Cate and John Edwards

More than 1,000 people gathered at a North Carolina church Saturday to mourn Elizabeth Edwards, who was remembered for her strength and her love for her family.

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"She has been a lighthouse to all of us. She's always been that source of light to us. Every lesson she has taught us has become part of our ethic," Edwards' oldest daughter, Cate, said in a eulogy.

The public funeral for Edwards, who died Tuesday at age 61 after a six-year battle with breast cancer, was held at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh — the same church at which Edwards mourned after her 16-year-old son, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996.

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In addition to Cate, Edwards' longtime friends, Hargrave McElroy and Glenn Bergenfield, gave eulogies, recounting the best-selling author's competitive nature and love of Christmas.

Edwards' estranged husband, former North Carolina senator John Edwards, did not speak. He arrived at the service hand-in-hand with Cate and the couple's two youngest children, Emma Claire, 12, and Jack, 10.

Cate, 28, also read from a letter her mother had written for her children before her death.

"I've loved you in the best ways I've known how," the letter said. "All I ever really needed was you, your love, your presence, to make my life complete."

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Mourners included Sen. John Kerry, John Edwards' 2004 presidential running mate, and North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Among the eight pallbearers were Cate's new fiancé, Trevor Upham, and four of Wade's childhood friends, including Tyler Highsmith, who was in the passenger seat of Wade's car the day he died.

Edwards will be laid to rest next to her son.