A Vice-Presidential Whisper
Vice-President Joe Biden recently gave our nation a special whisper.
I am not talking about the political announcement concerning his intention not to run for President of the United States. I am talking about his very public grief whisper.
Joseph Biden is no stranger to loss. In 1972, shortly after his election to the U.S. Senate, his first wife Neilia and infant daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident. In the aftermath of this tragedy, he figured out how to balance work and single fatherhood by nightly taking the train from Washington D.C. to his home in Delaware to be with his two surviving sons. He found his new normal.http://people.com/article/joe-biden-family-tragedies-beau-biden-death
And then in May 2015, this statesman once again came face to face with death. This time, the sad farewell was to his beloved adult son Beau, who succumbed to brain cancer. Now as the Vice-President, Joe’s persona was larger and the public spotlight was brighter. The extensive media coverage spilled his loss into our homes.
When I heard the news this past spring about Beau, I felt a familiar, uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and a tightening in my throat. It was not because I had a personal relationship with the Biden family, but I felt a connection. I recognized the same deep pain on Beau’s parents’ faces that my late husband David’s mother and father had on theirs at the memorial service of their first born son.
As I watched the funeral on television, my eyes were drawn to Hallie, the young widow, with her young son and daughter next to her. I could see myself 22 years ago, with my young children and David’s older son by my side. Perhaps on that day, as other American eyes were watching the same scene, they were focused on one of the other family mourners. A brother giving the eulogy for his sibling. Young children saying goodbye to their father. Parents burying a child. Depending on our personal experiences, we were all probably feeling a sense of sadness and maybe reminded of a loss of our own.
Grief is universal at the basic biological level. However, for the average citizen, the details of our personal mourning process don’t make front page news or warrant TV coverage.
Vice-President Biden was in the midst of his grief journey in the uncomfortable glare of a nation as he wrestled with his pending career decision. Past experience taught him that grief does not have a designated timeline or prescribed agenda. During the months following his son’s death, I think he tried hard to listen to his heart and to his whispers. He dedicated the necessary time to his family, leaving the political runway too short for a presidential take-off.
I for one admired his genuine dialogue with the American public about his loss and his need to continue spending time healing as a family. I am pleased that he allowed his gentler side to be exposed in an arena that rarely has space for feelings and human emotions. I am happy that he brought light to the dark shadows of grief.
“We’re just not there yet,” he said as he was pressed for a choice in the early fall. “My family and I are just not there yet.”
Maybe these bold statements will allow others to unburden their hearts and take a moment to exhale as they navigate their grief journey.
Thank you Vice-President Biden for your unspoken permission to hit the pause button.
Thank you for honestly sharing your feelings.
Thank you for your public Vice-Presidential Whisper.