The Bidens' lasting relationship has weathered them through everything life has thrown at them.
As I was scouring Twitter for Inauguration Day tidbits, I came across a short clip posted by the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, moments before he took his oath of office. It showed a sweet and private moment between himself and first lady Dr. Jill Biden from Tuesday, when she reached for his hand as he bade an emotional farewell to his home state of Delaware. That little moment of support, affection, and acknowledgment was a clear reflection of the Bidens' lasting relationship that has weathered them through everything life has thrown at them.
Jill (née Jacobs) came into President Biden's life at a time when he was just recovering from the tragic deaths of his wife and college sweetheart, Neilia, and their 1-year-old daughter, Naomi. The young senator became a 30-year-old widower and single parent to his two sons, Beau and Hunter, following the tragedy, and until he met Jill—who was a college student at the University of Delaware at the time—his life was spent shuttling Washington and Wilmington every day. "She gave me back my life. She made me start to think my family might be whole again," President Biden wrote of Dr. Jill in his 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep.
"How did you get this number?"— Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) August 18, 2020
Those were the first words I spoke to Joe when he called me out of the blue on a Saturday in 1975.
I’ll be speaking tonight at the #DemConvention. I hope you’ll tune in! pic.twitter.com/t0amDEM2kT
It was Joe's brother, Frank Biden, who set the two up on a date. "I was a senior, and I had been dating guys in jeans and clogs and T-shirts. He came to the door and he had a sport coat and loafers, and I thought, 'God, this is never going to work, not in a million years.' He was nine years older than I am! But we really hit it off... I went upstairs and called my mother at 1:00 a.m. and said, 'Mom, I finally met a gentleman,'" Jill said, recalling her first date with Biden, in an interview with Vogue.
It didn't take long for the pair to fall in love and their relationship grew stronger as Jill took Joe's sons under her wing right away. "When Joe worked late, I would go over to make dinner and keep them company," she wrote in her memoir, Where the Light Enters, as excerpted in TIME. "I would help pick them up from school sometimes, or we'd pass an evening watching TV. We started to build our own relationship separate from their dad."
And yet, she turned him down five times when he proposed marriage. "She was just starting her own career," Biden wrote in his memoir. "I think it was easier for her in the beginning of our courtship when I wasn't thinking about marriage. We both just liked having fun with somebody again, and she wanted to keep it that way." Aside from being wary of marriage following the split from her first husband Bill Stevenson, Jill was very aware of the gravity of taking on parenthood to two children who lost their mother at a young age. "[To each proposal], I said, 'Not yet. Not yet. Not yet,'" she recalled.
"Because by that time, of course, I had fallen in love with the boys, and I really felt that this marriage had to work. Because they had lost their mom, and I couldn't have them lose another mother," Jill explained. "So I had to be 100 percent sure." The couple finally tied the knot in an intimate ceremony with just around 40 close friends and family in June 1977. They exchanged vows with Beau and Hunter standing beside them at the altar and four years later, the Bidens had their daughter, Ashley Blazer Biden, in 1981.
Over the years, they became each others' biggest cheerleaders as they navigated their individual careers. Jill went on to earn her doctorate in education from the University of Delaware and become a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College — a position she will continue to hold even as the first lady — and Joe rose up the ranks of the Senate to eventually serve as former President Barack Obama's vice president and now, the 46th president of the United States. They also faced heartbreak together when their son Beau died of brain cancer at age 45 in May 2015. They emerged stronger and more bonded than ever, through it all as they rallied around their family and faith. "We have had our hearts wrung and broken. But the only place we are safe from all the dangers of love is hell," Jill wrote in her memoir. "And one thing in my life has stayed the same: Joe and I have always had each other."