Jimmy Carter, the oldest living and longest-lived U.S. president, enters hospice

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 98, the 39th president of the Free World, is a man who loves hugs. How do I know? He told me.

It was autumn of 2013. With the unbridled support of my then-editor Steve Prosinski, I was one of 10 people chosen to receive the 2013-2014 Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.

As such, I traveled to Atlanta to receive intensive training from leading mental health and journalism experts. This was former First Lady and Carter Center Co-Founder Rosalynn Carter’s passion. It was her show.

There was no expectation that any of us would see Jimmy Carter, much less meet him. That was not the goal.

One morning during training, while listening intently to the experts, we fellow heard the sound of a door to the room slowly opening. As though one, we all turned our heads to see what was happening. Sure enough, it was Jimmy Carter.  His eyes scanned the room for Rosalynn Carter. When he found her, he seemed to sprint toward her. He kissed her tenderly on the cheek and was gone as quickly as he had arrived.

The nearly weeklong training was filled with luncheon speakers, lectures, dinners, tours and more.

One evening, with dinner well underway, both Rosalynn Carter and Jimmy Carter walked in. They circulated among the fellows.

As they moved about the room shaking hands and greeting fellows, I did not in that specific moment see a former U.S. President, but rather a grandfather figure and reacted spontaneously.

As he approached my table, I heard myself asking, “May I give you a hug?”

“Sure,” he said, with a big, toothy smile. “I love hugs.”

I gently embraced him.

On Feb. 18, the Carter Center released the following statement: “After a series of short hospital stays, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention. He has the full support of his family and his medical team. The Carter family asks for privacy during this time and is grateful for the concern shown by his many admirers.”

Hugs to you, President Carter.



Image Sources

  • Jimmy Carter: Cindy Uken