I watched President Biden’s speech recognizing the 500,000 people that have died of Covid-19 in this country. Although it was a sad speech to have to give, I found a sense of peace in it. Also, it’s simply nice to hear a President be able to give an empathetic, gentle speech again, one that makes sense and is heartfelt.
When President Biden speaks about grief my ears perk up a bit. I lean in to pay attention because this man knows grief. He’s walked through it more than once in very real ways. In this particular speech he mentioned what it’s like to look at the kitchen table and see an empty chair after losing someone. I’ve heard him reference the empty chair at the table before, back in the debates when he looked at the camera and directly addressed America. I would wager that the detail of the empty chair isn’t just some speech writer’s attempt to connect with the loss of so many people. It’s something Joe himself thinks of when he thinks about losing a family member, something he has experienced.
I think the segment of the speech that will get quoted most frequently is when he said, “I promise you, 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.”
He’s also said this before, but when it comes from a man who so clearly has experienced (and still experiences) the deepest of grief, it means something to me.
Biden spoke directly to people who have lost friends and family members, “I know all too well 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.”
I appreciate that coming from him. That validation of grief and sadness from the leader of our country. It is refreshing to hear after the last four years.
He concluded his speech by mentioning that “There is light in the darkness. This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again…we will get through this.”
I believe him. I see him as our “Commander in Grief.” And I trust him when he says we heal as individuals and as a nation through remembering those we’ve lost. That’s how we move forward. That those who we lose are not truly gone because they are in our hearts.
When he mentioned that moment when the smile comes before the tear as a way of knowing you’re going to be ok, he switched his intonation and made a sort of declaration,
“You’re going to be ok…you’re going to be ok.”
A glimmer of light in a very dark time.
(Click here if you want to watch the speech and the ceremony.)