Saying Goodbye To Two Women

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

I was planning to write this week’s column about Elizabeth Edwards, but I just came from Waltraud Kelly’s funeral and now I want to write about her, too.

Both women died last week from breast cancer. So much that was said about Elizabeth Edwards could be said about Waltraud as well.

Resilience and grace are the two words that especially resonate.

Elizabeth and Waltraud were resilient in that they kept moving forward even though they both understood that their disease could not be cured. They continued to receive treatment to keep their cancers under control for as long as possible while maintaining a good quality of life.

They reached a comfortable balance between maintaining hope and being realistic. They simply kept on doing the best they could

And both women knew the sorrow of the death of a child. I don’t think any parent ever fully recovers from this, but they continued to move forward. Their families relied on them.

As Elizabeth Edwards wrote, “Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”

Grace is a word that’s hard for me to define, but I know that Elizabeth and Waltraud possessed it. They somehow made life better for those in their presence.

One notable difference between Waltraud and Elizabeth is that Waltraud was happily married to Ed Kelly for 50 years. They were always together and he constantly supported her in big ways and in small ways. Ed, too, possesses grace.

Saying goodbye is painful, but we celebrate the lives of Elizabeth Edwards and Waltraud Kelly. Their resilience and grace will continue to inspire and guide us.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here to see all of Bob’s columns

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