Across nearly two decades, I lived and laughed while also loving and losing my four children — all of them born before I was diagnosed with a genetic condition that I unknowingly passed on to them. A condition that is devastating for adults, but deadly for infants and
My first three babies came into this world, and then all too soon left this world, largely unnoticed — except by
that inner circle of folks who knew and cared for them.
For my youngest child — Mattie — this was not the case. His passing was tragically anticipated, and then deeply mourned, by millions. In fewer than 14 years, this young “poet and peacemaker and philosopher who played” embraced his time on earth with gratitude and service and a focus on others, even as he was more than aware of the inevitable brevity of what would amount to his “few handfuls of years”
Mattie heard God in his heart and his life, and he shared personal and spiritual messages of Heartsongs and hope, and of peace and purpose and play – bits of wisdom that touched and motivated millions of global neighbors to live a bit more gently. He made choices in attitude and action – and simply in be’ing – that opened hearts and changed minds, and that shifted the way-of-be’ing of countless others.
Mattie suffered, much, but he also celebrated, often. And, he reminded us about the power of prayer, and of the important matter of remembering to “play after every storm!”
During the final few years, and then months, and then days and hours and minutes and
breaths of Mattie’s presence on earth, I was not alone in sitting on the edge of my seat – weighted with worry and wonder. We all knew
that short of another miracle, Mattie’s medical condition had surpassed all that science could offer that might continue prolonging his life. We didn’t know the exact-when, but we knew his mortal-end was just-ahead.
Waiting is hard. Wondering “when” is hard. Extra moments can be sacred and treasured gifts, but they also are heavy on the heart, and mind, and spirit.
And, waiting and wondering for “what next” beyond the inevitable – that, too, is hard. How can we be “okay” and however will we move “forthward” as Mattie called it – with purpose, with choice, with hope, with peace, with anything – when that beloved someone has too-
soon yet-finally transitioned, and is no longer here… as our mentor, our role model, our inspiration, our re-assurer, our neighbor… our
My heart and mind and spirit are heavy with anticipatory loss of President Carter – the man who became my son’s dear friend and
confidante and colleague in peace endeavors. The two of them communicated often, reflecting on everything from personal and global challenges to the beauty of nature and hopes for humanity and even their most recent practical jokes.
Mattie referred to Jimmy as “my role model, a humble peacemaker.” Jimmy often referred to Mattie as “the most remarkable person whom I have ever known,” and also as “my best friend.”
I don’t know if Mattie felt more honored when Jimmy said, “yes! of course” to Mattie’s invitation to work collaboratively on his “Just Peace” book project, or when Jimmy sent him a rock from Oslo, Norway, with a message saying that he was sharing the Nobel Peace Prize he had just accepted with Mattie.
After Mattie died, Jimmy and I became quite close as well.
Jimmy’s presence in my life gave me continued purpose when I was in an abyss of grief. His mentoring of Mattie’s Foundation provided guidance and supported our infrastructure. His ongoing commitment to humanity and service and God – despite his unfolding age and health challenges – inspired and strengthened me.
He and I went through cancer challenges around the same time. He knew my treatment schedule, and would call me early in the morning on my chemo days to say, “How’s my sweetheart? You’ve got this. Let’s both stay strong. We have more purpose, and work on this earth.”
Oh, how I am going to miss this dear, dear friend, and amazing human being.
I could go on and on (and on and on) with memories and stories about Jimmy Carter. And I know I am not alone in this truth. Mattie was “almost 14” when he left us, and millions shared their “Mattie stories” and mourned his passing.
President Carter has close to a century of amazing years that are part of his life journey, and his work and presence and be’ing has touched and motivated countless folks across many generations. He will be missed and mourned by millions, and millions, and millions, and millions.
The coming weeks, or days, or hours, or minutes, or breaths will be challenging for those who are closest to him – his wife Rosalynn, his children and grandchildren, his nieces and nephews, his closest friends, his colleagues, his community at Maranatha Baptist Church, his neighbors in Plains, Georgia which is oh-so-known for “peanuts, peace, and a president”…
I admire President Carter for his dignity, and his grace in looking mortality in the eye and moving through his final chapter with the heart. Saying “yes” to the inevitable, and to the glory of Heaven, takes courage, and faith. It does not change the inevitable, or make it any less sad.
But it does somehow gift the sacred moments at hand with space for a few more special connections and memories, and peace.
I pray that he has a gentle transition when God’s “welcome Home, good and faithful servant” call arrives.
I pray that his family feels the strength and support of the millions of prayers, and the energy of all the love and respect and gratitude being sent by local and global admirers and appreciators. I pray that his friends and neighbors believe in the what-next of Plains, and celebrate the powerful legacy of this most remarkable human being who dedicated his life to serving God, and humanity, with his purpose and presence on earth.
And, I pray that we each and we all do not simply sit on the edge of our seats and “wait with worry and wonder” – which heavies the heart. I pray that we make choices – in every moment and along any journey and for all generations – that keep the essence of Jimmy Carter present, in Plains and in Mattie’s Foundation and in this country and on this good earth. Choices that exemplify and inspire the next generation with the who-and-how of this former President and humble peacemaker, this role model, this global servant, this dear friend… this person, who lived simply, with love and kindness, and grace.
I pray that we truly and sincerely pray, privately and together, with hopefulness that brings harmony and healing – on earth as it is in Heaven – and that sustains and strengthens the spirit, and community.
I know that Mattie is reverently yet joyfully waiting to hug his dear friend again, so soon. Meanwhile, I am sending hugs to Jimmy and Rosalynn, and to LeAnne and Kim and Marle, and to Amy and Chip and all the family, and to Jan and George, and to Jill, and to Tony, and to so many others there in Plains, where the legacy of Jimmy Carter begins and remains and grows,