politics

"God had played a horrible trick on me." Joe Biden has lost a wife, a daughter and a son.

Overnight, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pulled off one of the most incredible and completely unexpected comebacks in political history.

In just hours, the former Vice President, who is up against fellow candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, could be named as the Democrat vying to challenge President Donald Trump at the upcoming election.

For many, including myself, little is known about Joe Biden’s policies.

Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, discuss who has the best chance of beating President Trump. Post continues below.

Instead, Biden is remembered as the friendly, lovable sidekick of former US President Barack Obama.

After all, who doesn’t remember the hilarious ‘bromance’ memes from the time Obama and Biden shared an office?

But while chatting to a friend yesterday, another layer of Joe Biden’s story came up.

“Joe Biden has had a really tragic life,” she said. “He lost his first wife and youngest child in a car accident, and his son passed away from brain cancer.”

Perhaps I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t know this, but after deep-diving on the subject, I started to learn the details of his struggles while in politics.

Joe Biden was still a law student when he married Neilia Hunter in 1966. Together they had three children, Beau, Robert and Naomi.

In 1972, he won the U.S. Senate election in Delaware, despite seemingly having no chance of winning. It was his biggest professional success so far, and his beautiful young family were thought to have attracted voters.

But just weeks later, while his wife was purchasing a Christmas tree with their children, she was killed in a car accident, along with their youngest child, Naomi.

joe biden kids
Joseph Biden and his wife Nelia cut his 30th birthday cake. Image: Getty.

Biden's two other children were also in the car, and while they received serious injuries, they survived.

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Writing about the accident in his 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep, Biden shared, "Well, I didn't want to hear anything about a merciful God. No words, no prayer, no sermon gave me ease. I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry".

The politician wanted to resign from his position, but was convinced to stay, and was sworn in less than a month later.

While his political career advanced, he says he struggled profoundly with grief and anger. "I liked to [walk around seedy neighborhoods] at night when I thought there was a better chance of finding a fight... I had not known I was capable of such rage," he said.

Despite his grief, Biden put all of his energy into raising his two young sons.

"Many people have gone through things like that," he said in a speech at Yale University in 2015.

"But because I had the incredible good fortune of an extended family, ground in love and loyalty, imbued by a sense of obligation imparted to each of us, I not only got help, but, by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption."

Biden commuted over an hour and a half per day to work in Washington and be at home with his sons, leading his colleagues to take bets on how long he would last as a senator.

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Vice President Joe Biden with his family, wife Jill, and sons Hunter and Beau. Image: Getty.

To this day, Joe Biden does not work on December 18, the anniversary of the car accident.

Five years after the accident, Biden met Jill Jacobs, whom he would marry in 1977.

In May 2010, while Biden was serving as Vice President, tragedy struck again. His son Beau was admitted to hospital after complaining of headaches, and it was found he had suffered a minor stroke.

In August 2013, Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer at 44. He received radiation and chemotherapy treatments, but died May 30, 2015, aged 46.

Speaking on the Megyn Kelly TODAY show, Jill Biden shared that the couple never gave up hope.

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"Throughout Beau's illness, even though the diagnosis was truly devastating, we always had hope," she said.

"We never gave up hope. We tried treatment after treatment, month after month. But we always felt – until the moment he closed his eyes – we always felt he was going to live."

During Beau's treatments, Biden planned to sell his house to pay for medical expenses and support his son. But during a lunch, Obama reportedly told Biden, "Don’t sell that house. Promise me you won’t sell the house."

joe biden kids
Joe and Jill Biden. Image: Getty.

"I’ll give you the money. Whatever you need, I’ll give you the money," he said. "Don’t, Joe – promise me. Promise me."

Joe Biden shared this particular story when he was asked by CNN about his most memorable moment with Barack Obama.

In October 2014, the Biden family faced media attention once again when it was reported that Biden's youngest son, Hunter, had been discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine.

Although Biden didn't comment on the matter, Hunter shared his own statement at the time.

"It was the honour of my life to serve in the US Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to administrative discharge," he said, according to CNN.

"I respect the Navy's decision. With the love and support of my family, I'm moving forward."

A year on from the incident, Hunter and his then-wife, Kathleen, separated.

At the time, Kathleen accused her ex-husband of indulging in "drugs, alcohol, prostitutes and strip clubs" during their marriage.

Feature Image: Getty.

This post was originally published on January 15, 2017, and updated on March 5, 2020.


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