Song of Saturday

I read a New York Times online piece this morning. Entitled Jimmy Carter’s Long Goodbye, the article was classified as a piece on politics, but the writer’s focus was not on politics. Rather, it expressed what I sense is the author’s deep appreciation for Carter’s demonstration of surprising strength and stamina, and Carter’s impact on the world—even while in the midst of his year-long (so far) hospice care.  My opinion of Jimmy Carter has changed considerably over the years. Like so many others, I once thought his leadership was weak. I thought his devotion to his religious beliefs interfered with what could have been philosophical strength. But, over the years, I came to view Carter differently. While his obviously deep-seated religious beliefs do not coincide with mine, I now think those beliefs contributed enormously to an extraordinary strength I (and so many others) failed to see in him. In my opinion, one of the most significant differences between Jimmy Carter and other political figures (including presidents) is that Carter has lived his life based on his moral principles—which, obviously, are rooted in his strong religious beliefs. While other politicians claim to believe in and act in response to the guidance of moral codes, Carter did not need to make such claims; he actually embraced a set of morals that would guide his thoughts and behavior for, so far, roughly 99 years. Even the “nicest” politicians, the ones I generally have admired, often put on an act, I think. They express their morality purely as a means of generating support for their political careers; Carter’s exhibition of beliefs that guide his morality is no act. I wonder how the world might have been different if Jimmy Carter had been elected to a second term as President of the United States? Would the rabid Christian nationalism cultivated by the political right have grown so strong? Or, would Carter’s Christian beliefs and his overt embrace of people whose beliefs differ from his own have overwhelmed and suppressed those Christian nationalists I consider dangerous and fundamentally amoral? It is impossible to say with any degree of certainty, of course, but I think Carter’s leadership might have stunted the rise of so-called Christian nationalism. It may be useless to play the game of “what if,” but playing the game now might change how we, as a nation, respond to such threats in the future. Carter’s so-called weakness as a leader was, as I think back on his time as President, was simply a refusal to abandon his core beliefs. Whether I agree with all of those beliefs or not, that refusal is not a weakness at all, but a rare and welcome (too late in coming) strength.


My low ebb of yesterday morning lasted all day and through most of last night. I stayed awake most of the day…I think…but felt dull and tired and generally exhausted. After a light dinner of tomato bisque and miniature saltine crackers, I went to bed sometime between 7 and 8. Aside from trips to the bathroom to pee, I slept most of the night. I woke sometime before 4, but drifted in and out of sleep for an hour or so and got around 5. I feel optimistic that I will survive the day without too many hours of napping, but I won’t count those chickens just yet. But I feel a little like celebrating that I do not feel utterly fatigued this morning. It has been a week and two days since my most recent chemo treatment, so I should be coming out of my long exhaustion…but my long exhaustion after the first treatment went on much longer than I expected. Mi novia tells me I should simply accept how I feel and not fight it; if I am tired, it’s my body’s signal that I should rest or sleep. She is right, of course, but I wish I could count on feeling good enough to go out. Yet, because the chemo can weaken my immune system, I should avoid being in crowds. This treatment had better work! If subjecting myself to the byproducts of chemotherapy were to fail in its intended outcome, my mood probably would become worse than cranky. I’ll assume the treatment is working. I look forward to getting the results of the oncologist’s assessment and determination of progress.


The fact that I am hungry right now is a good sign. If I could snap my fingers and find a plate of breakfast in front of me, I would happily devour every scrap of it. I imagine a plate with spicy sausage, toasted English muffin or rye toast, baked tomato (make that 2), sautéed mushrooms, and half of a large Ruby Red grapefruit (I’m not supposed to eat grapefruit because it could negate the effects of one of my cardiac prescriptions, but just one should be okay…I will not tell my cardiologist). A large glass of tomato juice, suitably spicy with several drops of Tabasco sauce, would be a nice accompaniment. And a glass of cold water. And another demi-tasse of espresso. For some reason, eggs do not hold much allure for me lately; it’s not that I find the idea of eating eggs distasteful, only that they are not particularly appealing. I’d eat them, though, if put in front of me. And I might accept hashbrowns, as well. I could go for congee—or a nice Japanese breakfast consisting of a small salmon filet, sliced cucumber, radishes, a bowl of rice, and a cup of miso soup.  Oh, tea would accompany the Japanese breakfast; just plain black tea, not the more traditional green tea, which is okay, but not my favorite. I can dream, can’t I? Instead of all this, though, I’ll probably just have a banana; maybe some bran flakes, as well.


When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does, too.

~ Terri Clark ~

Terri Clark is a Canadian country singer, in case you do not know her. Her quotation here is so very simple and so very true. It behoove me to remember that people who have cancer are not the only ones dealing with the disease; people surrounding them also essentially have cancer, in that they have to deal with it, both emotionally and physically. The person who actually has the disease has the obligation to lessen the burden of the disease on their loved ones. For one thing, in most cases cancer does not automatically equate to a death sentence. The patient ought to make a point of expressing that to the people around them. And in those cases in which cancer is a death sentence, the patient should do all they can to ease the transition for those who will be left behind to mourn. What that is—what they can do—probably varies according to the people involved, but whatever it is, it is a both a worthy objective to achieve and an obligation that must be met.

I hope this video, below, of this beautiful song can be seen and heard on my blog. I like this version, but I also am enamored of the version by Bonnie Rait and by Richard and Linda Thompson.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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