President Joe Biden has suffered a tremendous amount of loss in his life. In December of 1972, he lost his first wife Neilia Biden and their 1-year-old daughter Naomi in a car crash that badly injured toddler sons Beau and Hunter Biden; in 2015, he lost a second child, Beau, to brain cancer at age 46. Biden’s candor on the subject of grief has long been considered an asset in his political career, a comforting reassurance of his capacity of empathy to those who follow him. But Hunter Biden’s new memoir Beautiful Things lays bare the flip side of the compassion President Biden has showcased: the harrowing anxiety of fighting and failing to keep your loved ones alive. With a new report today per AP News that Biden set aside his presidential schedule and accompanied First Lady Jill Biden to a minor outpatient procedure, it may be that the President’s experiences have proven to set a new family policy: no matter how minor, no one goes in for a medical procedure alone.
Jill is reported to have “tolerated the procedure well,” details about which are not provided beyond the fact that it is “common” and lasted about two hours, after which the Bidens were seen returning to the White House. It’s another moment of Biden being a devoted husband to Jill, certainly, but it also brings to mind another famous image of Biden holding fast to a loved one’s side in need of medical care: the 1973 photo of him being sworn into the U.S. Senate from young Beau and Hunter’s hospital room after the car crash, which he’d refused to leave.
More recently, Hunter Biden writes of how he sat at brother Beau Biden’s bedside at the hospital in the days before he passed, when he’d been left unresponsive by a final attempt at treatment. It was dad Biden who convinced him he could take a breath and step away — and Biden who called him the second things began to change.
“Almost a day and a half after doctors had given Beau hours to live, Dad insisted I go with my brother-in-law Howard to pick up some pizza. The Bidens were hungry,” Hunter writes in his memoir. “I feared what might happen but went anyway. Ten minutes later, as we stepped inside the restaurant, my phone buzzed. It was Dad. ‘Come back, honey,’ was all he said.”
President Biden intimately knows the fear of what might happen in those few minutes you step away. And if he has the option to be by Jill Biden’s side rather than receive one of those stomach-lurching phone calls, it makes sense that he’d take it, no matter how small the risk might be. It might seem like an unnecessary gesture to some, but it may also be a sign of how his losses continue to affect him today.
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Before you go, click here to see our favorite photos of President Joe Biden’s big family.