A very dear aunt of mine is 93 and lives in Chennai, in Southern India. She has experienced the deaths of both her adult sons and a son-in-law. Brain tumor, stomach cancer, liver cancer.
I think of her as the Biden family grieves the loss of 46-year-old Beau. I think about what she might have said to Vice President Joe Biden if they were having a conversation right this moment.
Joe Biden is no stranger to tragedy. And yet each time, he must relearn the moves. Grief is not something you get used to.
My Aunt and he would have a lot to talk about. I’m sure he’d want to know how she was able to keep breathing, moving, living, especially in the minutes, hours and days following the loss.
This is what I think she’d tell him. She’d tell him you can’t have a roadmap for loss and grief–like we have for most things in life. You just put one foot in front of the other and keep walking. And before you know it, one day rolls into the next, one week into another, one month into a whole year.
Seasons change. Birthdays and anniversaries come and go. Your grandchildren’s joys and new beginnings infuse life into you.
Somehow you get through it all. And before you know it, you realize that you’re in the ninth decade of your life. You’re still here–whether you want to be here or not. You’re still breathing. Still getting out of bed each morning and getting through the day.
But you never forget. You carry the young ones who’ve gone before you every single moment of every single day. Your heart keeps growing to make room for all the sorrow you’ve known.
You don’t understand it. You never will. The mystery of why you’re still here when your forty-something children were cheated out of life. Instead of banging your head against a wall of why’s, you carve a quiet corner of peace in your heart and live from there.
At the end of the day, pain is what connects us–even when our politics divide us. The heartbreak of loss is universal. It dissolves all differences.
And that’s why I know my aunt and Joe Biden would have had a wonderful conversation. Even though she’s neither Republican, nor Democrat; has lived a middle-class life in India all her life; and, has traveled little beyond her small world. But she knows the pain of losing two sons–and when all is said and done, that is the most meaningful connection two hearts can ever share.