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Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities

Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities

3.3 316
by Elizabeth Edwards

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The bestselling author of Saving Graces shares her inspirational message on the challenges and blessings of coping with adversity.

She’s one of the most beloved political figures in the country, and on the surface, seems to have led a charmed life. In many ways, she has. Beautiful family. Thriving career. Supportive friendship. Loving marriage


The bestselling author of Saving Graces shares her inspirational message on the challenges and blessings of coping with adversity.

She’s one of the most beloved political figures in the country, and on the surface, seems to have led a charmed life. In many ways, she has. Beautiful family. Thriving career. Supportive friendship. Loving marriage. But she’s no stranger to adversity. Many know of the strength she had shown after her son, Wade, was killed in a freak car accident when he was only sixteen years old. She would exhibit this remarkable grace and courage again when the very private matter of her husband's infidelity became public fodder. And her own life has been on the line. Days before the 2004 presidential election—when her husband John was running for vice president—she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After rounds of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation the cancer went away—only to reoccur in 2007.

While on the campaign trail, Elizabeth met many others who have had to contend with serious adversity in their lives, and in Resilience, she draws on their experiences as well as her own, crafting an unsentimental and ultimately inspirational meditation on the gifts we can find among life’s biggest challenges. This short, powerful, pocket-sized inspirational book makes an ideal gift for anyone dealing with difficulties in their life, who can find peace in knowing they are not alone, and promise that things can get better.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Short but surprisingly deep…It's a small book but a powerful one. And when you finish it you have not just a deeper understanding of Elizabeth Edwards but also a better appreciation for the strength of will it can take to survive.” –Los Angeles Times

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7.58(w) x 5.12(h) x 0.54(d)

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chapter 1

I stood at the sink in an impossibly bright hospital room washing my face, washing away the heat that, with the doctor's words, had come rushing to my face and neck and chest to fill every pore, to gather in the corners of my eyes and to line my lips and thicken my tongue. "He will never walk, his brain is dead," the doctor had said. It still burned. How much cold water would it take to take the hot sting out of those words?

My father lay immobile behind me, a crisp sheet folded neatly across his chest, the crease apparently to be forever perfect above his forever-still form. I had not been able to bear to see him like that any longer, so I had turned away and instead watched my own warped reflection in the metal mirror that seemed to mimic the distortions within me. The doctor's words were all I could hear inside my head, but they were too immense, too life-changing to stay in my head. They spilled out and filled the room, bouncing back from the walls and the metal me in the mirror, and with every echo a new torment: He will not walk. His brain is dead. He will not walk. His brain is dead. . . . I kept cupping water to my face, unable to cool the heat but equally unable to stop trying.

The day before, this solid man who would be seventy in four days, who still had cannonballs for shoulders and the calf muscles of a twenty-fiveyear-old fullback, had fallen over while eating a salad for dinner. He had played tennis in the morning and had gone biking in the afternoon. He came in to dinner after planting spring flowers in the yard. Every minute of his day was a test of his body, a test he passed over and over again. And then, with no warning, a massive stroke, and he could not move from the floor. I was forty years old, and I had never seen him fail at a single physical thing he had tried to do. Not once in forty years.

I closed my eyes as I cupped the water, and the images of my well father, strong and full of life, gathered on top of one another. Eating a hot pepper from his garden in Naples and thinking it a green pepper, his face goes flush, tears fill his eyes, his glasses fog up, but he chews on. And then, grinning at his astonished family, he gets up and picks another. The awestruck faces of the enlisted men he commanded in Japan when he came out of the pool into which they had thrown him and, with his soaking wet flight suit clinging to him, they saw his supremely muscled form outlined. News that he had made captain had come in while he was on an early-morning flight, so when he stepped out of the jet in his flight suit, his squadron had rallied around him cheering and had thrown him into the pool in giddy celebration. I always suspected that the vision of him earned him a respect from those enlisted men that morning that the additional stripe on his sleeve would not have won him.

I had sat with him at Bethesda Naval Hospital when he had four discs in his spine fused, the final remedy two decades after his back was injured when the wheels on the jet he was getting ready to pilot collapsed beneath the plane on the tarmac. He should have been groggy and still in the hours after recovery, but he was smiling at everyone, and teasing the nurses by pretending to smoke an endless series of imaginary cigarettes. Within weeks, he was back on his bicycle, and within months, he was back on the tennis court. There was the time his nose was flattened in college in a football game. The doctors said it was so crushed that he could choose whatever shape he wanted since they were starting from scratch. So he chose the shape he had had before. And he took up lacrosse, and he was an all-American his first year. He used to lift women up -- my mother and her friends -- and twirl them head over heels like batons. Proper women in 1950s shirtwaists ignored the fact that their garter belts had been on display, and they giggled to be treated as girls again. He carried my brother, my sister, and me all at once on his wide shoulders upstairs to bed when we were youngsters as if we were stuffed animals. Now, impossibly, he lay dying behind me, unable to move, unable to speak. The doctor had called us into the room to tell us. My sister sat with her arm around my mother. My brother sat holding our father's hand. I stood at the foot of the bed, my eyes on my father's still face, not on the doctor I had never seen before. Each of us cried, not in a wailing way, but in low, lonely moans. The doctor talked on about the effect of the stroke on the blood flow to his brain, and we each half-listened, for truthfully nothing after "his brain is dead" could penetrate. Tracks of silent tears covered all of our cheeks. When the doctor left, we all hugged one another, grieving our collective loss and our individual ones, then everyone else left the room. I had to tell my children, ten-year-old Wade and eight-year-old Cate, where they waited in the hall with their father. And I had to wash my face before I would tell them.

I could clean the tear tracks, but the heat would not go away. I gave up and turned to leave and face the children. As I turned, I looked again at my father, but now he was looking back. He was still immobile, his huge bulk still pinned beneath the tight sheets, but his eyes were open. Not just open but wide dishes of panic. He could not speak. And yet he did. We stood staring at one another-I haven't any idea how long-and he said, or his eyes said, I am here. I am not dead. I am here. I want to live. I answered back in words. "Don't worry," I said. "We know. We are not giving up on you." And I marched past my family to the nurses' station and told them that that doctor was not allowed back into my father's room under any circumstances.

This was April 18, 1990. We buried my father in April of 2008. Oh, his body kept failing him, little by little until the last of him slipped away eighteen years later. But in between he learned to drive again (in a fairly frightening fashion), and drove until his response time was demonstrably too slow and we could not let him drive any longer. He talked again, in an odd and sometimes inappropriately scatalogical way -- "the boobs are boiling" -- but still making people smile, until he no longer could talk easily, and losing confidence in his voice, he started talking again with his eyes. He danced with my mother for nearly a dozen more years. He never biked or played tennis again, but he traveled. He went to Poland and Spain, he took a cruise and watched the whales off the Alaskan coast. He voted for his son-in-law for vice president of the United States. And he was there to bury his oldest grandson -- my firstborn. But he was also there to hold four more grandchildren -- Ty and Louis and Emma Claire and Jack -- and even two great-grandchildren -- Anna and Zachary -- who were born after his stroke. In the end, he was surrounded by family -- his wife of nearly sixty years, his children and grandchildren, his sister and her children -- when finally, of his own will, he quit fighting and let go.

There were times in the eighteen years more that he lived when he wanted to give up, when he didn't want to keep fighting to drive or to dance or to live. I remember sitting with him once after my son Wade died. We were going through a workbook his rehabilitation therapist had assigned him. I would read; he would answer questions. He got them right at first, and then he started to miss them, a few at first and then all of them. His frustration mounted, and he finally said with awkward resignation that he was a burden he promised himself he would never be and he would just as soon die. I was stunned and angry. I wanted him to live so badly; how could he not want it, too? If you could have Wade back, I asked, but only in your exact condition, no better, would you take him? He raised his head a little, and his deep brown eyes met mine. He nodded. Then you understand how we feel. We know it is not perfect, but nothing really ever is. I reached for his hand and told him you are here, and that is what I want. And, I added, if you think this is getting you out of finishing this assignment, you are wrong. He opened his mouth. It was not the wide smile I remembered, but the gap between his two front teeth showed, and that was smile enough for me.

There is nothing about resilience that I can say that my father did not first utter silently in eighteen years of living inside a two-dimensional cutout of himself. From the first moment when he forced open his eyes to tell me that he was alive, through all the setbacks of a body on which he had relied that subsequently failed him little by little, he held on to whatever he had, however meager it was. He managed somehow to turn whatever he held on to into precisely what he needed to survive. When in the first year he had the audacity to tell the rehabilitation counselor that he wanted to drive, or when in the eighth year he danced with my mother, or when in year sixteen he unabashedly flirted with the aide at the assisted-living center, he was saying to the world what he said to me in 1990: I understand that it will not be all I crave, but I want to live. And so he did. When he could no longer drive himself, he wanted to walk. When he could no longer walk himself, he wanted a wheelchair that he could manage himself. He kept narrowing his life and his expectations to what he had left, and in doing so -- no matter how small his world -- he always reflected the sheer majesty of living.

Too many times I have had to use my father's strength -- or my mother's grace as she stood beside him -- as a touchstone. I suspect we each have someone like him, someone whose personal courage in the face of impossible odds inspires us to do something we thought we could not do, who reminds us that what seems like a mountain in front of us can in fact be climbed. My father was an imperfect man in many ways, but maybe it was better that he was imperfect and that I knew he was, for I learned that perfection was not a requirement of resilience. This was Dad, and if he could decide to live, so could I.

Excerpted from RESILIENCE: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities by Elizabeth Edwards Published by Broadway Books Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Edwards

Meet the Author

ELIZABETH EDWARDS is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Saving Graces. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her two youngest children and husband, John.

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Resilience 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 316 reviews.
Sajerrels More than 1 year ago
I bought the Nook, and then bought this book, for $1.99, why wouldn't I? SHe has a terrific story. It clearly reads above that there are over 200 pages. When I downloaded it, it was just the new Afterforward added. I'm ticked. I sold the actual book I bought late last week - not getting to read all of it, and then I get short changed? Apparently I am not the only one. Regarding the Afterforward - It was classic Elizabeth Edwards, a complete class act. I applaud her for her strength.
TerriCMC More than 1 year ago
I thought I was downloading the entire book. Fifteen pages is all I got and it certainly wasn't worth the read. Disgusted with Barnes & Noble for not clarifying to its customers what they were getting. This is a total ripoff. This isn't the only time B&N didn't notify its customers that this was not a complete book, and it's a bad policy on their part.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who would willingly pay $1.99 for 15 pages? I hope the author is pleased with this because I doubt I will purchase her 'real' book. I had heard many great things about this book and thought that the "New Afterword" was something to identify the book from a book without it, little did I realize that it was all I was purchasing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you, fellow Nook owners, for warning me about this scam. It's bad enough when B&N tries to pass of portion of a book as a freebie. It's even worse when they CHARGE you for it and don't let you know it's only a portion of the book. The one-star review is for B&N, by the way and not Mrs. Edwards. Although I disagree with her estranged husband's politics, I wanted to read her book for her point of view. I was sad to hear of her death and that her children lost their mother to cancer. May she rest in peace.
BN_Nut More than 1 year ago
I was not disappointed with this book. I felt like I was able to get to know an honest and true person. Life is not easy, but it does go on and this only happens with our day to day, minute to minute decisions to continue to live. This book was an honest portrayal of that hard journey and a glimpse of a life behind closed doors. I appreciate that very much.
Francesca_S More than 1 year ago
This book was lovely to read. It is moving and insightful, and although it does not sugarcoat the tragic events in Ms. Edwards's life, its message is uplifting and empowering. It reads more like an essay or a series of essays than a play-by-play memoir of her life, which I didn't expect, but ultimately the book is more personal and emotional than even the most detailed tell-alls. Even though my own life is quite different from the author's, by the end, I felt very close to her. Which is why the negative media coverage surrounding this book really bothers me. That this book engendered any hateful "backlash" is ridiculous, and in my opinion, can only be a symptom of reviewers NOT reading the book or lifting and skewing quotes for their own agendas. Maureen Dowd is the worst example of this- her May 5th column could not have been nastier or more off base. It makes me sad to think this strong, kind woman is so misunderstood or maligned by these attention-seekers. Even skimming the book, it is clear that Ms. Edwards is not motivated by ambition, or revenge, or any of the ugly things the media has said. She does not "lash out" at the other woman, she does not "flog" her husband. Elizabeth Edwards is much more than a cancer patient, a grieving mother, or a struggling spouse. This book seems to be this kind, strong woman's wish to show that even when you are a victim of tragedy and hardships that are out of your control, that victimhood does not define you. You can adapt and grow and redefine yourself to find happiness. Ms. Edwards has led a life of extraordinary highs and lows, and she has genuine insights from her experience. It's an empowering story. I loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Listening to Elizabeth Edwards share the pain and joys of her life is like sitting in a room with someone you have known for a lifetime and want to do something to ease her hurt. She is a beautiful writer and reader who expresses her thoughts and feelings like no other author I've heard. Don't expect this one to be a "juicy scandal". Elizabeth Edwards has too much class and sensitivity to get into that. Her book is a must-read...and even better, a must-listen audio. Highly recommend.
musicVA More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. It was well written and definitely from the heart. I am sorry this tragedy came into her life at the same time she is battling cancer, but she shows so much strength and courage. I would definitely recommend this book and I found myself reading it in a couple of sittings.
jrsedivy More than 1 year ago
"Resilience" was the first book I had read by Elizabeth Edwards, and prior to reading it I had known very little about the wife of John Edwards. I was unsure of what to expect and thought it would be somewhat political. In reality there was only a slight bit of political discussion, but what I did find was a great book with personal discussions on how to overcome difficulties that one may encounter. Elizabeth Edwards is no stranger to overcoming life's challenges having watched the passing of her father, death of a teenage son, her bouts with bone and breast Cancer, and infidelity to name a few of the substantial challenges she has discussed. The end result is a portrait of a strong woman with deep support for her husband and family. A great read for those either wanting to know more about Elizabeth Edwards or advice on how to navigate turbulent times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A touching story filled with true life. Too much Redundancy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had just finished reading Resilience and had enjoyed it. I thought this was an additional Afterward written after the book was pubished as Elizabeth neared the end. It was not. It was the exact ending of the book. Very misleading and a wasted expense. Disappointed.
7647pes1951 More than 1 year ago
It is sad,and sad can be OK however I came away from this book feeling like I understood better why John cheated on her. ALthough there is never any reason to cheat and especially when a spouse or partner is dying I see that this was a very troubled woman for many many years. She lived with a crumbeling white picket fence around her and Im sorry but that never works.She lost it when her son died and really never came back. It is sad. I do not think I would want to have left this book as a legacy. In fact if I had written things like this in a journal I woudl hide it an dhope noone ever found it. I think she was a bitter angry woman and I always though she was strong and worth being like someone to look up to but now I have changed my mind. I do not look up to her. I only feel sad
Legalgal62 More than 1 year ago
This is an afterword to the original book. I see nowhere that it indicates how many pages it contains. Read and understand what you have read. You will be less disappointed in the end. I am rating the book for the book, not on what B&N has represented. Elizabeth Edwards went through a lot in her life. She was a tough lady and an excellent writer. She tends to go on and on about things a little too much for my taste, but I'm sure writing this was cathartic for her. Overall, both books made for interesting reads.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't complain if you purchase an ebook that is not a completely one. Before you purchase, look at the size of the file. If it is a small file, the ebook will not be a complete one, merely a sample. It is clearly posted. It is not a rip-off or a hoax. Take some responsibility, people!!
LLW0608 More than 1 year ago
Her grace, dignity and courage, as exemplified in this book, are an example for us all. Having listened to her read Resilience, I felt I knew her just a bit, and greatly admired what I saw and heard. The world is a bit grayer today, and listening to this book again will no doubt be a poignant experience. However, "the days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered," and I would encourage anyone to read her book.
ROFLT More than 1 year ago
So excited to buy my first ebook to use on my ereader for iphone by Barnes and Noble, only to find out it is 15 pages of forward and no mention of that in the description! In my excitement didnt read all the other reveiws and apparently I am not the only one RIPPED OFF! I have made my LAST purchase from Barnes and Noble and now see why so many use Amazon and Borders!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a sad life this woman has led, yet she has the fortitude to get up and do her best. Although the death of her son Wade was traumatic and she is suffering with cancer, she still had the fortitude to stand behind her husband on the campaign trail. I give her a high five! I am so sorry that her lying, cheating husband did not appreciate her and let her down in her time of need. This book is a realistic exploration of doing one's best in tough times. I recommend it highly. I also recommend two other books: The first must-have is Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self to learn how to put your best self in charge and make the most of every situation. The other is Eat, Pray and Love which is a woman's search for meaning, peace and joy. Read all three books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Warm, touching, true to life- written beautifully Elizabeth Edwards is sharing her travels
ReadinginNC More than 1 year ago
In a lot of ways, Resilience is a rehash of Saving Graces in a condensed version with the exception of her husband's dillances being included. Saving Graces is a much better book. It appears the Mrs. Edward's is still grieving the death of her son, and to add to her burden, the "death" of her marriage as she knew it. I hope that she is getting professional counseling and not necessarily relying on her Internet friends.
I_DO-FACES More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book would be more balanced when it came to the areas in Elizabeth's life lately that I think would have required resilience in order to navigate the pathways--her cancer, the loss of her son and her husband's 'indicresion' as she puts it. Instead I found that the book focused on the loss of her son and the coping mechanisms that she used to move her through that dreadful period--while it was new and fresh and while it still hangs over her today. I was VERY disappointed that there was so little about her battle with cancer --so that others might benefit from her experience--and how she managed to face that along with everything else that was going on. Many women are consumed by cancer to the point that they can do nothing but live with their cancer. While I did not expect a detailed account of John's affair, it was hardly mentioned. I thought she would tell us more about how she responded and coped with the news---and conntinued be a supportive mother in a home where this was so raw and fresh. Therefore, thought the book was misrepresented and I was very disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read alot of books and this is the absolute worse. Had this book been written by an unknown it would never have been published. This poor woman needs professional help. I have also lost a son and am very famaliar with the loss and pain. However it is way past time to stop grieving and for goodness sake celebrate the children already here This is especially important since her days are "numbered". Yes, I also have been living through the ravages of rectal cancer. This is a very depressing book and I would not share it or purchase it as a present.
KKDC More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for anyone who feels like they are the only one who understands what they are going through. Elizabeth Edwards writes about her feelings and reactions to her son's death, her cancer diagnosis, and the affair. As she writes in the book, it is not a juicy insight into her husband's horrible affair, but an example of a healthy response to a bad situation. Elizabeth Edwards does an excellent job of showing her own humanity and the way she made it through. A great book to show the light at the end of the tunnel.
GMC More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating yet depressing. If you are looking for an inspirational book about resilience, this is not the one. Much of the book pertains to the death of her son Wade, and those excerpts were very sad and dark, especially for those who have children of their own. Elizabeth describes her unimaginable pain so well that you can feel yourself hurting and your heart aching as you read. The book is well written - Elizabeth's writing is very poetic, but it is not the inspirational piece I thought it would be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth Edwards has elegant bravery!