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Friend: Edwards never saw herself as a victim

Every year on the first day of Hanukkah, Glenn Bergenfield would get a call from his friend Elizabeth Edwards.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Every year on the first day of Hanukkah, Glenn Bergenfield would get a call from his friend Elizabeth Edwards.

“She said, ‘Hanukkah came early this year. Earliest yet,’” Bergenfield said of his conversation with old law school classmate on Dec. 1.

But this year’s conversation was different. Bergenfield, of Pennsylvania, said Edwards called from the hospital because her cancer had spread.

Though Edwards’ condition didn’t look good, she was still teasing her friend.

“She was unafraid. That’s for sure,” he said.

On Saturday, Bergenfield will deliver one of three eulogies at Edwards' funeral. 

"It's just awful to not have her around," he said Friday. 

The two met at the University of North Carolina School of Law in the 1970s.

“She was brilliant and beautiful,” Bergenfield recalled.

Bergenfield will never forget his first impression of Edwards. The then-25-year-old showed her true grit when a tough professor called on her after humiliating everyone else in the class.

“She understood the case, understood the questions (and) fielded them. It was breathtaking,” he remembered.

Bergenfield knew he had to get to know her. He did and for the next three decades the two were friends.

Edwards was someone, Bergenfield said, who could do so much so supremely well.

“I heard her sing. She has a beautiful voice. I didn’t know she could,” he said.

Edwards had an index of 5,000 songs she could sing, he said. 

She was also a bestselling author, having crafted her book “Saving Graces” in less than six months.

“She writes spectacularly well,” Bergenfield said.

Edwards was also skilled in dealing with issues including loss, sickness and betrayal.

“She didn’t see herself as a victim of anything or anyone, ever. That kind of courage allowed her to go on,” he said.

Bergenfield said he never felt intimidated by Edwards. He said she had a very approachable, down-to-earth demeanor.

When delivering her eulogy, Bergenfield said he wants to explain how joyful her life was. 

Her determination to live life to the fullest was her legacy, he said. 

"I don’t know how else she can prove it other than the life that she lived when so many difficult things happened to her, and she goes on and on and is productive. That’s the thing to do. There are books to write. There are songs to sing, people to give love to," he said.

Edwards will be laid to rest Saturday next to her son during a private graveside ceremony. A public service will be prior to the burial at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, according to details released by the Edwards family on Thursday.

Among those expected to attend the services are Sen. John Kerry, Gov. Bev Perdue, Sen. Kay Hagan, Reps. David Price, Brad Miller, Larry Kissell, Bob Etheridge and G.K. Butterfield, Iowa First Lady Mary Culver, former White House Chief of Staff John Pondersa and Vicki Kennedy, the wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

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Bryan Mims, Reporter
Geof Levine, Photographer
Kathy Hanrahan, Web Editor

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