Jimmy Carter is soon 99: the resilience of the longest-living US president amazes the whole world
Jimmy Carter is already the longest-living president in US history, but his resilience even in hospice has captured the imagination of fans around the world. Writes about this The New York Times.
Maybe it's the peanut butter ice cream he still loves. Or that his first-place Atlanta Braves are rapidly approaching the playoffs and he wants to see another World Series. Or, as many of his close friends and former advisers believe, he's simply too stubborn to follow anyone else's schedule.
Whatever the reason, seven months after entering hospice care, Jimmy Carter is still going strong and is actually approaching his 99th birthday on October 1st. While nearly everyone, including his family, assumed the end was inevitable when he refused full medical care last winter, the farmer-turned-president has once again defied expectations.
“In the beginning, we thought it would happen in five or so days,” Jason Carter, his grandson, said in an interview, recalling the 39th president of the United States' decision to leave the hospital and enter hospice care at his home in Plains, Hawaii. February. “I was with him in the hospital, and then I said goodbye. And then we thought that in a week the end would come. And now seven months have passed.”
It prompted a lengthy farewell that was unplanned but surprisingly tender for a president whom voters ousted from power after one term but who transformed his legacy with decades of service that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize.
In the few months since he returned to his small town to face his last days, the flood of memories has been very pleasant for his near and dear ones. Instead of a memorial service, Carter became a living eulogist, absorbing words of gratitude from around the world. According to relatives and advisers, he understands what is written and said, and is deeply grateful.
“He takes great joy in the impact his presidency and post-presidency have left,” said Paige Alexander, director of the Carter Center, the nonprofit that has served as the home of his philanthropic work over the past four decades. “It’s largely thanks to this that he continues to live.”
Carter has retired from the active life he led until recently. Regular conversations with Alexander are no longer so regular. For a long time, he was fascinated not by the daily news, but by the projects to which he devoted his life, such as the eradication of certain diseases in developing countries.
“He didn’t ask about politics or economics,” Alexander recalls. “He just wanted to know how much dracunculiasis there was.”
Although Carter has his good days and bad days, he has lost neither his insight nor his sometimes nerdy sense of humor. Alexander recalled a phone conversation over the summer when she mentioned his upcoming milestone.
“If I don’t talk to you before your birthday, then I wish you a happy birthday,” she told him.
“I’ll be 99 years old,” he replied. “I don’t understand what’s so joyful about this.”
However, Carter's family - both blood relatives and those who have long been part of his social circle - are planning various celebratory events to mark his nearly 1th birthday, which will be celebrated on October XNUMX.
The Carter Center asked supporters to submit photos and videos that would be posted as a digital mosaic. In the first three days, 6 thousand photos were collected from celebrities such as Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels, as well as from ordinary people from Africa and other countries of the world. Peter Gabriel performed "Happy Birthday Jimmy" at Madison Square Garden.
The following evening, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Alexander spoke on their behalf. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum will host a swearing-in ceremony for new American citizens on his birthday. David Osborne, known as the "pianist of presidents," will perform at Carter's Maranatha Baptist Church.
According to people close to him, Carter did not suffer from any specific illness that prompted him to seek hospice care in February this year, but he was tired of constant hospitalizations and wanted to spend his last days at home with Mrs. Carter. Hospice is defined as the care of terminally ill patients where the priority is not continued treatment but rather the reduction of pain and discomfort towards the end of life. It is intended for patients who are expected to live no more than six months.
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Carter is ignoring these deadlines. He has defied death longer than anyone who has ever occupied the Oval Office. In 2015, he beat cancer that had spread to his brain. In 2019, Carter recovered from several falls, including one that resulted in a broken hip.
He now spends his days in the house where he and Mrs. Carter have lived since 1961, a one-story, two-bedroom mansion so basic that The Washington Post once estimated it was worth less than the Secret Service vehicles parked out front. His children and grandchildren take turns visiting him, he has a team of caregivers, but he has not seen a doctor for more than six months. Current US President Joe Biden calls from time to time to check on him.
“It's a day-to-day job,” said Kim Fuller, his niece. The kids sometimes read news articles to him and he watches Braves games on TV. “They yell at the TV and do all the things you normally do when you watch baseball.”
Carter can no longer teach at Maranatha Sunday School as he has done for years (the church's website says, almost optimistically, that he will not teach "until further notice"), so Fuller has taken over his duties.
Her uncle watches her every Sunday live on Facebook. At first he made his comments. “He let me know if I said something that wasn't quite right,” she says. “Now he doesn’t do that.” I really miss this. I wish he would do that."
Mrs. Carter, a former first lady who has made it a point to promote mental health during her time in the White House, announced in May that she had dementia and the two have been enjoying quiet days together, recently marking their 77th wedding anniversary. "She's very happy," says Jason Carter. “She remembers the wonderful times she had.”
According to Alexander, “They continue to teach us lessons in dignity and grace.”
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Fuller recalled how, for Carter's wife's 96th birthday last month, she organized a butterfly release at the house. Fuller said her uncle knows his birthday is approaching.
“He wants to live to be 99, I know that,” she emphasized. “The last month was not quite ordinary for him. But I just pray every day that he lives to be 99.”
“It’s bittersweet,” she added. “We've all been on alert since February. Every day is a holiday."
But as her uncle had proven time and time again over nearly a hundred years, no one would tell him what to do.
For Carter, any birthday will be celebrated at home with his family.
“He's really physically disabled and nearing the end of his life, there's no doubt about that,” Jason Carter said. “I think it upsets him.” But he's home. He is with his wife. They love each other. They are at peace, and nothing more is needed. And you certainly won’t get more than they got from this life. And the ending is exactly as we would like.”
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