Yesterday, hours after I posted on facing my mortality, a former President, recently diagnosed with cancer, held a news conference yesterday, shortly before he was going to get his first radiation treatment. In fact, he had also started chemo the day before.
He has stage IV melanoma, highly aggressive. He spoke for almost 40 minutes, dressed in blue jeans and a blazer.
What courage he showed in his news conference. He even cracked a joke about the greatest failing of his Presidency (1977-1981).
Which leads me to how I blew my chance to see Jimmy Carter back in 2009.
I had gone to Americus, Georgia to visit the nearby Andersonville Civil War POW site and Plains, Georgia, the birthplace of Jimmy Carter.
While staying at a B&B, I was told that Jimmy Carter taught Sunday School every Sunday he was in the area. He was still doing extensive travel for his charity and foreign relations work, and, when I looked up his schedule, it said online he wasn't going to be at church that Sunday.
I felt a little uncomfortable, being of a different faith, and decided not to go to the service. The set up was: service first, then the Sunday School. You had to go to the service to go to the Sunday School.
If I had gone, I would have seen him, because, as it turns out, he did teach that Sunday.
We had talked about going back to Americus this March. Jimmy Carter is still teaching Sunday School. We didn't, and lost our chance. Although, Jimmy Carter does plan to continue to teach it as long as he can, I also know a little (from a friend's experience) of what radiation treatment to the brain can do.
So the obvious lesson of this moment is: Grab the moment. Don't let the discomfort of a new experience keep you from a once in a lifetime opportunity.
But that wasn't all.
But then, at the conference, there was one last surprise. Yesterday, I had blogged about my family history of pancreatic cancer. It turns out that Jimmy Carter may have the most extensive pancreatic cancer history of any living person.
Pancreatic cancer killed his father, brother and two sisters (all of his siblings). His mother died from breast cancer that spread to her pancreas.
But, despite all this, he plans to continue working as long as he can.
I am in awe of Jimmy Carter and how he faced his mortality in public yesterday. No matter what your politics, this man deserves our respect.
What a lesson he taught yesterday.