A Hero, A Heroine and A Half Marathon pt. 2

I know some of my more conservative friends may have to leave the room as I write this, but I have to say that I am moved by the passing of Elizabeth Edwards. Her life was cut short by breast cancer, a disease that hit very close to our home in March 2008.

It is amazing how breast cancer can create an affinity and an appreciation for someone that you have never met. I have been aware of this monster for some time, but until Dana was diagnosed with it, it seemed more like a scary ghost story than a raging beast screaming in your face. Watching the daily reminders of her six year struggle with breast cancer is like ice water in the face. It is a wake up call not to take any day we share together for granted.

In April of 2008 my daughters, Ashley and Allyson, invited us to see them run in a Race for the Cure being held in Downtown Fort Worth. Ashley's company, "InProv of Southlake" had volunteered to run as a team in honor of Dana. We were the one's who were honored. We went to the race to thank them for their encouragement. When we arrived we were stunned by the thousands of people who were running or observing this race. It was a huge snapshot of what is happening to people all over the world, but especially in the United States. It is still a revelation to me how invasive this disease has been to so many people, and the fraternity/sorority atmosphere that exists between complete strangers who are connected by only the joint experience of the fight.

Elizabeth Edwards and I probably would not have a great deal in common if it were not for the trauma and the drama of breast cancer. That is just the point of my reference to her today. I was impressed by her courage and calm in the face of the circus that surrounded her contest with cancer. Her life had been marked by great achievement and staggering losses. The death of her son left a hole in her heart, and a scar on the soul of her husband. It is very likely that this was something that neither she or her husband ever fully overcame.

Then in the middle of her battle with breast cancer, her husband fathers a child out of wedlock. This kind of heartless, faithlessness is an anathema to the sanctity of marriage at any time, but it took on an even more brutal callousness when it was done to a woman who needed a husband to stand with her. At one of the most vulnerable times of her life, he chose to focus on his own needs and satisfy his own ego inviting another woman to take the place of his wife.

Crisis reveals character. It does not create character, it just peels away the thin gauze of pretense and exposes what has been there all the time. This is what makes the silo system of leadership analysis so bankrupt. For far too long the mantra has been, "A person's private life should not disqualify them from public service." Apparently we are meant to believe that the silo that is empty of character in one's private life stands alone, and does not impact the conduct of business in one's public life. Are you kidding me? We are who we are when we think no one is watching.

Public men are constantly being exposed for hiding shabby private lives. Preachers, politicians, priests, and pagans all have been outed, but nothing seems to ever change. Revealing them for the cheating scoundrels that they are may scare another man's pants on him for a while, but the question can always be asked, "Who's next?" They are already lining up for their 15 minutes of infamy. I saw another one on TV last night. The script is always the same. I was weak. I'm only human. I blame myself. I accept responsibility, but I still want to keep my job, position, pastorate, TV show, or whatever. My bad. No harm no foul. Consenting adults. Nobody's perfect. Gotta move on. Love ya, see ya, bye ya.

If character and conduct do not matter, then what is the big deal? Why is scandal and infidelity still news? Why does the National Inquirer chase down John Edwards at a hotel as he was trying to meet with the mother of his child. It is closer to the truth to say that lack of character does matter a great deal when there is a news cycle to meet.

Back to the story of "A Heroine." Elizabeth Edwards remains a heroine in my eyes for her six year fight against breast cancer, and the dignified way she tried to keep things as normal as possible for her children in the face of enormous obstacles. Her unfaithful husband showed up at her death bed as she took her last breath on this earth. He doesn't deserve a medal for doing so. He showed up for his wife's surrender, but he was AWOL in the middle of the fight of her life. If he had been a private in the Army, he would have been put in the stockade or military prison for treason. As it stands, he thought of himself as worthy of being the future Commander in Chief of a nation even when he was a genuine coward at home.

Stress is a powerful fuel for cancer cells. Elizabeth Edwards had plenty of it in her last days. Most of it was inflicted by those closest to her. For whatever additional stress this man put on his wife while she was struggling against a powerful enemy, he remains accountable to God. He took vows to honor and to protect his wife in 1977. The calendar and cancer had transformed Elizabeth from a beautiful young lady to a battle scarred warrior. What should have inspired him turned him to the arms of another person who promised to meet his needs. His focus of his life had always been on himself, and when the prolonged battle with cancer took its toll on the one he had pledged to stand by in sickness and in health, he did not rise to meet the challenge. Promises are always harder to keep than they are to make. That is why politicians are better at making them than keeping them. It takes character to do the right thing when there is nothing in it for you.

As Dana and I complete the third year of our fight against breast cancer, I am more appreciative of those who are veterans in this unending war. Elizabeth Edwards deserved better than she received from her husband. She is a heroine who has overcome the worst life brought her way, and faced death with a calm and peace that held no fear for her. I want to make sure that I learn from her husband's failure and take my game to the next level to be the support and the pillar my wife needs. To every husband out there, regardless of the situation you may find yourselves, do you really need a better reason to be a better man. Man up. You promised her you would!