I started writing this blog before President Biden began speaking, wondering what he could offer the American people at such a moment of note for this country.
Joe Biden has long been known as America’s consoler in chief, a man terribly familiar with the pain of grief, the power and the hopelessness of words spoken in loss.
Yet even for someone as versed in tragedy as he is, I wondered how he would articulate loss on this scale. Half a million Americans dead in less than a year. 500,000 people gone, 500,000 families in grief, so many lives changed forever. Yet he did, by first acknowledging the scale, then by focusing in on the very individual grief that each one of these deaths represents.
His office gave him the platform, but that does not always bring insight, his own life gave him that. This man who mourns his wife and infant daughter killed in a car crash and mourns his grown son after his death from cancer, sharing his own pain to acknowledge the pain of others.
He acknowledged the wretched agony of not being there experienced by so many Covid families and the equally wretched experience of others watching a loved one fade away.
"I know all too well," he said. "That black hole in your chest. You feel like you're being sucked into it. The survivor's remorse. The anger. The questions of faith in your soul."
And despite the scale of the pandemic it was to the tiny intimacies he turned to remind that behind every figure is a person.
“The birthdays, the anniversaries, the holidays without them. And the everyday things — the small things, the tiny things — that you miss the most: that scent when you open the closet, that park that you go by that you used to stroll in. That movie theatre where you met. That morning coffee that you shared together." This pandemic has become political - and to a certain extent politics have brought us to this dark milestone - but this speech was not about politics. It was personal, personal to him and personal to those who mourn the half million now gone. "I promise you," Biden said,” The day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye. It will come, I promise you."
Perhaps that is the greatest hope this President can offer a shaken nation.