It is almost one year since your sudden departure. We knew this day will come, for we talked about it and you mentioned about being laid to rest beside your wife at Restland. But I was not expecting it to happen so soon. On Saturday, I called you more than five times because I was going to the house on Cambridge to get the garden ready for the fall crop. Since I did not hear from you, I assumed that you will show up as you usually do. As I work
ed all day, I kept listening for your voice but did not hear anything. A lot was done that day and I left satisfied that when we meet again, you would be proud of how much I had done. I was going to show you the big blisters on my palms as proof of how hard I worked.
Little did I know that while I was trying to call you and not getting any answer, your house was on fire and it was burning all day while I was weeding the garden. I later found out that five fire trucks spent hours fighting hard to put out the fire from 5:00 am and were only able to get to your remains by 1:00 pm.
Needless to say, I am still in shock at how sudden you left us. At the beginning of the week, we watched a movie together. From the theater, you rode in our van with the rest of my family and when we got home, you drove to your house in your van. We were supposed to get together at our house on Friday, but for some strange reason, you did not show up and did not answer your phone. Then, I heard the worst the next day that you were no more. We wept! If I knew that the goodbye after we left the movie theater was the last one, I would have said some special words and hugged you tighter.
To the outside world, many people knew Dr. James Carter as an accomplished geoscientist and the only person who could make moon dirt for NASA.
To me, he was a teacher, supervisor, advisor, doctoral committee member, friend, coach, father figure, and grandfather figure to our children.
My compassionate teacher: I arrived in the United States as an international graduate student with no scholarship and already in debt. I had borrowed money at 10% per month from money lenders and the debt was ballooning. During the first semester, I took a graduate presentation class with Dr. Carter and he somehow developed an interest in me. Other people expected me to get a job and solve my financial problems, something I could not do because of restrictions placed on me by the immigration system, but he showed compassion by going above and beyond what was required. He helped me get a scholarship. This single gesture by him not only ensured that all my debts were paid, it laid a solid foundation on which I was able to complete my graduate degree debt-free.
My understanding graduate advisor: I had been admitted into the graduate program without an advisor. Dr. Carter took me under his wing and made sure that my masters fieldwork was well funded. I remember him taking me to a shop to buy my first steel-toe field boots. Those Red Wings served me for a long time. After working with him for two years and almost done with my masters, his wife passed away. During that transition, I decided to move into the doctorate program without completing the masters. I got a different graduate advisor, but Dr. Carter accepted to be one of the committee members. This was an example of great understanding on his part. I also worked under him as a teaching assistant and it was a great pleasure assisting him with his labs and lectures.
My caring boss and mentor: After I graduated, I got a job in the oil and gas industry, which was not my initial plan. The reason I studied geology was to work in the mining of gold and diamonds. In fact, my research was in using geochemistry for mineral exploration. When I expressed this desire to Dr. Carter, he told me that my focus should be on finishing school because five years after I graduate, I will be doing something entirely different from what I studied in school. He was right! One year after graduation, I was laid off because of the 2008 economic downturn. I moved back to Dallas from Denver and explained my situation to Dr. Carter. I could not get a job because I had changed my visa to an international student visa. During that time, he was making moon dust and decided that his company could help me change my immigration status. We went and saw an immigration lawyer to seek advice. Fortunately for me, I won the diversity lottery visa that year and became a permanent resident — all because he cared enough to go with me to see the lawyer.
My giving friend: There is so much that Dr. Carter has given to me and my family that space and time will not permit me to write. This summer, he took care of my pool while I was gone. By the time we came back, he had bought more chlorine dispensers and more chemicals. He even mowed my lawn. We have been to Fossil Rim with him, gone to the movie theatre a couple of times to watch some Christian movies. The last one was a few days before he passed. I run a nonprofit (Equipping of the Saints International Ministry) and each year, we hold a fundraising event. He was always there to support our efforts to make HOTPEC orphanage sustainable. This summer, he offered the backyard of one of his houses for me to make a garden. He provided everything I needed to make the garden and we had a summer harvest.
My loving “Grandfather”: Each time we needed Dr. Carter, he would show up in our house. We will eat Cameroonian food, plus American food. Apart from the things that he was allergic to like soya, he would eat everything that was served to him. His favorite was ripe plantains and beans. He had a simple motto we often laughed about: “Eat or be eaten.” About two months ago, he showed up at the house and I jokingly told him that he was going to try something new today. I said, “There are many uses for cow skin. While some people use it for shoes, some eat it. Today, we are having some cow skin in tomato sauce.” He was not afraid to try it.
He was part of our family. He loved our children and they loved him. The day he died, one of our girls who has said she wants to be a paleontologist said she thought both I and Dr. Carter were going to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.
We had a wonderful time: Last year, we organized a birthday party for him at my house and invited all his close friends. Those who showed up had a great time. My greatest joy is that all that I am telling you today was heard by him that night. Less than two months ago, he came over for his birthday cake. We had bought his favorite flan cake and, as usual, had tons of fun.
Life is eternal: Dr. Carter, we still had a lot to do together, but God had other plans. Now that you are with Him, you are more illuminated, enlightened, free, and still present with us. The book on racism that we were working on, I will continue with your guidance. The planned trips to the museum with my daughter will still happen with you walking with us. The fun get-togethers, fundraising, gardening will still go on with more fervor. Anything less would mean all the love and blessings you have given me would be in vain. Not only have you helped me and my family put down roots in this country, you have helped us develop wings. In thanksgiving and in deep tribute to all you have done, we will live on and fly.