Elizabeth Edwards was remembered today as a woman who was feisty, witty, "knew who she was" and never stinted on showing her love for her children.
Hundreds of family members, friends and well-wishers filled the Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, N.C., to honor the life of the attorney, best-selling author and wife of former vice presidential candidate John Edwards in a somber but celebratory memorial service.
Remembered as a personable woman of strong conviction and immense intelligence, Edwards was beset by a number of tragedies throughout her life, including the death of her 16-year-old son Wade in a 1996 car crash, the 2008 revelation of her husband's infidelity, and the six-year battle with breast cancer that claimed her life earlier this week -- all of which she handled with courage and grace.
The hour-long service at the church where Edwards turned for support after her son's death was attended by a number of political heavyweights, including Sen. John Kerry, who topped the Democratic presidential ticket in 2004 when John Edwards made his vice presidential run, and Vicki Kennedy, wife of late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue and Sen. Kay Hagan were also expected to attend.
Eulogies were delivered by Edwards' oldest daughter, Cate, and Edwards' longtime friends Hargrave McElroy and Glenn Bergenfield. John Edwards did not speak at the proceedings.
"She knew who she was," McElroy said to the gathered mourners. "She never held back. She was without pretence."
"Would it be shallow of me to say here that she was gorgeous?" asked Bergenfield, a longtime friend and classmate of Edwards' at the University of North Carolina. "Not law school good looking, but big world, head turning, walk-into-the-pole gorgeous."
Some happy news did come for the family recently when Cate Edwards announced that she is engaged to be wed to her longtime boyfriend Trevor Upham, according to People magazine. The couple met while studying at Princeton University and got engaged over Thanksgiving weekend.
"She was feisty and she was witty," Cate Edwards said of her mother today. "She always had the ability to make fun of herself and laugh at herself. She was smart as a whip and tried never to hold that over anyone, unless she was right and they were wrong."
Cate Edwards also went on to read from a letter filled with words of wisdom that she said her mother had been writing to her children for years
"I have loved you in the best ways that I know how," she read. "I'll admit my shortcomings more than you know. For when I was less than I could have been, should have been, I did not, you did not get all that you deserve from me.
"For all I have said about life, I want you to know that all I ever really needed was you. Wherever I am wherever you are, I have my arms wrapped around you."
After today's funeral, Edwards was to be buried at nearby Oakwood Cemetery, alongside her son Wade.
Funeral Draws Political Strife
Edwards' funeral became a cause for protest by the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, whose members have become infamous for picketing the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers.
The Topeka, Kan., based church -- essentially the extended family of the church's founder, fundamentalist pastor Fred Phelps -- said Edwards is "going to hell" because she admitted to doubting her faith when her oldest son died in 1996, according to The Associated Press.
"God heard self-absorbed Elizabeth as she rode the talk show circuit spewing blasphemy," Westboro said in a statement.
"Elizabeth Edwards and her faithless husband, John, lightly esteemed what they had. They coveted things that were not theirs, and presumptuously thought they could control God," the church said.
In an interview with news radio 680 WPTF in Raleigh, Shirley Phelps-Rope, Fred Phelps' daughter, said she believes that God gave Edwards cancer as retribution.
"Of course that's what he did. And then he gave her a whoring husband. Don't you understand? You don't get to stomp your feet and flip off God and think that it's going to go well for you," Phelps-Rope said.
The Church's plan to picket the funeral has drawn huge counter- protest. As five Westboro members arrived this morning -- two adults and three children -- a crowd of 200-plus counter- protesters braved the raid and drowning out shouts from the Westboro clan, telling them to "go back to Kansas."
All of the protesting is taking place two blocks from the Edenton Street United Methodist Church.
A Peaceful End
Edwards was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004, just one day after the Kerry-Edwards ticket lost to George W. Bush in that year's presidential election. After grueling treatments she was declared cancer-free, but the disease returned in an incurable form in 2007. She died on Dec. 7 of liver failure.
John Edwards and her three children were among those at her side when she died, according to a family friend, who described the environment in the house as warm and peaceful and said the mood was sad, but also full of warm feelings at the time.
One day before losing her battle with cancer, Edwards wrote the following message to her fans and supporters on her Facebook page:
"You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces? My family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope," she wrote. "These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined."
In recent years, Elizabeth authored two best-selling books -- "Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers" and "Resilience: The New Afterword" -- and became a champion of causes involving poverty and cancer.
She is survived by three children -- 28-year-old Cate, 12-year-old Emma Claire and 10-year-old Jack.
During her eulogy, Cate Edwards shared a personal detail about her and her sibling's relationship with their mother.
"As some of you may know, Emma, Jack and I ended every conversation with our mom by saying 'I love you more,'" she said. "And she always responded by saying 'No, I love you more.' And as you can imagine, none of us ever won that battle.
"But today I have the honor of being the last to say: 'Mom I really, really love you more.'"
ABC News' Emily Friedman, Leezel Tanglao and The Associated Press contributed to this report.