“In Memoriam”: Joe Biden Recalling Dark Days After Losing Family, “It Can And Will Get Better”
Vice President Joe Biden, in a moving speech to families of fallen troops on Friday, recounted the dark days following the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter and talked about understanding thoughts of suicide.
“It was the first time in my career, in my life, I realized someone could go out – and I probably shouldn’t say this with the press here, but no, but it’s more important, you’re more important. For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide,” he said. ”Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, because they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again.”
Biden said he would sometimes call family just to hear someone say that he could get through it, that he could make it through the grief. He recalled the day he got the news in 1972, a few weeks after he had been elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time at the age of 29.
“I was down in Washington hiring my staff and I got a phone call, saying that my family had been in an accident,” he said. “And just like you guys know by the tone of the phone call, you just knew. You knew when they walked up the path. You knew when the call came. You knew. You just felt it in your bones: Something bad happened. And I knew — I don’t know how I knew, but the caller said my wife is dead. My daughter is dead. And I wasn’t sure how my sons were going to make it. They were Christmas shopping and a tractor trailer broadsided them.
“In one instant, killed two of them and, well…” Biden said, his voice trailing off before finishing the thought.
He was angry, he said, angry they were gone, angry at God, and he recalled walking through the rotunda at the Capitol, on his way home to identify the bodies.
“And I remember looking up and saying, ‘God,’ I was, as if I was talking to God myself, ‘You can’t be good, how can you be good?’”
Biden said he was lucky to have the support of his family, but as the days and weeks unfolded, it sometimes wasn’t enough.
“There was still something gigantic missing,” he said. “And just when you think, ‘Maybe I’m going to make it,’ you’re riding down the road and you pass a field, and you see a flower and it reminds you. Or you hear a tune on the radio. Or you just look up in the night. You know, you think, ‘Maybe I’m not going to make it, man.’ Because you feel at that moment the way you felt the day you got the news.”
And he said well-wishers would express their condolences and often tell him that they knew how he felt, something he resented.
“You knew they were genuine. But you knew they didn’t have any damn idea, right?” Biden told attendees at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Va.. “That black hole you feel in your chest like you’re being sucked back into it.”
He said a phone call finally jolted him out of despair. It didn’t take away his grief but showed him a path through it. Biden didn’t identify the caller by name but said he was a former New Jersey governor whose wife had also died suddenly. The caller told Biden to start marking in a calendar each day how he felt, and that, after a few months, he would find that he still had dark days but that they would grow fewer and further apart.
“He said, ‘That’s when you know you’re going to make it,’’” Biden said.
Biden concluded his remarks with some advice: to keep in mind what late loved ones would have wanted and that loved ones who are alive still need you.
“Folks, it can and will get better,” Biden said. “There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.”
By: Donovan Slack, Politico, May 25, 2012