Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden who died Saturday at the age of 46, was recently described by the vice president as his “redemption” — along with his brother, Beau was the light in the terrible darkness that seemed inescapable in the face of tragedy more than 40 years ago.
Biden’s first wife, Neilia, and 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a Christmas time car accident in 1972, just weeks after Biden became the second youngest man elected to the Senate, according to The Associated Press. Biden’s two sons, Beau, who was 3 years old at the time, and Hunter, who was 2 at the time, were critically injured, and doctors weren’t sure if they would live.
Biden, facing abrupt single fatherhood, wanted to resign before taking office, but was convinced by the likes of the late Senator Ted Kennedy and others to see out his term, according to the Washingtonian. Eighteen days after the death of his wife and child, Biden was sworn into the Senate at the hospital where his two young sons were being treated.
“I felt I should be sworn in with my children today,” Biden told reporters from beside Beau’s bedside, according to an AP article at the time.
The precedent of balancing his political life with his family life was set then. Biden would commute by train from Baltimore to Washington for four hours each day “to be able to get home to spend evenings with my two sons,” he wrote in a 2011 essay in the Huffington Post.
“By focusing on my sons, I found my redemption,” Biden told students at Yale University’s Class Day, just two weeks ago.
“The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I’m not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through,” he said. “Looking back on it, the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me.”
Beau Biden died Saturday after a battle with brain cancer. Biden joined the Delaware Army National Guard in 2003 and served in Iraq from 2008 to 2009.
He was attorney general of Delaware from 2007 to 2015 but declined to seek a third term, saying he planned to run for governor in 2016. He was married with two children.
“More than his professional accomplishments, Beau measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday night. “Beau embodied my father’s saying that a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did.”
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com