Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I'll leave the political analysis to Tim Russert. But here's the part of John Edwards that resonates with me--the part that has drawn me to follow his career for quite a while. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were married less than a year before we were. They have three children: Cate (22), Emma Claire (6), and Jack (4). But there was another one: Wade. In 1996 he was killed at the age of 16 on a NC highway. That kind of devastating loss changes you: it either sucks you under and defeats you or it forces you to ask serious questions about what matters in life. This is for sure: the loss never leaves. It is a part of who you are. Even when the wound no longer bleeds, there is a scar that can't be missed. A friend of Edwards said that after the death, he was less interested in his accomplished career as a trial lawyer. He showed an "emerging desire to paint with a broader brush." Edwards rarely speaks about his grief in public. So I may never know much about the things that interest me most: How did his faith (Methodist heritage) survive the loss? What did he learn about God . . . prayer . . . community? Why did they decide to have more children at their age? (He looks 40 but is 51.) What has been the ebb-and-flow of grief over the past eight years?

27 Comments:

  • Oh, Mike!
    As much as we that love you would pray to be able to, only those that have suffered the loss of a child could possibly answer your questions.
    We that are on the outside of that grief circle can only grieve for those we love as you walk through that dark valley.
    We can project what a horror it would be to lose one of our own children, but we remain observers; hearts broken for your loss and grief, arms open to embrace the hurting ones, and knees bent at the Throne of Grace and Mercy, asking that you be comforted by the only One that can truly give you comfort, Our LORD and God. We pray comforting words be given us, to help us express our assurance of love for you and your family,
    If I were given a "wish I'd..." druther it would be to have had the opportunity to have known Megan and to have been closer to Abilene at her homegoing - to have been one of the many arms to have reached out in comfort to you, Diane, Chris and Matt. Instead, in moments such as this morning's blog, I reach out to you and pray that you continue to be comforted.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 7/07/2004 07:58:00 AM  

  • Wouldn't it wonderful if Russert would do an interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards that asked those very questions about loss, grief, and faith? There will be plenty of people asking questions about abortion, gun control, Iraq, etc. But I, too, would like to know more about how that loss shaped his life. And what's it like to be 51 and have a four-year-old and a six-year-old?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/07/2004 08:40:00 AM  

  • Republicans have wasted no time in questioning whether John Edwards is qualified to be Vice-President, and rightly so. Dan Quayle left sum mitey big shoos two fil.

    By Blogger Grant, at 7/07/2004 09:11:00 AM  

  • I appreciate so much your example, your faith and your openness. I thank God for enabling you to become the person you are.

    By Blogger Q, at 7/07/2004 09:51:00 AM  

  • Mike--great post today. I wondered about him--I had a sense those waters ran deep.

    It's been a stressful, emotional, joyous, busy, life changing week around here with my mom. Please keep her in your prayers. I have to admit that as much as I am excited about her moving here, I am terrified that she won't be afforded the same opportunites you have so freely given her.

    I look forward to talking with you soon. Enjoy your rest.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 7/07/2004 12:41:00 PM  

  • Judy Thomas has moved?????? When did this happen?

    I really enjoyed her series on journaling and have been taking it to heart lately. Talk about a woman where "still waters run deep".

    Well, Brandon, if she ever gets homesick, you will send her back for a reprieve, won't you?

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/07/2004 03:21:00 PM  

  • Too bad Edwards isn't running for president.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/07/2004 06:00:00 PM  

  • I believe Edwards did run for president, this year in fact. He did not carry his home state. Tina

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/07/2004 07:11:00 PM  

  • Ha! Good point -- he did run for president! And now . . . for VP.

    But this little blog isn't about politics, per se. It's about the way loss has shaped Edwards.

    By Blogger Mike, at 7/07/2004 08:29:00 PM  

  • Seems to me that most "soulful" people have experienced a major loss at some point in their life. I don’t fully understand the correlation but I once read that grief stretches the capacity of our heart. It can be seen in a person when you really look. Be it President Bush's loss of his sister, or Senator Edward's loss of his son, or a neighbor's loss of his wife...severe loss leaves a deep mark.

    When I was younger I wanted to think God would patch the wound, heal the loss and life would be as it was before the pain. I’m almost sure now that it does not work that way. Nothing seems to justify the loss or truly heal the hurt. Even time doesn’t always make it better. Somehow though, if we trust Him, in time our Lord uses that incredible pain to make us better. We serve an amazing God!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/08/2004 02:05:00 AM  

  • http://wade.org/AboutWade.htm
    Mike, according to one of your other post, weren’t you in Kenya around Mt. Kilamonjaro in the spring/summer of 1995. Another parallel.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/08/2004 02:15:00 AM  

  • Yes!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/08/2004 03:53:00 AM  

  • KERRY CHOOSES RUNNING MATE
    WITH EXTREME POSITION ON ABORTION

    In response to John Kerry’s selection of John Edwards as his running mate, NRLC Political Director Carol Tobias said, “With John Edwards, Kerry has selected a running mate whose position is as extreme as his own, even opposing the ban on partial-birth abortions.”

    In 1999 Edwards voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, and in 2003 he attacked President Bush for signing the bill, which would ban partial-birth abortions unless necessary to save a mother's life.

    "Laci and Conner's Law" would recognize unborn children as murder victims when they are killed by criminals in violent federal crimes. This bill, also known as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, was enacted this year despite Edwards' votes against it.

    Edwards also voted in favor of tax subsidies for abortion on demand for federal employees.

    "During his nearly six years in the U.S. Senate, John Edwards -- like John Kerry -- has consistently voted according to the dictates of hard-line pro-abortion advocacy groups, and contrary to the policies favored by most Americans," said Douglas Johnson, NRLC legislative director.

    Whenever Edwards has been present to vote, he has supported the ongoing filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominees. He voted six times in favor of the filibuster that blocked the confirmation of Miguel Estrada, who would have been the first Hispanic ever to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Edwards also has voted in favor of the filibusters of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, who were nominated to federal courts of appeals.

    For more specific information on Edwards' voting record on life issues, review the U.S. Senate scorecards at the NRLC website at http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/
    or visit http://www.nrlc.org/

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/08/2004 04:55:00 AM  

  • Back to the original point of Mike's post, the impact of loss on parents. We were at a congregation where over a period of 12 years lost 10 children. It was devastating. I was close to two of the families. One family survived and, if not flourished, at least grew. Their pain was and is a constant companion but they have used it to further God's kingdom. The other family is broken; they go through the days in a fog. It is a horror that every parent fears.

    The Edwards have built a life that embraces carrying on, preschool children at 50 is only one obvious sign. May they continue to find joy amidst the pain and comfort in the morning.

    Tina

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/08/2004 05:48:00 AM  

  • Hey, anonymous, thanks for telling us all how to vote. You just sealed the deal on whether or not to allow anonymous postings.

    Back to the topic. Loss.

    Some read scripture with VICTORY as a central theme. But isn't there a crimson thread of LOSS also woven through there? And yet . . . God continues shaping people. He keeps working to galvanize their faith and to draw them into community.

    Some with great loss have heard again the voice of the One who spoke to Paul: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

    Forget how you'll vote for a moment. This isn't a political endorsement of John Edwards. But in what ways would you imagine you would be shaped if one minute you kissed your 16-year-old son, and then next you learned that he'd been killed on a highway?

    Who I'd really like to hear from are those who've walked down the silent road of grief (over loss of spouse, child, parent, friend). . . . What did you learn?

    By Blogger Mike, at 7/08/2004 06:27:00 AM  

  • Edwards gave the 2003 commencement at UNC Pembroke.

    "How brightly you burn on this journey will not depend on what you do for yourselves," he said. "It will depend, I am certain, on what you do for others, on how you treat others, and on how you permit others to be treated in your presence."

    "Where there is injustice, there is your battleground," he concluded. "Where there is misery, there is your battleground."
    Maybe compassion is bigger than a single-issue vote. But how did a discussion of how personal loss has impacted this man become a political convocation? Probably the same way the "women's role" discussion wound up somewhere around pearl-edged tank tops.

    Someone said already that deep loss leaves a mark. It's true. And the loss of a child leaves a unique scar -- but I'm constantly amazed at the way God heals common wounds so often by joining them together. Mike has found common ground with John Edwards -- without even having met him. And God has used both of them to reach out to others -- Mike through his faith, example and continued desire to be like Christ despite struggle with loss, John through his compassion and determination to fight injustice, even if differently from the ways "we" would.

    Thanks for sharing this, though, Mike. It adds a depth to him that I sometimes lose sight of if I just look at him as a politician instead of a person.

    By Blogger Q, at 7/08/2004 06:29:00 AM  

  • Loss, I've experienced quite a bit of it in my 25 years, thought not as much as other people. Here is my story.
    The most impactful loss was that of my mother at age 11. For a little under two years we all battled Cancer with her. As the mother of four, the beloved wife of my father, and only surviving daughter to her own parents, she was the glue that held our family together. She was the light, the Christian influence, and THE reason that my daddy became a child of God (January 25, 1990, the night she passed away).
    At age 9, I knew how to take care of an entire household (dust on Tuesday, vacuum on Thursday, mop on Saturday, bathrooms everyother weekend), keep my brother from getting into too many mischevious things that 6 year old boys so often get into, help Momma with all of her medicines, change bandages from all the surgeries she endured, clean out a 'snail pump' that was connected to her right side (for what reason, I can't remember), and be a 'normal' 9 year old all at the same time.
    I tell you that in order to tell you this. Those moments that were so difficult to get through, where my sister, Momma and I all stood in the bathroom together to change whatever bandage needed to be changed, are really the moments that shape my life. Mom wasn't concerned about herself, she was always trying to put us at ease about dealing with her being sick. The night that her hair really came out and she decided to wear a turban/headcover thing, she asked all of us if we were ok with it. Then made a joke about Ali Babwa and we all headed off to church with smiles on our faces. That love will never be forgotten. My mother was so caring, loving, joyful, funny, and such an upstanding infulence ~ she made everything seem so easy... Even dying from Cancer.
    I can only hope to have a similar influence on the people that I know. All of my siblings dealt with the situation in a different way. The one thing that we all know and see in the same light was her love. As different as the four of us are, when we are all together, I can still see aspects of her in us, along with the love of God that was given to us as a precious gift.
    A tearful story, but one that shaped me as a person, woman, Christian, and wife.

    By Blogger Mae, at 7/08/2004 07:47:00 AM  

  • There have been a few losses in my life that have impacted my life and have changed me -- ome I still can't really talk about, but some I can share. I'm not the same person I was before my great-grandfather passed away in September of 2003. Suddenly everything his life emulated became a lesson and something I wanted to hold on to.

    My great-grandfather had been alive my entire life. Even before my immediate family moved back to Arkansas where he and the rest of my extended family lived, I still knew him, knew his voice. My entire life, I'd know I had a "Pa." I guess part of me assumed I always would.

    My grandfather's death taught me most clearly that no one lives forever.

    He was my only living grandfather, great or otherwise. The others had passed away either before I was born or when I was very young. The infinity of God didn't seem so hard to comprehend as a child: he had always been and would always be -- like Pa.

    I've learned, too, over the months --nearly a year -- since his death that I haven't lost him. I've got memories, but I've got more, too. Somehow, I and my pea brain managed to soak up a little bit of what the old goat ("stubborn old goat" - an appellation he wore proudly) left behind.

    By Blogger Q, at 7/08/2004 09:11:00 AM  

  • Mae and Q - Just read your posts. They are holy ground--a place where I have sensed the presence of the God who will never leave us or forsake us.

    By Blogger Mike, at 7/08/2004 10:58:00 AM  

  • There are still losses I hold too tightly, still waiting to see what God will teach me -- through them? Despite them? Probably all of the above -- and despite myself. Because sometimes I'm afraid I don't want to know what God will teach me.

    But I'm confident that he will use them, when I can learn to let go enough to let him. I've learned that God has a tendency to reshape rather than to repair broken hearts.

    By Blogger Q, at 7/08/2004 11:20:00 AM  

  • I was Mae's campus minister in Montgomery. I saw a very mature young woman in my minisry who was still technically a teenager. I was also able to perform her wedding when she married Brandon back in 01. I know that loss shapes hearts and turns hearts toward God. I learned so much from her, myself, just from knowing her testimony. I'm proud of who this young woman has become and how she led her husband to God as well. Thanks Mae for sharing your heart all over Blog-land. May God continue to bless you.

    Mike, go ahead and make us register. I'm in.

    By Blogger Jon, at 7/08/2004 12:37:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/08/2004 06:56:00 PM  

  • My version of loss is different -- it's not physical death, but it changed me and my wife, Lela, forever.

    On October 1, 1998, after years of fertility treatments and months of seeking a child to adopt, we finally held a new-born child in our arms. We stood in the birthmother's hospital room in Decatur, GA, looking down into beautiful brand-new brown eyes. We nervously waited for our social worker to arrive to begin sorting through the growing awkwardness. When she finally arrived, she asked us to leave the room so she could visit with the birthmother and baby. A few minutes later, she came out and said something like, "Well, Matt & Lela, you know sometimes things change once the baby is born," and my world seemed to crumble all around me.

    I can hardly type this.

    We had spent two months meeting with this young woman, accompanying her to doctor visits, going out to eat, meeting her family, picking out names together -- and all for nothing. In the end, we could not convince this 17 year old girl that we would be great parents for her child. She changed her mind. She kept her baby.

    After three days of weeping and crying out to -- and perhaps yelling at -- the Lord, we did the only thing that made sense to us. We packed up all the baby paraphernalia that we had collected, drove to her house, and told her that we forgave her. We told her we knew she didn't mean to do anything hurtful to us. We told her that we loved her before there was a baby involved, and so we still loved her. We prayed over her and her little girl, cried some more, and drove away. We were still hurt, but we weren't bitter and angry anymore. Just sad. We came home and closed the door to the newly-decorated nursery.

    Eighteen days later, Isaac Christopher moved in our house and became our son. God, you are much, much too good to me.

    Now while I know this story seems to have a "happily ever after" ending, the truth is that the pain is still real to us -- much as giving birth to a child doesn't erase the pain of an earlier miscarriage. The combined pain of infertility and failed adoption means that I never ask any childless couple, "So, when are you guys ever gonna have kids?" That question used to cut our hearts out. Shoot, I don't even ask, "Do you have children?" The experience means that we bend over backwards to show our gratitude to Isaac's birthmother. We send her pictures, presents, cards from Isaac on every major holiday (including Mother's Day), and we take Isaac to visit her twice a year. The experience has given us a ministry to childless, grieving couples. And we've also found that we have a ministry to other birthmothers, too.

    I swore to myself that although I would no doubt be grateful for the way God turned things around so fast, that I would never, ever forget the pain. The pain reminds me to be sensitive to the pain of others. Loss is loss, grief is grief, and pain is pain. God can use my pain to bring comfort, faith and hope.

    From Lamentations 3:
    19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
    20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
    21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
    22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
    23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
    24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him."
    25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
    26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the LORD.

    I always like to point out that verse 26 says that's it's "good" -- not "fun" -- to wait on the Lord's salvation.

    My apologies -- I'm long-winded.

    But I'm not ANONYMOUSLY long-winded. :-)

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 7/08/2004 09:44:00 PM  

  • Matt, you're definitely not long-winded. (Besides, considering the bulk of your comment is a quote from lamentations, I'd blame Jeremiah for being long-winded instead.)


    And death isn't the only life-changing loss people suffer, as you've eloquently pointed out. Thanks for reminding us. I'm thankful God is using you and your wife through this.

    By Blogger Q, at 7/09/2004 06:56:00 AM  

  • Here, here! Thank you for sharing that Matt, Jon and Mike.
    Where we are in life (physically, spiritually, or otherwise) depends on how we react to every situation that is thrown, hurled, side armed, or gently tossed at us.
    By building on thosee feelings and learning to cope with situations, we also learn to (hopefully) lean on God and trust in his plan and love for each of us.
    Warm fuzzies all around.
    Jon ~ I really miss those Sunday Nite Alive times. Thank you for such spirit building moments! <3 :)

    By Blogger Mae, at 7/09/2004 07:07:00 AM  

  • Matt, I am speechless! Wow!

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/09/2004 11:37:00 AM  

  • "Where I come from, you don't judge someone's values based on how they use the word in a political ad. You judge their values based upon what they've spent their life doing." - John Edwards, VP Candidate, DNC '04

    This was the applause line for me, because I heard, "You shall know a tree by its fruit."

    When they lost their son, a grief so deep it can tear marriages and lives apart, they embraced one another and embraced new life. Good fruit.

    By Blogger James, at 7/31/2004 05:17:00 PM  

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