How Jill Biden Found Her Faith Again Years After Beau's 'Shattering' Cancer Death

In a new interview, the former second lady says "something remarkable happened" while she and her husband were campaigning in South Carolina last summer

Jill Biden; Beau Biden
From left: Jill Biden and Beau Biden in 2013. Photo: Shutterstock

Watching her stepson Beau Biden die of brain cancer broke Dr. Jill Biden in a way that has only recently started to heal.

"It was totally shattering," the former second lady, 69, said in an interview last year. "My life changed in an instant. All during his illness, I truly believed that he was going to live, up until the moment that he closed his eyes, and I just never gave up hope."

Beau, a former National Guardsman and Delaware attorney general and former Vice President Joe Biden's oldest son, died in January 2015, less than two years after being diagnosed with brain cancer. He was 46.

In a memoir released last year, stepmom Dr. Biden — whom Beau just called "Mom" — remembered his unspooling sickness and the pall of her grief.

“He kept going for chemotherapy and radiation, and we kept waiting for him to turn the corner and get better,” she told Vogue in an interview about her book.

Losing Beau, she said then, was “still taking me out.”

"I feel like a piece of china that's been glued back together again," she wrote in Where the Light Enters. "The cracks may be imperceptible — but they're there."

Beau's death lengthened the list of tragedies in his family: His mother Neilia, Vice President Biden's first wife, and Beau's younger sister, Naomi, were killed in a 1972 car crash that injured both Beau and Beau's younger brother, Hunter.

Jill Biden; Beau Biden
From left: Former Second Lady Jill Biden and Beau Biden. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

Dr. Biden (née Jill Jacobs) came into the family several years later and helped rebuild them, growing the family in the process: She and the vice president welcomed daughter Ashley in 1981.

Decades later, to again be touched by death, took something away from the former second lady.

"Where I once felt that peace that surpasses understanding, I now feel hollow silence," she wrote in her memoir last year. "One day, I hope I can salvage my faith."

Salvage it she did, in time — and with some unexpected support.

In an interview with PBS that aired this week, Dr. Biden said "something remarkable happened" while she and her husband, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, were campaigning in South Carolina last summer.

She recalled: "We were visiting a church, the Sunday service, and during the service a woman came up to me, and we were in the front pew, and she put her hand on me. And she said: 'Dr. Biden, I want to be your prayer partner' And I thought: prayer partner? I had never heard of prayer partner."

"And so we got in touch," Dr. Biden continued.

Now, she and the parishioner still pray together.

"We text one another a couple of times a week," Dr. Biden told PBS. "And after five years, she gave me back my faith. It was so remarkable."

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