LISTEN: Jimmy Carter confronts life without his beloved Rosalynn

Former President Jimmy Carter must have told his grandson Jason Carter countless times he was ready to retire from a life of “waging peace” through his Atlanta-based Carter Center. And each time those promises ended in a flurry of emails about the foundation’s work.

But that changed in 2018 when Rosalynn Carter had emergency surgery and the former president spent the night in turmoil, Jason Carter said during an appearance Tuesday on “Politically Georgia” on WABE.

“He called me at 6 in the morning and said: ‘Hey, I haven’t slept yet. I’ve been sitting here all night. And I realize I’m done at the Carter Center. I’m going to let you take the executive committee.’ ”

Jason needn’t wait for an explanation about his grandfather’s love for Rosalynn, who died Sunday at the age of 96.

“He said: ‘I sat here all night worried that she wasn’t going to make it through the night. And I realize that all I want to do for the rest of my life is go home to Plains and be with Mama Carter.’ ”

Theirs was a love story that spanned more than 90 years. The two were neighbors in Plains when Jimmy Carter was 4 years old, but they didn’t start dating until after he had shipped off to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Rosalynn initially objected to his marriage proposal, but she changed her mind. He called it the “best moment of my life,” and his family said she was the key to his political success.

“He wouldn’t have won his campaign for the state Senate without her or his campaign for governor before 1976,” Jason Carter said. “She was by far the best politician in our family. Some of it is that they came from the same place and they just understood each other.”

Jason Carter watched his grandparents grow old in their modest ranch house in Plains, enjoying peanut butter ice cream, hot dogs and bloody marys on the weekends and nightly Bible discussions.

Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter  are shown at their home in Plains in 2017. The next year, after she underwent emergency surgery, the former president sat up with her all night. He then told his grandson Jason Carter that he was ready to give up leadership of the Carter Center. "I realize that all I want to do for the rest of my life is go home to Plains and be with Mama Carter,’ ” Jason Carter said, quoting his grandfather. (Dustin Chambers/The New York Times)

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“I think the biggest worry that I have now, that all of us have now, is just how my grandfather is doing. He’s now spent two nights without her,” Carter said of the 99-year-old former president, who has been in home hospice care since February.

“I don’t know if he thought he was ever going to do that,” Carter said. “And so I think that right now people are just trying to be there for him and support him.”

But the younger Carter said there’s an “incredible beauty” in their final days together after 77 years of marriage.

“You don’t get to choose when you pass on. But for them to be able to be together for these last days, in that house that they shared that was so full of love, that was surrounded by family, at the end of this incredible life and this incredible partnership — there’s no better way that anybody would have wanted them to live out their last days.”

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