Death and Dappled Hope: Meditations on Biden’s Memoir

Sustained by his family’s love and his love for them, Biden can carry the weight of tragedy and offer it as a gift to others. At the beginning of the book, he describes visiting the family of Wenjian Liu, a police officer murdered on duty, and offering the widow his personal phone number. He tells her that there will come a time when she feels that all her friends have returned to normal life, and she doesn’t know whether she can or should reach out to them from the depths of her grief. If she feels that way, Biden tells her, she should call him.
Near the end of the book, after his son’s death, Biden barely needs words in order to be a comfort to others. He chooses to visit Emanuel AME Church (privately, without the press) after members of the parish were shot by a white supremacist. Biden writes, “This congregation was hurting and in need, and I knew my showing up so soon after my son’s death could be some source of strength for the Emanuel family.” He has learned that the public’s knowledge of his losses allows others to open up to him, free from the burden to be silent, stoic, or polite. He is a walking icon of Our Lady of Sorrows, offering the gift of tears.
But the heartbreaking thing about the book is that—for all Biden’s generosity to others in their mourning—his own family’s generosity and love seem to be somewhat thwarted, as they rally together to care for [his son] Beau.

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