Former President Jimmy Carter showed up to teach Sunday school hours after his 28-year-old grandson, Jeremy, died, telling his church he was glad God gave him life and freedom.
Jeremy Carter had been feeling ill and laid down to take a nap Saturday night when his heart stopped, according to CNN. He was rushed to the local hospital where he died early Sunday morning. His cause of death is unclear.
The former president arrived 25 minutes late to his Baptist church the next morning, but was still able to teach Sunday school as he has for years, Maranatha Baptist Church Rev. Jeremy Shoulta told CNN.
“[President Carter] was shaken. He was obviously sad although he was able to teach and he was able to present the lesson as well as he always has. But it was apparent to everyone there that this was weighing on him very heavily.”
Church member Jan Williams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the fact that Jimmy Carter showed up to church at all showed his devotion to his faith.
“I’m not surprised. That’s the kind of Christian he is. Everything that happens in life, good or bad, he uses as a teaching experience. He lives his life as a lesson for other people to see.”
Jimmy Carter’s wife, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter was not at church Sunday.
Church members described grandson Jeremy Carter as a great fun loving guy who visited his grandparents and attended church with them as often as he could.
The past few months have been very emotional for the Carter family. In August, Carter was diagnosed with brain cancer; doctors found four melanoma lesions on his brain after they removed another from his liver.
Then, two weeks ago, the former president announced his completion of four rounds of drug therapy along with surgery and radiation treatment. On December 6, Jimmy Carter told his church that new scans had showed no signs of cancer in his brain or liver.
The announcement has driven a number of cancer patients to ask for the same drug Jimmy Carter was prescribed, Keytruda. The medicine, which was only approved for use in the U.S. last year, allows the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
After Carter’s announcement, melanoma specialists nationwide have been receiving requests from their patients for the new drug, Dr. Patrick Ott told Stat News.
“I want what Jimmy Carter had.”
After he was diagnosed with cancer in August, Jimmy Carter said his fate was in the hands of God. The former president is a devout Christian and has been described as the most religious man to ever be president.
Raised as a Southern Baptist, Carter has never been late to church, except for Sunday after his grandson’s death, performs missionary work, and travels to spread the word of God.
Perhaps that’s why it was so important to the former president to show up for Sunday school after his grandson’s death. He even remained after church to shake the hands of well wishers, saying he didn’t want to offend anyone.
His pastor told CNN that church life was important to Jimmy and his faith had provided a great deal of comfort in the past months.
Our church plays an important role in his (President Carter’s) life and he feels committed to his responsibilities here at the church. His presence at the church today gave him an opportunity to fulfill his obligations to the church and also to feel the loving presence of his faith community.
[Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]