want to hold on to that which prolongs the pain? Is it pride? Is it hope? Is it fear? – better the monster you know than the one you don’t? Is it a lack of self esteem? Is it the martyr syndrome? Is it blindness toward the truth? Is it a challenge? Is it the need to win? Is it the feeling of incomplete without a man (or woman) to “love”?

Unfortunately, I don’t believe there’s an easy answer. I believe it’s a process – an intentional healing that needs to take place over time and with tremendous effort. I believe we have to let go of the storybook images – sometimes fantasies – of “having someone there who loves us – when we die”. Where dying may be losing a job, or coping with an illness, or a nightmare, or feeling betrayed, or really losing a life.

I believe that when our God created us, He knew that we would need this love and support and therefore created Eve to be a companion to Adam. This need to “belong” was to be met – but as it turned out, outside Paradise. That means it might be met outside the ideal. I am hoping that Elizabeth Edwards was able to hear her friend Jennifer Palmieri’s commitment to be there when she breathed her last. I am hoping that she was able to draw strength and comfort from that commitment. I am hoping that she was able to let go of her ideal that was really no ideal; to rest in the love that was actually offered instead of the facade of love and commitment that she craved. I am hoping that all of us, who need to, are able to stop chasing the pain behind the pretense of perfection.

Marisa Pereira

By

Marisa Pereira is a mother, fashion designer, currently runs a Design and Image Consulting business in Atlanta, GA, is a freelance writer and volunteers at her church and in the community. She holds a BA in Fashion Design and a BA in French with a minor in Psychology and has worked in the Fashion Industry for over twenty years. Frustrated at her inability to find appropriate church clothes for her 14 year old daughter, she heeded God’s call, and created the stylish but modest, Michaela-Noel clothing collection, now available on-line. Having lived in multiple countries, she is acutely aware of the emphasis cultures place on visual appeal. She analyzes the importance of presenting the best image of ourselves and passionately insists that it starts within. She regularly addresses adult and youth audiences – encouraging and teaching them to make a memorable first impact but more importantly - to create a lasting impression. Her websites are: www.mpcimage.com and michaela-noel.com.

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  • Southgeorgiabelle

    Article well put together. Thank you.
     I have a note in the front of my bible….”Forgiveness is giving up hope for a better past”…Fr. Adam….As a Christian, Elizabeth Edwards might have taken those words to heart and forgiven and moved on while she still had some time left.  

    Carol Wood

  • Ffarrell

    It is difficult to know why ones refuses to sever ties.   Perhaps Augustine’s quote; “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee”, explains our clinging. Maybe the story book fantasies of perfection are simply an outlet for the perfection only God can provide.  I did read that Elizabeth Edwards was surrounded by her family when she died.

  • http://www.michaela-noel.com/ marisa

    Thanks for your comments Ffarrell, being human, it is not always easy to rest in the perfect love of the Father and Son is it? Though that is what is optimum.

  • http://www.michaela-noel.com/ marisa

    Thanks for the great quote Carol – so true!

  • FrJosephPeek

    Even to one with no ties per se, the loss of dignity to to a long dibilitating illness leads the patient crying out as they feel they are loosing their humanity.  This despair often is accompanied by the temptation to participate in hurtful actions to prove that one is still ‘alive’.  Sure, the touch, presence and affirmation of those who truly love us helps but at times does not satisfy as ‘sweat becomes as drops of blood’.  This is the major drive behind those who want to be ‘killed’ if left dependent on others -they fear the care will not be there.  Yes, the ‘jealous’ God knows that for true happiness, his child must depend on him first and foremost, and, thus, he is not beyond kicking out crutch by crutch till in exasperation we rest in him alone and thereby now true peace – despite the reaction of the world.  This does not excuse us the caretakers from being his arms and hands, showing his faithful love to the best of our being.  But death is that final giving in  to the will of God, that he may work his life in us.  One is right in saying this is a process – step by step to Calvary to hang side by side with the One who has been there, who will love us and be there till the end.

  • http://www.michaela-noel.com/ marisa

    thank you Fr. Joe for sharing.

  • http://www.michaela-noel.com/ marisa

    thank you Fr. Joe for sharing.

  • Diana

     I call it,”on our journey.”
    We are God’s caregivers, His arms and hands, His Love.
    Our life spent striving to do God’s Will can bring a peace to that final giving in,
    when we are able to truly release ourselves to His arms and hands, to His Love.
    Living our lives with Jesus always before us brings us to the finality of our journey
    without that fear of being alone.
    Our caregivers are witness to our final journey; and we move forward with God
    before us. Prayerfully yours.

  • http://www.michaela-noel.com/ marisa

    Yes – as humans it is often easy to fear being alone, isn’t it. Thank you Diana for your thoughts.

  • Pam

    Marisa, I always enjoy reading your articles; thank you for sharing your insights.  As I read your poignant observations on Mrs. Edwards, I was struck most not by her struggles, but by the questions you ask: “What is it within the human condition that inhibits us from severing the ties with jerks when we know it would be best to move on? When we know that it is futile to keep hoping. When we know deep down that there is no changing but just accepting the reality. When we know that our ideal is a “mirage” that cannot be achieved. What is it that causes us to want to hold on to that which prolongs the pain? Is it pride? Is it hope? Is it fear? – better the monster you know than the one you don’t? Is it a lack of self esteem? Is it the martyr syndrome? Is it blindness toward the truth? Is it a challenge? Is it the need to win? Is it the feeling of incomplete without a man (or woman) to ‘love’?”

    Abusive (physical, mental and emotional) cases aside, in many instances, I believe the answer to all of these questions is as simple as the depth of unconditional love one person has for another, which is a true gift and grace from God…and God’s call to forgive others as He forgives us.  Hope and faith in the power of prayer and the knowledge and memory of what is good about the person we not only fell in love with, but vowed to marry “Until death do us part,” I would hazard to say has been the driving force behind many women and men who were subjected to the failings of their spouse, yet still remained steadfast in their love and hope for a return of the same.  God asks us to love with the same love He gives to us.  Turning away from that would be a monumental task, if not impossible for one who loves unconditionally.

  • http://www.michaela-noel.com/ marisa

    Hello Pam, Thank you for taking the time to opine. I appreciate your thoughtful feedback. I was in no way suggesting a walk away from a marriage – even one with much pain. I was focused more on the desperation of Ms. Edwards acts – to want to be “seen” when it seemed so obvious her attempts were futile. My focus WAS primarily on the abuse.

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