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For Biden, Thursday Was a Day to Remember—But for Different Reasons

3 minute read

The black armored limousine rolled out the driveway of Joe Biden's home in the leafy outskirts of Wilmington just before 7:30 a.m. It was a bright, blue-skied Thursday morning. The short trip wasn’t on the President’s public schedule, so the usual clutch of pro-Palestinian protesters hadn't known to gather to shout down his motorcade as he drove by.

The world would soon come to remember that Thursday for what would unfold 10 hours later: a New York jury would finish their deliberations sooner than many expected, voting unanimously to convict a former President on 34 felony charges. But that is not how Joe Biden logs that day. For all of the Bidens, May 30 will always belong to Beau.

It was nine years ago exactly that Joe Biden's eldest son died from brain cancer at 46. The rhythms of ritual are important to the President, and he had set aside the work of governing the most powerful nation in the world to join his extended family at their local parish church for a service in Beau’s memory. Biden blames his son’s death on his exposure to toxic burn pits while he was an Army lawyer in Iraq and has said that loss was among the reasons he doesn’t want any more U.S. troops deployed in lengthy wars.

As he drove to the church where his son is buried, there were plenty of major decisions he had to contend with. Biden had spent days discussing with his advisers how to allow Ukraine to fire American weapons into Russian territory to defend the northern city of Kharkiv and how to convince Israel to do more to protect civilian lives as it pursued Hamas fighters into the densely populated city of Rafah.

And there was the matter of his reelection. The day before, he’d made a pointed pitch to Black voters in a Philadelphia school gym on why they should overwhelmingly back him over his predecessor. And within hours, he would have to decide how to respond as Donald Trump officially became a convicted felon.

But for 34 minutes inside the pale yellow walls of the St. Joseph on the Brandywine church that morning, Biden had a moment of quiet contemplation surrounded by those he cherishes most: First Lady Jill Biden, his son Hunter, his daughter Ashley, his sister Valerie and many of his grandkids.

When the service was over, Biden emerged from the church with several family members. Some walked in front of him and others a few feet behind, as they began the short walk to Beau’s headstone. But for a few minutes along the path, no one walked next to Biden. He walked silently and alone.

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