Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ daughter-in-law, 46-year-old Rainè Riggs, had been feeling unwell for weeks — though none of the doctors knew why — when the illness that had been killing her was finally given a name: neuroendocrine cancer.
Two days later, she was dead.
Some of Riggs’ final moments were spent with the three children who were her “crowning achievement,” her family remembered in a heartbroken obituary announcing her death on Saturday.
“Her last words were to tell her children how much she loved them and she was so sorry that she got sick,” Riggs’ family wrote. “Her last moment was spent with her No. 1 cheerleader, her mother, holding her hand and whispering in her ear how much she loved her.”
And then she was gone.
In her obituary, Riggs’ family listed her many academic and professional accomplishments — her post-graduate degrees from Brown University and the University of Vermont; her time as co-director of behavioral medicine at Dartmouth Medical School; her volunteer work with 9/11 survivors, children in hospice and the homeless. (She met her husband, Levi Sanders, while working at a food shelter, the family said.)
“Even with all of the achievements in education, Rainè always said her crowning achievement in life was the day she became a mother,” the family said.
She and Levi raised three children: Grayson, Ryleigh and Sunnee.
“From the first moment she held them in her arms, her entire world changed,” according to her obituary. “Rainè’s every thought was of her children. She truly strived to make every day of their lives special.”
“She made sure the summer was filled with little trips and never wasted a day,” her family said. They would go berry-picking, gathering sweet treats for all-day baking sessions. She also “loved” to travel to festivals with the kids, whom she “always allowed … to pick the weekend adventures.”
She especially loved to be by the water — the lake or ocean, it didn’t matter, as long as she was on the beach.
“Rainè truly lived every day with her children as though it may be the last,” according to her obituary.
Three weeks ago, she got sick. “The hospitals were stumped,” her family said, until doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center were able to give her a diagnosis in her final days.
“How do you go on day by day when your heart just keeps breaking over and over?” her family wrote in her obituary.
But go on they will: “We promised her we would. We promised to love her children everyday as if they were our own. We promised to take them on great adventures, to take as many pictures as we could, to live every day as if it were the last, to share in their heartaches and celebrate their achievements.
“We promised this to her and so we will do it and hopefully every day the pain will become a little less. It is what she wanted.”
According to Riggs’ obituary, the family is planning a private funeral service, as she wanted.