12/11/2010 AT 12:00 AM ET
In the days before Elizabeth Edwards’s doctors told her further cancer treatment was futile, daughter Cate gave her mother the happiest news: She was engaged to longtime sweetheart Trevor Upham.
The couple, who met as students at Princeton University, got engaged over Thanksgiving weekend after spending the holiday at the family’s Chapel Hill, N.C., home, and sharing a feast prepared by Cate’s aunt, Nancy Anania.
“Elizabeth was thrilled,” one close friend told PEOPLE Friday night, on the eve of Edwards’s funeral, where Cate, 28, was expected to deliver a eulogy and Upham would serve as pallbearer.
Upham, a physician who was a year ahead of Cate at school, often helped Elizabeth Edwards dissect the medical information she got from her oncologist. She would reciprocate by pushing her lotions and potions on him, Upham jokingly told PEOPLE over the summer.
He also said Cate, an anti-discrimination lawyer in Washington, and her mother (also a lawyer by training) were alike in many ways: “They have the same quirks, they like the same things. I think they even hold their phones the same way.”