Karen was so much more than my "better half" --- she was my "more than half" to the extent that so much of me is missing, it is difficult to stand up. Since our first date in 1964, she laughed at all of my jokes, even the bad ones. I loved her laugh and that is one of the things I really miss. She was a true artist painting with oils, pastels, and watercolors from before I even knew her. When we were dating, I used to go watch her in her art class at night. As far as I was concerned, she was magic. She made ceramic things, sculptures and our first set of dinner ware. Stained glass was also something she did well and actually paid all the medical bills for the birth of our first son by doing four stained glass windows for a church in Brownwood, Texas, that are still there. Her artist's eye touched everything she saw and did. John and I would comment about a green something on television, and she would sigh and tell us that it was blue. She was right, of course. Karen had a soul full of compassion, especially for every child that suffered. She wanted to make things right, if she could and hated every pain inflicted on small and defenseless children. To be funny, while we were dating, I playfully said I hated kids. She stopped the car and told me to get out—we were done if I felt that way. I never teased about children or babies ever again. She was also passionate in her defense of me if she thought I had been slighted. Once, some organizers of a big, outdoor motorcycle event asked me to preach and advertised that to get a bigger crowd. When the crowd came, they told me I wasn't to preach, but another man would. They had just used my name to increase their numbers. When Karen found out, she went hunting the woman who had asked me. She saw her driving by in a jeep and jumped up on the moving jeep and started yelling at that woman. That got us both kicked out, but she felt justified and happy that right had been pronounced, if not acted upon. From then on, she was the "jeep jumper" in our family. I've said it before and I'll say it many more times, but no other person in the whole world has loved me as completely, as selflessly, and as endlessly as she did. Not my mother, my father, or any of my other relatives. Karen loved me fully, unconditionally and knew of all my flaws but forgot them and never mentioned them. You know how some folks will save up mistakes and errors in judgement and pull them out later in an argument? Not Karen, not ever. Nor did she ever say a bad word about me to her friends or fellow teachers. The past was the past as far as she was concerned and what mattered was my love for her and my love for our children and much later, my love for our Lord and Savior, and that was all that really mattered. She never once failed to believe that I was handsome and distinguished and would tell me so every day for the last several years. Now, I can see in mirrors and know how fat, scarred, and disgusting I look, but if she caught sight of me without clothes on, she would always whistle and say, "Hubba, hubby." I'm hoping that telling you all of this will help you to understand why I am in such pain missing this incredible woman who has been more than my life since I was nineteen years old. I tried to repay her love in numerous ways, but the one thing she always treasured was that on the first day of every school year, when she was nervous about another beginning, a bouquet of flowers would arrive from her husband and that would always calm her down and make her smile. I never missed a single year, not once, in the over forty years that she taught.
She always said that for her to feel rich, she just wanted to see fresh flowers every day. For every day that she lived in Tanzania, I managed to get fresh flowers in the house. After the first two or three years, one of our workers would do it for her, but she always had them. We took some of her things that were precious to John and I and buried them in a mound of concrete near a sitting rock on our grounds, and every day, there are fresh flowers on it. I am crying as I write this, but I cry in joy and pain every day since she left. I do miss her so but am determined to make the new St. Karyn's Academy preschool one of the best in Tanzania. I will struggle to overcome whatever physical obstacles get in my way to live as long as I can to see that her legacy of love here continues for as long as possible. And I am using the treadmill every day. Dr. Chris came by last night to give me a pep talk on how young I am and to inspire me to continue to work to improve my health. Seems I have a lot of people in my corner—that’s a good feeling. I hope you have that, too.