“Soldier, scholar, horseman, he,
As 'twere all life's epitome,
What made us dream that he could comb grey hair?"
The Yeats quote on the Maureen Dowd twitter feed this Sunday portrayed the late Beau Biden perfectly.
The former Delaware Attorney General, and almost certain future governor, died of brain cancer on Saturday at just 46.
The world is devastated for Joe Biden and his wonderful family, who now have undergone a huge new tragedy.
In a statement Saturday night, the vice president said, “It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life.”
The statement added, “In the words of the Biden family: Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.”
It was the second massive tragedy to hit the Bidens family. As many know, Joe Biden’s first wife Neila and infant daughter Naomi were killed in a Christmas time car collision in 1972.
Vice President Biden, then newly elected to the senate, almost quit there and then, but his wonderful family insisted he continue in office and he had a stellar career topped by being named Barack Obama's vice president.
I got to know the vice president a little during his senate days and he now has a great and proudly Irish staff.
He accepted our Irish America Magazine Hall of Fame award in 2013 and I have attended summer barbecues and Christmas parties at his Naval Observatory residence. They are the most relaxed, informal events imaginable. “Here come the Irish,” Biden always barks when we meet.
One year he placed a happy 86th birthday call to my wife’s Aunt Nora and spoke to her for ten minutes. You can’t make up that kind of good nature.
It is there at their home that the full impact of the Biden closeness hits you. The house is warm, the Bidens friendly and open. The vice president’s wife, Jill, is an extraordinary woman in her own right.
I remember the scene last summer out on the lawn as the Vice President was pursued by literally dozens of kids spraying him with a water gun until he turned and chased them all back.
“Imagine Obama playing that game,” remarked one sage politician present, contrasting the buttoned-up chief executive with the water covered Biden in shorts and a t-shirt.
That closeness and Irish love of family I’m sure embraced Beau in his last weeks as his inoperable cancer grew.
They say a father should never outlive a son, and as an uncle who had outlived a beloved 12-year-old nephew, Rory Staunton, I can attest to the truth of that.
It's outside the natural field of humanity to bury your offspring and it must be an incredibly difficult time for the Bidens.
May they be granted peace and hope and love to somehow carry them through these awful days.
Beau never made it to governor, but he was a decorated soldier, a devoted husband and father, and a successful public official on his way to the top.
There are so many things the family can take pride in even if as Yeats said he will never comb grey hair.
May he rest in peace.