Our thoughts are with Vice President Joe Biden tonight, whose 46-year-old son succumbed to brain cancer and died today. An attorney and politician in his own right, Joseph Robinette Biden III, known as Beau, leaves behind a wife and two children, at home.
Beau Biden was three years old in 1972 when his mother and sister were killed in a car crash. Beau and his brother Hunter were also riding in the car, but survived.
Biden joined the Delaware National Guard in 2003, working as an attorney in the JAG Corps -- Judge Advocate General. He deployed to Iraq in October 2008, one day after his father injected new life into the Obama campaign, scoring a much-needed debate win for the team.*
Beau Biden returned to America from Iraq in January 2009 to watch his father be sworn in as vice president, alongside President Obama. He immediately returned to Iraq, and completed his year of active duty.
Biden was elected as Delaware's Attorney General in 2006, and there was speculation he might one day be a senator. But only on his own terms, his father said in 2008.
"It is no secret that I believe my son, Attorney General, would make a great United States Senator just as I believe he has been a great attorney general. But Beau has made it clear from the moment he entered public life that any office he sought he would earn on his own ... [I]f he chooses to run for the Senate in the future, he will have to run and win on his own. He wouldn't have it any other way."
Beau Biden is gone now; he'll never be a senator. He's presumably reuniting with his mother and sister in the heavens, and his family here at home no doubt are missing him tonight.
But for every tear, there will be a smile; in all the grief, the strong memories. Biden is Catholic like that, Irish Catholic...
For every thought that maybe Beau Biden was taken too soon, an acknowledgement of the 43 good years he lived on, after the car accident where he was spared. His son and daughter, his wife, his father and brother and step-mother and sister -- you don't need to know a man to know their pain is fresh and real.
Lots of lives lost lately.
Black lives, white lives, refugee lives, children's lives.
I know there is often resentment with death, a lingering bitterness at the unfairness of life -- dreams unrealized, plans left undone.
Somehow, this one feels like a death in the family, our American family, Joe's son, even though Beau Biden was never in the national spotlight as a familiar face.
My hope is that this one wakes us up collectively -- rekindles a fire in an administration that appears to be running out the clock.
I hope this brush with death injects a fresh fighting spirit in this country -- make a damn difference, and realize that we the living still have time left to change, with small-c change just as effectively inaugurating a new day as all the pomp and circumstance of the hopeful days past.
It's a Call to Action is what it is...
No peace prize, just a simple human death.
Make of that what you will.
* Joe Biden focused his talking points
on the proposed policies of presidential candidate John McCain, giving debate opponent Sarah Palin a polite pass. A week earlier, candidate Obama had appeared lackluster
in his opening debate against McCain; Obama rebounded
in the final debates..
FULL DISCLOSURE: I too am 46.