Elizabeth Edwards' Gift

What Women Really Think
June 9 2011 5:04 PM

Elizabeth Edwards' Gift

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There’s a brief, poignant profile of Cate Edwards, oldest child of John Edwards, in today’s New York Times . I talked with people this week who were appalled at what they thought was pressure by Edwards on Cate to have her by his side, as a way of garnering sympathy, when he was indicted. But as the article makes clear, their relationship is both loving and complicated (they are a father and daughter, after all). The late Elizabeth Edwards gave Cate a major gift when she said at the end of her life that she did not want Cate or any of their children to shun their father because of his tawdry behavior and deceit.  A friend of Elizabeth’s is quoted as saying Elizabeth told Cate that standing by her father would not mean betraying her mother.

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Cate has been though a lifetime of pain in her 29 years – the losses of her brother and mother, the emotional battering that Edward’s infidelity caused.  She has emerged as a strong, admirable young woman. Given her wealth she could have been a socialite or dilettante, but she is working hard at her law career, and in the fall will marry her college sweetheart, a doctor. She could be bitter or self-pitying. But she is quiet and solid, and embraces her role of helping to raise her much younger siblings. I just hope that her whole life hasn’t been one of being the dutiful, responsible one, the emotional sounding board for unhappy parents. If the charges against Edwards are prosecutorial overreach, then he should walk. And if he does, whatever one feels about Edwards, it will be easy to be happy for Cate.

Photograph of Cate and John Edwards by Getty Images.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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