He hesitated on retiring in 2002 but I guess it is good he did. It gave him time to rest and spend with his family. If he had not survived this term then he might have been replaced by a Dem. How sad would that be.
Jesse was such a nice man on a personal level too. Even lefties said he was always polite to them. There was a news story about how the evil left wing Sen Lowell Weicker trashed Jesse as an extremist once during a debate on school prayer. Moments after the debate ended Jesse turned to Weicker and offered him a mint. He certainly had class.
he was very sick for most of his last year in the Senate. He had to use a scooter to get around Capital Hill. I think you are right that he wanted to spend more of his final years with his family.
As for Jesse being a nice man on a personal level, the story about how he adopted his son really moved me. Not everyone is able to adopt a child with cerebral palsy. I think that says a lot about his character.