Facing Death and Divorce at the Same Time

Why some people, including John and Elizabeth Edwards and Dennis Hopper and his wife, opt to go through two awful things at once: divorcing and dying

Illustration by John Hersey for TIME

Dennis Hopper is not world famous because of his stability and family values. He made Easy Rider ; it would be a letdown if he were Mr. Domesticated. But even by Hollywood standards, the unraveling of his fifth marriage is a barn burner. The actor, 73, filed for divorce from the former Victoria Duffy, 42, his wife of 13 years, in December in the midst of his life-or-death battle against metastasized cancer. She countersued in January. Among the milder of her claims was that he was not in his right mind.

Then there's Elizabeth Edwards , wife of the former presidential...

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