On Sunday, he was 25 minutes late for his regular Sunday school class — the first time he’d ever been tardy. But when he finally arrived, former President Jimmy Carter shared some heartbreaking news with his church in Plains. His grandson, 28-year-old Jeremy Carter, had died just hours earlier.
Carter told the crowded church that his grandson hadn’t been feeling well Saturday and laid down to take a nap at his family’s home in Peachtree City. “His mother checked on him later and discovered his heart had stopped.” He died early Sunday at the hospital. A cause of death was unclear.
The 91-year-old Carter offered a rare insight into his family’s heartbreak before delivering his Bible lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church. But the fact that he attended at all was the real message, churchgoers said.
“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,” member Jan Williams said.
Church member Jill Stuckey described Carter as a “great, fun-loving guy” who loves God. “Life’s full of its ups and downs and the Carters aren’t immune,” Stuckey said.
“My heart goes out to him. He lives his faith every day,” said Nebraskan Rose Jaspersen who visited the church Sunday with her husband on their way to see family in Florida.
The sad news came two weeks after the former president made the cheerful announcement that his brain was cancer-free. In August, Carter revealed that doctors had found four small melanoma lesions on his brain after removing a similar lesion from his liver. On Dec. 6, Carter announced that new scans showed no signs of cancer on his brain or liver.
During service, Carter encouraged the congregation to “be filled with a sense of joy and thanksgiving,” even in the face of sorrow.
“I should be joyful and thankful to God for giving me both life and freedom,” Carter said before asking for prayers.