Remembering my mother today, Karen Trudgen Daniel, 25 years later. Her and my father’s story below, in their own words (and a few of my grandma’s polaroids).
Summer 1980 – Karen Trudgen
My dear friends,
By this time you have probably heard bits and pieces about the new direction God has given my future.
The story I have writes itself like a fairytale. To me though, history is much more interesting than fairy tales because the people are made up of flesh and blood and emotions and reason, and shown that God does intervene in our daily lives.
You are all aware of my love for France and the French people. This past February makes three years that I have spent in the country. I had just come to the conclusion that France was where I would live the rest of my life. Around Easter time I was ready to commit myself to two more years with Campus Crusade in France, until someone came into my life to change my direction and future.
Ken Daniel from Washington, D.C. came to Europe for four weeks. Paris was on his itinerary to visit and he was given my address from some mutual friends as someone he could stop and say “Hello” to. We had known about each other since the previous summer. Through a lot of unique circumstances, (we feel directed by God) he came to Paris Easter week – just when I had some free time to show him around. After two days of sightseeing, he went to visit other missionary friends in Germany. It seemed a little strange to me when he returned to Paris after one day in Germany. I also couldn’t understand why he kept sticking around when he had an important meeting to attend in England. Then one day while visiting Versailles, something happened that made me realize that he was interested in Me!! I was in a daze for sometime and at one point did say, “You don’t fit into my Five Year Plans.”
BEHOLD – I WILL DO SOMETHING NEW; NOT IT WILL SPRING FORTH, SHALL YOU NOT KNOW IT? Isaiah 43:19
The rest of the story is too beautiful for me to try to condense into a few paragraphs. I would love to share with you personally each phase of our trans-continental romance and the different ways God confirmed it was all from HIM.
The outcome is that I will become Mrs. Kenneth Daniel on August 23, 1980 at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland. It will be at 11 A.M. and you are all invited. Ken is an Electrical Engineer with the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan and has lived in the D.C. area for ten years. Our address will be –––– Arlington, Virginia – 22207.
Since my return to the United States on May 2nd, I have been extremely busy. So many changes have come into my life that I can hardly keep up with them. Through it all, though, I have seen God’s hand on my life by giving me such an understanding and patient future husband.
It has been eight years that I have been with Campus Crusade for Christ. Many of you have supported me the whole time. I cannot express my thankfulness to you for your support in many ways. Please continue to send into my account until the end of August. If you would like to support someone else from Campus Crusade for Christ, I can give you some suggestions – either French or Americans.
Please don’t stop praying for France, it certainly needs your prayers. A part of this country will always remain with me. Pray for Ken and me as we begin our life and ministry together in this very influential city of Washington D.C. By the way, the French influence in this city is great and Ken is helping me find ways to contact French that live here.
It really is true that GOD does have a wonderful plan for our life.
1989 – Karen Daniel
When great trials come into our lives
We are in great shock and try to realize
What the future could hold;
In the midst of our pain, our fears multiply,
And we never are the same.
Six months of chemotherapy; it will be hard for sure
With three small children how can I endure?
I knew God and his word
Would give me strength along the way.
But practically speaking, how do I get through ‘certain days’?
Then God used you through your prayer and support,
By giving us meals so we wouldn’t run short.
So many people helped in so many ways
That the load was lighter on those ‘certain days’.
And now that my treatments are complete,
My love goes out to you for being so sweet.
My memories of this time are filled with so much love;
In the midst of the suffering I felt His hand from above.
Thank you so much, Merci I should say,
For all you have done and sent our way.
Oh by the way there is one thing more…
Would you please pray with me that my health would be restored?
I want God to use me like He has used you
To help minister to others
When they don’t know what to do.
Que Dieu Vous Beniesse (May God Bless You)
Ken, Claire, Julie, Katherine and Grandparents
Easter 1990 – Ken Daniel
It was ten years ago this Easter that Karen and I met in Paris. And now she is gone. We lost a great battle against cancer. She is with the Lord to be sure, and that is a comfort, but she remains with the rest of us only in our memories, and that is sad. In this testimonial I want to recall some of those memories with you, and for those who are at some distance, tell you a little about the events that ended so sadly for us this past November.
How is it that a crowd of 700 people would turn out for the memorial service for a woman who was a “mere housewife?” Without even an intervening Sunday for the word to get our about her death, and not including the hometown Pennsylvania people. Another couple hundred would assemble for the service at the Free Methodist Church in Kittanning, where she was buried. Listening to the testimonials by several of her friends, mostly from her Crusade days, it became clear: it was because of her character. “A good name is more desirable than great riches”, or “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
Susan Westlake was on Campus Crusade staff with Karen in New England at the beginning of her staff career. At Karen’s service, Susan told a story about Karen that I had never heard, and like most couples we thought that we had heard every story about each other. Susan told about Karen’s starting the Campus Crusade for Christ work on the campus of Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Karen felt so burdened about the spiritual state of the college, so remembering the story of Joshua and the fall of Jericho, she walked around the entire campus seven times while praying for the college and the effectiveness of the gospel message there. That story almost bowled me over, as I sat in that front row pew with the family. All I could think was how privileged I had been to have been the husband of such a woman. And yes, it did sound like something that Karen would have done. She always did put her everything into whatever she was engaged in at the time.
Many of you knew Karen before I did, and I have vicariously lived many of your common experiences through her stories, especially the ones about her days on Crusade staff during the seventies. Through her, I feel that I know you much better that I really do in person.
Karen (Trudgen) Daniel
March 8, 1946 – November 27, 1989
Her Life, In Brief
Karen was born on March 8, 1946 in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, about fifty miles up the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh, where she lived among a large clan of relatives until she left for college. Her parents, Gerald and Eleanor Trudgen, still live there, and the extended family is close and supportive. The Trudgens are active in the Free Methodist Church there, and her younger brother Bill is a chaplain with the Army in Germany. Like many of the Trudgen children, Karen attended the Free Methodist denominational college, Roberts Wesleyan, near Rochester, New York, majoring in English and graduating in 1968. She worked as a child welfare social worker in the inner city of York, Pennsylvania for three years. Then, in 1972 she joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, serving for the next four years on college campuses in New England: first at the University of Vermont, then in the Boston area, principally at MIT and Wellesley. In 1976 she moved to France to serve with the Crusade work there. Not knowing French, she studied the language full time in Tours and Paris, spending her principal ministry time in Paris. Karen really fell in love with France and the French people. That is where I met her.
The Beginning, for Me (1980)
It was April in Paris, no less, so you can imagine that this Easter season has been especially poignant for me. She was Karen Trudgen then, and I had heard so much about her from friends back in Washington. What I heard was mainly along the line that there was a Crusade girl in Paris who had a real zest for life, that I really should be sure to meet her if I happened through Paris. I was traveling through Europe on a Eurail pass for a couple of months between jobs. We used to enjoy telling and retelling how we met, how coincidences in timing fell in place so that we did meet. She was planning on returning to the States on furlough but kept putting it off. I wasn’t really planning on even visiting Paris, but the train schedules sort of conspired to bring me there that week. I stayed a couple of days, left for Germany, couldn’t get her out of my mind, came back for a few more days, and by the time I left to return home, there was no doubt that a special relationship was developing. Returning to Washington, I spent a thousand dollars in phone calls to Paris the month of May. We were married in Washington the following August 23rd, less than five months after we met.
Naturally I had misgivings about taking Karen off the mission field. She had felt a definite call to full time Christian service, had a real heart for the spiritual needs of people, and especially the French people. And a love of France itself. Someone told Karen that she had such a happy sort of fascination with Paris that she seemed to think of the city as her personal toy. To bring her home to Washington where she would settle into a rather conventional life in the suburbs seemed questionable, even against God’s will. But our coming together seemed so providential in character and timing. Then we came to realize that God can do a whole new thing when He brings two people together, so we shouldn’t be too quick to judge what may be ahead, as a new couple in an entirely new thing from what we were as single persons.
Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new… Isaiah 43:18-19
I have been reading a bit in a journal that Karen kept when she was in France, and see how she had come to desire that God would bring her a husband, and that we was very lonely in Paris, despite her conviction that God had brought here there and despite the clear impact that she was having on several people’s lives:
Feb, 1980: “Lord, I give myself to you anew, I don’t know what the future holds for me, but this year I want to live in faith. I am not focusing on and one person to meet my need- it is you alone.”
March 2: “Father,… Thank you for where I am in life. A while ago, many times this week I struggled with my age. Continue to give me your insight on where I am in life.”
Then, June 23: “Thanks for all that you have done in my life since my last entry in this cahier [French for journal]. You have been my strength through all. You have given me Ken. You have charted my future with the person who is to be my partner for life.”
Needless to say, it made me feel good to read those words from ten years ago, confirmation that the Lord knew what he was doing in letting me bring Karen home to be my wife.
The Past Ten Years
If there was ever anyone who blossomed in her new role as wife and mother, it was Karen. She didn’t leave France entirely behind, either. She taught French at Cherrydale Christian School part time for a couple of years, and we developed a network of French friends in the area. In fact, one of Karen’s best French friends from her church in Paris married Larry Churney, who we knew from our neighborhood Bible study that met in Carl and Helga Henry’s house. So Liliane came to live in Arlington near us. One of my nice memories is listening to them converse in French; Liliane continues to be a real strength to me now.
Then the babies started coming. Claire was born on September 4, 1981, a little more than a year after we were married. Julie came along March 16, 1985, and finally Katherine on December 5, 1987. So they are 8, 5 and 2 now. Karen got involved in a neighborhood mothers group when she was expecting Claire, and formed a set of relationships which stayed with her through the years. One of the women in that group wrote me about the influence that Karen had on her life at the time, about the way that she was struggling spiritually, and how Karen’s faith inspired her to return to church. Despite a background with Crusade, which emphasizes overt witnessing on campus, Karen had a very non-threatening manner of interacting with the neighborhood women, all of whom understood clearly the source of her faith and respected her for it. She seemed to have a special rapport with the Jewish women, who might have normally been expected to shy away from someone who had devoted her career to Christian evangelism.
Karen found plenty to do at home. We acted as the U.S. point of contact for Francis and Anne-Marie Husson. Francis is the French national director for Campus Crusade in France. Karen would maintain their mailing list, translate their regular prayer letters into English and mail them to American supporters. For a year or so, Karen wrote the study questions for one of the large Community Bible Studies for women in our area. Karen was a real believer in making the home to be the sort of thing that Edith Shaeffer talks about in her book Hidden Art, where homemaking is viewed as an opportunity for artistic creativity. So there were little touches of creativity and comfort throughout our house. She really transformed the place from something that looked like a bunch of bachelors had lived in it for five years, which was the case. One of the most difficult aspects of my new widowhood is seeing many of these little touches slowly erode, as things get moved around in the natural course of things.
Then there was the kitchen. One of the first things that I noticed about Karen in Paris was the extra amount of attention that she would put into something rather simple like preparing a bowl of soup. Not being satisfied with just opening up a can, but always adding specials things if she didn’t make it from scratch in the first place. She would always laugh about how she and Nancy Lytle Ledbetter were two of a kind because they would read cookbooks for pleasure they way other people would read novels. I was the natural beneficiary of her culinary skills; her friends told me what a great cook she was when we were engaged, but I could have never imagined the degree of it. What was really great about it was not that she did really elaborate things, but that she did things with such and artistic touch, and enjoyed doing it so well. She did it mostly by intuition, and could rarely tell anyone exactly how much of whatever she used in a recipe. I just stood back and watched and cheered her on (and washed up). She believed that family times around the table were important for developing relationships, so she had a serious purposive to the atmosphere that she set in the kitchen and at the table. Many of us with forever associate Swiss raclettes (a sort of fondue cheese dinner) with Karen.
There are certain styles that I will always associate with Karen, mostly things she brought home from France. Things like wearing her purse around her neck or across her chest; long scarfs and long dresses. She noted that event the poorest French peasants dressed well by having a few good things that they wore all the time. Style stewardship, you might call it.
The Cancer Fight
It was a heroic fight over a period of fifteen months, from first detection in August 1988 until the end of November 1989. We always were optimistic about recovery; I was expecting things to turn around even to within a few hours before she died. In the end it wasn’t even the cancer that caused Karen’s death directly. She died of Kidney failure, a complication of the chemotherapy. Perhaps it was a gentle mercy, to just go to sleep. Far better than to have the cancer treatments fail and face a long painful encounter with cancer spread to the bone. But even thinking about that, I would have treasured every additional minute that we would have had together, so it is a small consolation.
If I had only known then what I know now, things might have been different; at least that is the way you look at it when you don’t have a strong view of God’s sovereignty. Even if you do, something like this strains the system. Anything less than a high view of the sovereignty of God leads to despair. But in a funny sort of way, it is therapeutic to fight the “what if’s” all over, and I continue to do so and will for a long time to come.
We thought the lump was just a clogged milk gland. After all, Karen had been nursing baby Katherine, and everyone says that breast feeding is a protection against the development of breast cancer. But the lump didn’t go away, so Karen went back for a mammogram in June 1988, and the results came back clear, probably an infected milk gland. We found out later that as many as 30 percent of tumors slip past mammograms. We lost a precious seven weeks, and of course I wonder whether it was during that period that the thing migrated. Just like I wonder what the difference had been if I had insisted on a mammogram, even a biopsy, when we first thought we noticed a lump. But you just can’t say. Then the operation. We had been praying that it would not have spread beyond three lymph nodes, a sort of benchmark for recovery that they use. It had spread to exactly three, and we took encouragement. Then six months of very heavy duty chemotherapy. Karen did great during these treatments; she was so fearful at first, fear of losing her hair, anticipating sickness. But when it was past, it really wasn’t that bad. She was so courageous, continuing her wonderful brand of nurturing the children, taking only a couple days out because of chemotherapy effects (mainly sleepiness and nausea) every three weeks. She looked great. You wouldn’t guess what she was going through. The staff at our oncologist’s office was so impressed with Karen, her determination, her upbeat attitude, her humor, and her faith. She would show up for her treatments carrying her well worn and marked up New American Standard Bible, the sort of Bible that so many Crusade staffers carry. It humbles we when I look at it now, looking at the verses underlined, sometimes with dates written next to them. Verses taken as encouragement, dating back to her days on Crusade staff.
Then the treatments were over. Three out of four women never have the cancer come back. But if it does show up again, metastasized to other parts of the body, it is virtually always fatal. We just put such thoughts aside and pushed forward into getting normal again. We had a great six months from February until August 1989. We visisted Karen’s parents who were wintering near Disney World. Karen wore scarves a lot as her hair started growing back. Then she put them away and was proud to have extremely short hair. She wore big earrings and floppy hats, and people told her that she looked stylish and very French. This pleased her to no end.
Then she started getting back pain of the sciatica nerve sort. Much to the surprise of her doctor, Dr. Pat Byrne, it turned out to be cancer, spread to her spine. It came back much earlier than usual. We were devastated, the entire doctor’s office staff was devastated. But there was still hope from a medical standpoint. Only in the past four years has an advanced treatment become available for metastatic breast cancer. It is called autologous bone marrow transplant, and basically it is a procedure for administering what would otherwise be lethal levels of certain chemotherapies known to be especially aggressive against breast cancer tumor cells when given in very high levels. Some of Karen’s own bone marrow would be stored during the procedure, which would kill her remaining marrow and the stem cells which produce new white blood cells. Then her marrow would be transfused into her blood where it would reconstitute itself in her bones, allowing her immune system to recover. Using this procedure, seventy percent of women are being pushed into remission, and about half of those are maintaining it. We were very excited about this possibility, but for several weeks we found ourselves bounced around trying to get admitted to a program. Every medical center had its own special admission requirements. We lost valuable time before finally fining a good program that would take Karen at the University of Chicago. Karen was so enthusiastic about the doctor there, who sent us back to Washington to start two months of preliminary chemotherapy the following Monday. By this time, an incredible amount of prayer support had been mobilized on Karen’s behalf. It seemed to both of us that God would surely protect us from losing the battle, especially when we considered the needs of our three little girls. Karen looked forward to giving testimonials about how God would work.
Then the evening before we would start the new treatments Karen came down with a serious lung infection that sent her to the hospital for a month, perhaps due in part to the steroids that she had been taking for the back pain. She was so sick the first week that they seriously though that we would lose her. But again, her fighting spirit and faith seemed to win the battle, and she came home. Many new relationships were developed with hospital staff, but we had lost a valuable month in starting the cancer treatments. Then finally, we started her on the Chicago protocol. She did great at first, but then a real shock. Her heart function was not looking good. Apparently a delayed reaction to the combination of radiation therapy and the earlier chemotherapy. A surprise since Karen had been doing aerobics in August. All of a sudden we were juggling many balls in the air at once: heart problem, residual infection, and chemotherapy side effects, plus the cancer had now spread to a lung. She had severe back pain by now, but we kept it under control with some pretty heavy duty narcotics. But she was able to be at home for Thanksgiving, while waiting for the chemo side effects to peak the following weekend. We were still fighting, still going for victory.
Then things started going downhill. The chemo side effects hit hard; severe mouth sores that interfered with talking, and fatigue. She told me for the first time that she was afraid. She was worried about me and the girls, about who would raise them the way that we had been. I continued to encourage her that we would ride it out, that the chemo was going to do its good thing. Still hopeful. Then to the hospital as she was getting really weak. Then, unexpected, her kidney functions started going bad, a possible side effect from one of the chemo agents, but one that had been compensated for during the treatment. The kidneys went into failure, and all we could do was wait and pray that they would recover, which can happen. Dialysis was not possible because the chemo had her platelets too low. Many balls in the air, so to speak. She mainly slept comfortably, while we waited. One of my great frustrations was that she had not been able to speak clearly for a day or so because of mouth sores. That side effect finally eased up, but by now she was so weak. She managed to tell me that she loved me, then she said “I’m so sorry.” She was thinking of leaving the girls without a mommy, I’m sure. She said that she was thirsty, then finally, looked up and said, “I’m not afraid.” After that she just slept and finally quit breathing about one in the morning of November 27th. I felt, and continue to feel, a void of enormous proportion.
Claire has a grief almost like that of an adult. Julie is doing better, but still clings to her daddy a lot. Baby Katherine has grown so much and you wonder what she understands. I was playing an audio cassette that had Karen’s voice on it the other day and she came running to me pointing at the speaking and saying “Daddy,.. Mommy, Mommy!”
One day after I had been talking to Claire about biblical prophesies, the end times and the hope of heaven, she asked me, “Daddy, is there a prophecy that when a godly woman dies, it means that Jesus is coming back soon?” I had to admit that there wasn’t, but she got it right about her mother.
I have been reading a good bit of Oswald Chambers lately. Perhaps it is because I have discovered that he died at the same age as Karen, at 43. I do not know why some people who seem to be so much the Lord’s servants are allowed to die at such an early age. But apparently it is within God’s plan for some people to live lives that flame like a Roman candle, and then are gone. I found something marked in my Bible that helped:
The righteous perish,
and no one ponders it in his heart;
devout men are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.
It is a bit of comfort to me. Then I come back to the verse that Karen and I claimed when we started a new thing ten years ago. I found this verse written on a card by Karen, apparently one of the last verses that she wrote down:
Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth,
Will you not be aware of it?
Because I have given waters
in the wilderness and rivers in
Another verse she left:
Do not let this happy trust in the Lord die away, no matter what happens. Remember your reward!
Hebrews 10:35 (Paraphrased)
It is hard to think of the future when all you want is to have the past back. So what to do now? When she was gearing up for the final fight, she sought out a favorite verse in Hebrews for us to keep in front of us:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Apparently those are Karen’s marching orders for the girls and me. She is surely in that “cloud of witnesses” now. I look forward to seeing her again, “at the renewal of all things.”
Claire, Julie and Katherine