I’ve always believed that some of the greatest gifts I receive from being a hospice physician are the lessons I am taught by my patients. Indeed, we all have things to learn from each other in this world, if we pay attention, but there are special lessons taught to us by those who are preparing to die. The clarity of this reality often brings into focus the elements of life we wish we would prioritize more: meaningful time with family, service to others, appreciating a sunset.
My patients have many more yesterdays than tomorrows and it is in this context that they are living examples of what matters most.
And now, former President Jimmy Carter, a man who has dedicated his life to helping others, is teaching the world this same lesson.
At 98, President Carter has lived a life defined by service. His years in the Navy to his time as a farmer, Georgia State Governor and ultimately President of the United States were only a prelude to his second act in life. Since leaving the White House, he has taught the world what giving back truly looks like. Whether it was helping to reduce the prevalence of curable diseases around the globe through the efforts of the Carter Center to hanging drywall on a Habitat for Humanity build site, improving the day-to-day existence of people has been his life’s passion.
Now, after beating melanoma and a brain tumor in 2015 as well as recovering from various other illnesses, he has made the decision to serve one more time. Carter’s graceful acceptance of hospice care at home has allowed for the valuable national discussion of what end of life care is and how it should be viewed.
It has provided daylight to shine on a topic many Americans would rather not think, much less talk about – dying.