This is not a political post. This is a post about a politician — Joe Biden, the Vice President Of The United States — and a talk show host having a conversation about something that transcends politics: Family.
Earlier this summer, Vice President Joe Biden lost his eldest son, Beau Biden, to brain cancer at the age of 46. Last night on the third episode of Colbert’s Late Show, Biden went totally off script to talk about Beau and what it’s been like for him to deal with the grief of losing his son.
JB: You know, my dad had an expression. He used to say, “You know you’re a success as a parent when you turn and look at your child and realize they turned out better than you.” I was a hell of a success. My son was better than me. And he was better than me in almost every way. The thing about Beau was, from the time he was … another expression my dad had was, “Never complain and never explain.” I never one single time, my word as a Biden, ever, ever heard my child complain. When he was in that accident, lost his mom and his sister, he was very badly injured, almost every bone in his body broken, he was in a cast from his ankles, both legs, his chest, his arms, I used to carry him around with a hook in his back. And his brother, his best friend, a year and a day younger, was just about three and had a severe skull fracture and he’d sit in a room in the hospital and he’d say, “Hunt, look at me, look at me. I love you, I love you.” Four years old. Nothing changed. A couple months before he died, I was at his house and he said, “Dad, sit down, I want to talk to you.” And Hallie, his wife, incredible … He said, “Dad, I know how much you love me. You’ve got to promise me something. Promise me you’re going to be all right. Because no matter what happens, Dad, I’m going to be all right. Promise me.” This is a kid who, I don’t know what it was about him, he had this enormous sense of empathy. I’m not making this up. I know I maybe sound like a father.
SC: It sounds like you loved him, sir.
Besides losing Beau, Biden has experienced quit a bit of loss in his life — a car crash took the life of his first wife and daughter in 1972. His response to Colbert was a candid and emotional conversation, with his eyes clearly watery at the thought. The Vice President continued, eventually asking Colbert about how he dealt with the loss of his father and two of his brothers in the Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 crash in 1974.
Transcription via Vox:
JB: Think of all the people you know who are going through horrible things, and they get up every the morning and they put one foot in front of the other and they don’t have, like I said, anything like the support I have. I marvel, I marvel at the ability of people to absorb hurt and just get back up, and most of them do it with an incredible sense of empathy to other people. I mean, it’s interesting, the people I find who I’m most drawn to are people who have been hurt and yet, I’m not going to embarrass you, but you’re one of them, buddy. No, no, no, no, no. Your mom, your family, losing your dad when you’re a kid and three brothers. It’s like asking what made your mother do it every day. How did she get up every single day with 11 kids?
SC: Well, she had to take care of me. She did. No, that’s it. We were there for each other, and I had to take care of her. I had to take care of her. Let me ask you something. I used to have this little joke, which is I used to say, “Oh yes, I raised my mother” because after Dad and the boys died she was a little non compos mentis or at least emotionally completely shattered. I would say I raised my mom from that, from the years on, for a few years. In what ways did Beau and Hunter raise you?
JB: My boys, honest to God, did. If my son Hunter was here, first thing he would give me a kiss and say, “Dad, do you need anything?” Always worried about me. And even in my public life, the boys would be, I’d be, like, doing a national debate with 70 million people watching the debate and I’d walk out of the room and the last two guys in the room would be my boys and they’d go, “Look at me, Dad, home base. Remember who you are, Dad. Remember who you are.” No I’m serious. It was like my kids.
Joe’s a public figure, sure — but at the end of the day, he’s just a dad who loves his kids. Watching him talk about mourning his son, even months later, is heartbreaking.
It’s a powerful moment of television. Hug your parents, Bros.
Here’s the second part of the interview, in which he continues to talk about losing Beau.