Jill Biden Tells Story of How Prayer Helped Her Through Grief Over Beau Biden's Death: 'My Faith Was Shaken'

The first lady praises Robin Jackson and her husband, Rev. Dr. Charles B. Jackson of Brookland Baptist Church, for "changing my life"

jill biden
Photo: Jeff Fusco/Getty

First Lady Jill Biden made a surprise appearance at a church in South Carolina on Sunday and gave a deeply personal account of the power of prayer in her life.

"I'm not very public about my faith. But it's always been an important part of who I am. I chose it as a teenager when I fell in love with the peace of the quiet wooden pew, the joy of the choir like this magnificent choir here, and the deep wisdom of the Gospels," the first lady, 70, said at an event to mark Rev. Dr. Charles B. Jackson's 50th anniversary as pastor of Brookland Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina.

In the speech, Dr. Biden told members of the church of her heartbreaking grief over the death of her stepson Beau Biden from brain cancer in 2015 at 46 and how Rev. Jackson's wife, Robin Jackson, helped her through it.

"In 2015 my faith was shaken," an emotional Dr. Biden said. "For over a year I watched my brave, strong, funny, bright young son fight brain cancer. Chemotherapy, operation after operation, weight loss. But still I never gave up hope. As a mother, you can't."

Biden said during Beau's illness she "put one foot in front of the other" and held on to hope that he would survive.

"In the final days I made one last desperate prayer and it went unanswered. After Beau died, I felt betrayed, broken," she said. "My own minister wrote emails occasionally. You know, he was checking in with me, inviting me back to the service. But I just couldn't go. I couldn't even pray. I wondered if I would ever feel joy again."

Joe and Jill biden
From left: Joe and Jill Biden. KEVIN LAMARQUE/POOL/AFP via Getty

During the summer of 2019, Biden joined her husband, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, on a trip to South Carolina, where she was approached by Robin Jackson at Brookland Baptist Church.

"She sat beside me and she said, 'Dr. Biden, I would like to be your prayer partner.' I don't know if she sensed how moved I had been by the service. I don't know if she could still see the grief that I feel still hides behind my smile. But I do know that when she spoke, it was if God was saying to me, 'Okay Jill, you've had enough time. It's time to come home.'"

"And in that moment," Dr. Biden continued after applause, "I felt for the first time that there was a path for my recovering my faith."

Biden praised Jackson's "kindness, her mercy and grace" and credited the church for "changing my life" and strengthening the determination of her and the president's public service.

"It helped shape the course of our journey to the White House," she said of Brookland Baptist Church. "Robin's kindness, Pastor Jackson's leadership, and the work of each member of this congregation speaking out for justice and compassion and unity, it has grown into something bigger than any one of us."

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