RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters Life!) - Elizabeth Edwards was eulogized on Saturday as a woman who lived her public life at the center of raw emotions but found strength in family, friends and the strangers who shared her struggles.
More than 1,000 mourners filled a Methodist church for the funeral of Edwards, 61, the estranged wife of 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards. She died on Tuesday six years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Edwards and her husband announced in January they had separated after 32 years of marriage. The split followed a scandal in which the former U.S. senator and two-time presidential candidate had an affair and fathered a baby with a campaign aide.
Elizabeth Edwards wrote two best-selling books about coping with the death of her oldest son, Wade, in a 1996 traffic accident, her cancer and her husband’s infidelity.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer and treated in 2004. The cancer returned in 2007 and spread to other parts of her body.
John Edwards, who was with her in her final days, did not speak at the funeral. He escorted Catherine and the Edwards’ other surviving children, Jack, 10, and Emma Claire, 12.
Among the attendees were John Edwards’ 2004 presidential running mate, Senator John Kerry, and Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Senator Edward Kennedy.
The funeral on a cold, rainy afternoon was preceded by a demonstration a block away by picketers from the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.
Members of the tiny church have gained notoriety for appearing at military funerals to declare that God punished the soldiers because the United States accepts homosexuality.
Church members said they targeted Edwards’ funeral because she supported equal rights for gays. Three adults and two children stood behind a police barricade holding signs that included: “Thank God For Breast Cancer.”
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in October on whether the church has the legal right to hold protests at U.S. military funerals.
Across the street, several hundred counter-demonstrators waved American flags, chanted: “Love, not hate” and held signs that included: “Let them say goodbye in peace.”
At the close of her eulogy, Catharine Edwards said her mother was about love, especially the love of her children.
“As some of you know, Emma, Jack and I ended every conversation with our mom by saying, ‘I love you more,’ And she always responded, ‘No, I love you more.’ And, as you can imagine, none of us ever won that battle,” she said.
“But today I have the honor of being the last to say, ‘Mom, I really, really love you more.’”
Editing by Peter Cooney