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Remembering Elizabeth Edwards

GUY RAZ, host:

Joining us now is Jennifer Palmieri. She was press secretary for John Edwards' 2004 presidential race and a close friend of Elizabeth Edwards.

And first, Jennifer, I'm very sorry to hear about your loss this evening.

Ms. JENNIFER PALMIERI (Senior Vice President, Center for American Progress): Thank you. Thanks very much.

RAZ: Elizabeth Edwards became such a public figure in the last decade of her life. What side of her did you know that, you know, maybe the rest of us never saw?

Ms. PALMIERI: You know, I think people saw that she was a great - she was a great campaigner. She was a real advocate, particularly for health care. She's obviously a wonderful writer, wrote two New York Times bestsellers. But when I think of her, I just think of her most - first and foremost as a mom.

The first time I met her, she opened the door to her house and she had a Diet Coke at one hand and a yogurt at the other, either one these because this is all I have in the house. I'm going to loose 40 pounds. And you just liked her immediately. And to everyone on the campaign, to everyone she met on the campaign trail, to everybody that she comforted who had had cancer, perhaps lost a child that she also encounter in travel, she was a mom. And I know. I mean, we spoke about it. That's what she would like to be remembered most for.

RAZ: She, of course, dealt with them over the course of her life, the death of her teenage son, obviously, her fight against cancer, the revelations - a very public revelations about her estranged husband, John Edwards, revelations that he had fathered a child with another woman.

Ms. PALMIERI: Mm-hmm.

RAZ: You know, she sort of came across as a kind of steely, strong person who could withstand these things. But did you get a sense that she was vulnerable as well?

Ms. PALMIERI: Yes. She was definitely human. And then the, you know, she posted a message yesterday on her Facebook page where she talked about how the struggle is always to bring grace - as much grace and joy into your life as possible. And that by trying to be resilient, she learned how to have the grace to get through difficult times and to have the -and then that made her appreciate the joyful times all the more. But, you know, she also noted in that there's days where all of us have a problem trying to muster whatever strength we need. And I spent many difficult moments with her. But she never - ultimately never lost a sense of humor about it. Sometimes, I would call her when I was having a bad day and she said, really? Want to trade places?

(Soundbite of laughter)

So she, you know, she was like, always managed to keep a little bit of warrant and humor even when it got really tough. But remarkable how she managed (unintelligible) to the circumstances that you laid out there are very difficult to figure out a way to bring joy back into her life.

RAZ: How do you think that she will want us to remember her?

Ms. PALMIERI: I know how she would. I mean, we talked about it. And she wants to be - you know, as I said, first and foremost as a mother, and that as someone who learned to face adversity with grace and had figured out a way to always bring joy back into her life. And she has a (unintelligible) on her kitchen wall about it even that reminds us to not worry about the cracks that we encounter in our lives, that life's not perfect and that the cracks are what the light - the light shine through.

RAZ: That's Jennifer Palmieri. She's now the senior vice president for communications at the Center for American Progress, and she served as the press secretary for John Edwards' 2004 presidential race. She was talking about her friend, Elizabeth Edwards who died this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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