The death of vice president Joe Biden's son Beau from brain cancer at the age of 46 has spurred an outpouring of sympathy and support for the family. It is, however, not the first such tragic event that the Biden family has had to contend with.
Just weeks after becoming the youngest person elected to the Senate in the 20th century in 1972, Biden's wife Neilia, and their 1-year old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident, when the station wagon they were driving in to go Christmas shopping was hit by a tractor-trailer. Biden's two sons, Beau and Hunter, were both critically injured in the accident.
Biden was inconsolable and even considered suicide. He recalls, "I began to understand how despair led people to just cash in; how suicide wasn't just an option but a rational option ... I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry," he said, according to Biography.com.
Biden and both of his sons, however, bounced back. The two boys survived, and Biden went on to represent Delaware in the Senate. He skipped the swearing-in ceremony for new Senators in Washington, instead electing to swear his oath of office beside his son's hospital bed.
In 2008, Beau Biden recounted that time in an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention, speaking about the many hours his father spent at his bedside while he remained hospitalized for weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“We, not the Senate, were all he cared about,” Beau Biden said in the 2008 speech. “As a single parent, he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he’d travel to and from Washington, four hours a day.”
During his 36-year tenure in the Senate, Biden elected to travel home to Delaware at the end of each business day by train, in order to spend as much time with his children as possible.
As John Avalon wrote in the Daily Beast: “We live in a time when very few politician’s private actions are transformed into admirable legend, but Joe Biden’s steady devotion to Beau and Hunter are a big part of the reason this vice president is broadly beloved on a personal level that transcends partisan politics.”
You can read IBTimes' obituary for Beau Biden here.