Today We Celebrate a Life
" A year ago today Ken was fetching and lifting helping me recover from a hip replacement and prepare for the move to San Antonio to be near our son and his family. The move had been in the works for months while we waited for our designated apartment to be finished. We were moving around boxes in our apartment full of the treasures and crap we felt we couldn’t live without. Ken had done an amazing job of reducing his paper piles to a single box. And those of you who had seen the piles know what a job that was for someone with Alzheimer’s. But he did it well and seemed to be really on board for the move. The movers were scheduled for March 1. Ready, set, go.
A week later was a different story. In spite of the flu shots and pneumonia shots we both came down with the flu that was going around our retirement community. Ken’s cough sounded awful. Karen took him to the ER on February 22nd where he got antibiotics and I was told that if he developed a fever, bring him back. He did and short story even shorter, he was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with pneumonia, put in ICU, went into cardiac arrest, was resuscitated and passed away on February 27th. Holy moly! Talk about a game changer! Karen with her ironic sense of humor said to him in the hospital, “Gee, Dad, if you didn’t want to move, all you had to do is say so.” Our son Chris was there to the bitter end and was the rock we all leaned on and still do. His twin brother, Keith, and his wife, Sue, were angels taking care of me.
So here we are now a year later. I went ahead with the move though delayed a few weeks. I am so grateful for all the support all of you have given me. It has been amazing and such a demonstration of your connection, love and respect for this amazing man. It has given me a year of gratitude in so many ways. Grief is so weird and comes in waves and moments of reflection or just out of the blue. Your support pulls me through.
Ken loved his work. He not only loved his work but lived it. He was excited about the space program when he first came to work here in 1964 and never lost that enthusiasm. Wouldn’t he love the Space X launch this week! He was a futurist; he was always looking out into the years beyond at the potential of moving and living in space not just next year but in twenty years, thirty years. He wanted a long-range plan step by step to make living in space a viable option. He was an organizer with a following….me included…touching many lives, mentoring with kindness and patience.
There was spiritual side to Ken that I was privileged to witness on many occasions. He went to conferences on creativity and consciousness where he served on panels with people like Barbara Marx Hubbard, Rupert Sheldrake and Jan Phillips. Ken loved music, all kinds of music and he loved to dance. Did you know that? He wasn’t a great dancer but he loved to get out on the floor and boogie. Waltz Across Texas became our song and I have a melt-down whenever I hear it. We held Lifetime tickets to the Kerrville Folk Festival supporting Rod Kennedy and the gang from their beginnings in the Kerrville Auditorium all the way to Quiet Valley Ranch. Every Memorial Day would find us camping near Kerrville through the mud and the crud, rain or shine rocking to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary or Kinky Friedman and strings of others. Ken loved them all and loved sharing this love with his children and lastly his oldest granddaughter.
And politics? Oh my, he was fascinated, spellbound and never hesitant to jump in with his opinion. He served on the Charter Commission to get Nassau Bay incorporated as a city. He served on the Vestry at the church and helped lead the struggle to remove a priest who was not performing ethically. At one point years ago before NASA he served as a Precinct Chair and much later behind the scenes supported Sissy Farenthold in her failed attempt at governor. As his Alzheimers progressed, he stayed glued to MSNBC covering the last Presidential election and I frequently wonder if he may have checked out because he felt he couldn’t tolerate Trump as President.
I am so very grateful to have shared a life with this geeky guy with the crew cut and glasses who when we first dated gave me an invitation to a St. Swithins Day party written on toilet paper. His sense of humor had me hooked from the beginning. We had millions of laughs following. He was funny, smart and sensitive. Who could resist a guy who can shed a tear in a movie? What a combination we were…the engineer and the artist. At that St. Swithins Day party in that tiny cabin midst the cedars in Austin I had no idea of the adventures ahead and the places this man would lead me.
He never failed to support me or our children in whatever crazy thing we wanted to do. You want to play soccer? Okay, I’ll coach the girls’ team even though I’ve never seen a soccer game. You want to go to grad school in Georgetown? Great, we’ll help. You want to buy property for a studio in Webster? Here’s the money. You want to build a big gas kiln? I will haul the brick. You got a teaching offer in Australia? Go for it. He gave us the courage and confidence to go for it and we will be eternally grateful.
Thank you for being here today to celebrate a life well-lived. It is so appropriate to have this lasting growing memorial for a man who dreamed a presence in space for years to come.
God bless NASA, the space program and all of you."
It feels as if the last piece is in place now and I am sleeping better than I have in months. For some crazy reason I feel I can now get on with my life whatever that may turn out to be. Ken will always be a part of my life and amazingly I lunched today with new residents who worked for NASA and knew Ken. Small world and interesting timing. He will always have a huge part of my heart but now my role is new and different, perhaps as support to others who are walking the path of caregiver.