The Bidens say the outpouring of support after Beau's death has been immense

By Adam Carlson
Updated June 06, 2015 11:30 AM
Advertisement
Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

“How do you say goodbye to the finest young man anybody has ever known?”

That is the question the Rev. Leo O’Donovan asked as he led the Saturday morning funeral service for Vice President Joe Biden’s eldest son, Beau, who died last month at the age of 46 following a battle with brain cancer.

Biden, wife Jill and their relatives gathered along with 1,000 others at St. Anthony of Padua in Wilmington, Delaware, to lay to rest a man President Obama eulogized as “the consummate public servant.”

“Beau Biden brought to his work a mighty heart, he brought to his family a mighty heart,” Obama said in his eulogy.

That morning, his face strained, the vice president put his hand to his heart before the pallbearers – Jim Biden, Jack Owens, Cuffe Owens, Frank Biden, Howard Krein and Jamie Biden – carried Beau’s casket into the church, the Biden family following in just before 11 a.m., as lines from “Bring Him Home” filled the church.

“Bring him peace, bring him joy, bring him home.”

The scene was a stark echo of the tragedy that struck the vice president’s family in 1972, when his wife and baby daughter were killed in a Christmastime car crash.

Dozens of dignitaries filled the pews Saturday, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, former president Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

Chris Martin of Coldplay performed as a special guest, volunteering after he learned that Beau was a fan of the band, the White House said. He sang “‘Til Kingdom Come.”

U.S. Army General Raymond Odierno spoke of how he thought Beau, a former Delaware attorney general and Iraq War vet, would one day be president; and he urged the assembled to “find the best in people and dedicate our lives to making the world a better place.

“Do this, and Beau Biden will live in all of us, and will never be forgotten.”

Odierno posthumously awarded Beau the Legion of Merit.

Both of Beau’s surviving siblings also spoke. Sister Ashley shared this anecdote of a picture she drew in the first grade: “It was me holding hands with my two brothers, and I wrote, ‘Happiness is being with my brothers.’ It was true then, and remained true throughout my life.”

She said as a child she was brought to visit Beau at the University of Pennsylvania, even though such a thing was “uncool.”

“He was my first love, and what a beautiful example of love he provided,” she said.

Brother Hunter remembered Beau similarly, as “a clarity you could step into.”

Beau “was our leader,” he said. “And he never asked to lead. He was our leader who never judged, and only inspired us through his example. He was clarity, a clarity that you could step into.”

Sometimes visibly stricken, the Bidens greeted well-wishers for two days before the service, meeting with them for several emotional hours on Thursday, in Delaware’s Legislative Hall, where Beau’s flag-draped casket lay in honor, and again at Friday’s public viewing at St. Anthony.

So moved by the outpouring of support, the Biden family greeted every single mourner at Friday’s viewing, from 1 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Many shared the same thought: Beau was a good man.

Joe Biden answered: “He was a good guy.”