27 December 2010

Gary Baker: June 21, 1941 - December 2, 2010

* On December 2nd, my father passed away from colon cancer. This was the eulogy I delivered on the day of his burial, but these words can never express the depth of my love for him.

We are here today because an amazing man with a generous spirit was taken from us far sooner than we were ready for. We knew, in our hearts, that the end was spiraling toward us much too quickly, but we thought there might still be time to say all that needed to be said, to spend more time in each other’s company these long winter evenings.

My father would say that he only lived his life the way anyone would, but I think I can safely say for all of us gathered here that he touched our lives in important and changing ways.  There are moments and lessons we will carry with us, to hold in our hearts that will not soften our grief, but remind us that we were blessed to have him with us for a time.

What I have to say about my father is not limited by my words today. I can only hope to be half the person he was, and I hope my words are adequate, but I also know that if my father was here he would be lecturing us all to get in out of the cold.  But I know that my father was far too humble and words must be said to express how deeply I’ll miss him.

My father taught me the beauty of words and stories. I remember sitting beside him on the couch, the both of us immersed in our respective books, and him leaning over to say, “You see, in books you can go anywhere.”

My father taught me the value and power of the earth. He learned from his mother and grandmother the secrets of gardening, the ways and times to plant crops.  And we will remember him in his gardens, the way he shaped the ground, the way the ground answered back.

My father taught me the way men should be. How being a gentleman need not compromise a woman’s spirit. And how simple gestures could remind my mother and me that we had someone who was making sure we were safe, happy, and loved.

My father taught me what it is like to persevere. He recently told me he felt as though I changed the course of our family by getting my college degrees.  I told him that he made the road easy for me. That the education he fought for was a greater move in my eyes.

My father taught me what it is to be a parent.  I have never doubted that he loved me and that he would be there for me when I needed him.  He believed in me long before I ever did, and though I’m sure at some point I found it embarrassing how often he talked about me, I cherish those thoughts now. 

My father taught me how to laugh, from great deep laughs to calm chuckles. He loved jokes and stories, some of which weren’t always funny, but we’d laugh anyway.  He and I greeted his cancer diagnosis with wit and humor, and though it didn’t stave off his cancer, it made the going easier.

My father taught me what love is. He loved me deeply, but it is the way he loved my mother that has taught me the deepest lessons, that has shaped the core of who I am.  We often tell the story of how he met my mother. They were pen pals when he asked her to marry him before they even met. The story is romantic, a piece that we share that alludes to an era of handwritten missives and blind faith, but it is that, a small piece of their story. It is the story of the next forty-four years that are important, how he looked at her with love every day, how even in the worst of times they were there for each other, and how their love carried them through. And how a great love is one of kindness and friendship, solace and dedication.

In his passing, we learn these lessons, we learn what illness, what cancer, could not take away from him and what his passing will not take from us.