The hustle of the holidays is just starting to take hold – I was juggling duties as managing editor of three community newspapers, two children in college with a life-decision-crisis-every-other-day, and teaching almost daily aerobic classes when I realized that THANKSGIVING IS ONLY A WEEK AWAY. Thanksgiving, mind you, may even top Christmas as my favorite holiday. It truly means family to me, whether it was my family of friends when I was in my 20s and far away from Ohio, or my own family as I married and had children.
I was happily planning the dinner, and worrying about whether the house was clean enough, when I was dressing for work on Monday. I had NBC’s “Today” show on, and was half listening. Half listening, that was, until I started hearing former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden discuss his new memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” with hosts Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer.
The book is a diary of a Biden’s life from just before Thanksgiving 2014 to the grueling illness and cancer death of his 46-year-old son Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III on May 30, 2015, and the personal and professional aftermath. The younger Biden was an American attorney, officer in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and politician from Wilmington, Del. He was the eldest of three children from the marriage of Vice President Biden and his first wife, Neilia Biden. He served as the Attorney General of Delaware, a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, and a member of the Democratic Party.
In the book, the senior Biden chronicled his journey of coping with first the illness, then the loss, while also juggling foreign crises in Iraq, Ukraine and Central America, and deciding not to pursue the 2016 Democratic nomination.
While vaguely aware that the book had recently been released, it wasn’t until I listened to Biden discuss it with such quiet dignity and subdued but palpable pain that I realized I have to read it. I’ve always admired Biden for his intelligence, wit and intuitive cleverness. Now I am in awe of his incredible strength and ability to seek a silver lining in all the tumult.
As I approach Thanksgiving, I have a renewed sense of gratitude for those loved ones in my life. I have experienced loss, certainly – a brother, my parents, three best friends. But seeing Biden, I truly appreciate what I still have: a husband I adore, even when he leaves his dirty socks on the living room floor, two children who still need me as they pass into adulthood, three sisters and a brother faraway but a phone call away, and new friends who bring such joy and perspective into my haphazard life.
As I frantically prepare for the “perfect” day, I will try to remember Joe Biden talking about his diary entry on May 30, 2015 that was just a simple time. The moment Beau passed.
The “Promise Me, Dad” title? Before he died, Beau said to his father: “Don’t look at me sad, Dad. … Promise me you’ll be OK, Dad.”
With apologies to Beau Biden, I’m sad just reading this. But hopefully, we will all gain something moving forward, thanks to the example of your father.