I made a bold statement the other day and I have been thinking about it ever since. I proclaimed that my Dad was the holiest man I know. And so I have spent the past few days since thinking about my proclamation and considering my reasons for believing this, for my Dad was not a man of practising faith, but my statement is True. And its so simple, it comes neat down to Love.
When my father died one of the local characters in my town not his, (where he adopted a public house as his own local when visiting me) put a card through my door. I shall never forget the one line written (by an almost stranger) that summed my Dad up perfectly, it read ‘He was a big man with an even bigger heart’. It was true. He Loved with a capital L. Not just loved . . . but Loved. Loved in a practical way that he would help anyone who needed helping. Me and my first husband had been divorced for 3 years when my Daddy died, and yet my x husband (whose Dad died the day after he was born) felt compelled to send my mother (and us all) a card saying ‘he was the best Dad that anyone could wish for’.
We didn’t have a practising faith as a family. I didn’t think we were much influenced by any faith or any religion. But I do remember my Dad watching Songs of Praise often with tears in his kindly eyes (which I never quite understood) followed by the antique road show which as a child bored me almost to death, but he loved them. He Loved laughing, he loved comedy double acts like Morcambe and Wise or The Two Ronnies, and funny programmes like Only Fool and Horses. He Loved cooking and food, especially seafood, in fact all food with a culinary delight. He Loved his family from mother and father, to wife, to children and grandchildren. This week I have been reading his poetry which he left behind, so much humour and laughter in so many of them, but on re-reading which I haven’t done for a long while, suddenly I see so many references to God, and so much trust in the unseen. So much integrity to being a good person litters his work in every way.
I so wish he were alive that I could share the deeper understanding of his poetry with him today, then I could accelerate my appreciation of it in his presence, instead of the younger, cooler, shallower reception I gave his work back then. His poetry leaves behind the presence of a Greatly faithful man, even in the presence of no formal faith. Faith beyond religion and education is to be greatly admired. His poetry jumped the borders of different cultures and religions, they were unimportant to him. His humanity and compassion felt towards the worlds ‘poorly treated’ was tremendous, even in his East End, tirelessly working and struggling to support a large family, restricted kind of way.
He would make cups of tea for the local homeless man, who would come and sit on our wall when he needed tea. He would break up brawls in the local public house where he awarded himself a pint or two after a hard days graft. He would help the elderly neighbours when they needed helping, he was a window cleaner and so known by all. He once rushed out to rescue a child who was dangling from a window in a home across the road. We lived just back from a very dangerous road when I was a little child, there were many tragic accidents, always in the dark wet winter people would knock on our lamp lit home for help. Always my Dad went to the help of people knocked down, or involved in car crashes or motor cycle accidents, he would help where required until the emergency services arrived, else make cups of tea for the emergency services whilst they worked. As a child I remembered feeling very frightened that the danger (which had already happened by the time the knock on the door would come) would somehow put my Dad at risk of further danger. It never did. He was always the hero.
My Dad was generous of heart and time. He knew how to converse with real conversation about life in the real world. He was genuine and kind and brimming with compassion. He was resolute in truth, full of honesty and integrity and lived a truly humble existence. He was never beguiling, nor exulted, nor lofty, never absent, nor cruel, he would never play games with people’s feelings, nor breach their confidence. He was not chaste other than to the woman he Loved with his whole being, my Mum. I look around in my world now, and he truly is hand on my heart, the one man I see Jesus in with All His humility.
Love unconditional. Holy.
My Dad’s poetry is wonderful poetry, not because of academic acclaim or lofty aspirations, nor because of literacy skills or poetic excellence, but because it shows the thoughtful man beyond life . . . in his true light. It leaves us richly blessed with so much of his character shining out. It is greatly full of his integrity and humility, his kindness and his humanity, his hopes, sorrows and faith, But the greatest of all is his Love. Many of his poems are brimming with viral humour and fun, but I would like to share with you the ones that have struck a chord with me this week, not having looked at them for a few years. This is what I came across.
‘I strived but failed so many times, it hardly matters anymore.
I shall not weaken, turn to crime, degrade myself, be of your kind.
Not in your mould therefore.
I struggle on, undaunted be, for my free spirit will never go.
Life’s face one day shall smile on me, reward for effort I shall reap.
My faith it tells me so.
So thus in fullness of all time, all things shall right themselves I feel.
Your hatred of me must decline, it has no reasoning or rhyme.
I never wished you ill.
In meantime you do as you must, I shall not flinch or duck your blows.
You hurt me not, in God I trust, all of your hatred I resist.
He loves me that I know.
When in heavenly house I tread, if He should take me to his side.
I would like it of me said, he had no need to lie or beg.
The man retained his pride.’
‘I believe there is a God, but not God as we know it, for he fashioned us to be like him, but we very rarely show it.
He gave man knowledge he required to make earth Heavens door. Instead we choose the path of greed, selfishness and more.
We learn to hate instead of Love, to fight and maim and war. Is there any hope for mankind as we know it.
I believe the devils here, but not as we all see it, for evil lurks in everyone and the weak-willed quickly free it.
When gazing in the mirror are there horns upon your head? Or just the horns of the dilemmas that your every sin has bred.
Go and try a little harder, love your fellow-man instead.
Give the needy help, enjoy it, smile and show it, then there may be hope for mankind as we know it.’
‘Pity the unyielding for they have no place to go.
Their stifled hidden feelings, they are so afraid to show.
To them a teardrop falling means weakness and disgrace.
For me emotion calling gives one dignity and grace.
The strange and differing attitudes of individual minds.
Understanding and forgiveness seem somehow wrongly defined.
Toleration is the answer, think of others that’s the key.
To unlock mis-trusting feeling and befriend your enemy.
If you imprison fears inside your soul and never let them go.
They will fester to resentment, then the hatred starts to grow.
Please be tolerant of others, learn to bite your lip, have grace.
Just a little understanding makes this world a nicer place.
A Christmas Wish
‘Seasons greetings everyone, to the old and to the young.
To the sick and to the ailing, I wish you health.
To the weak God give you strength, to the weary, rest at length.
To the poor and to the needy, I wish you wealth.
To the doubting let His Love reign down from up above,
So they all may see the error of their ways.
Grant my wish for all these things, and the joy and Love they bring.
Merry Christmas, peace on earth, this Saviours day.’
Poems by Charlie. Charles Henry Baker – My Dad. 1945 -2005
And this my ode to my Dad, read at his funeral.
Ladies, gentlemen, friends and foe,
Our wonderful Dad was so sad to go.
He didn’t want to leave, when he died he shed a tear.
He looked regal and peaceful like his sonnet friend Shakespeare.
He honoured his date, a table booked for two,
Him and the Almighty One, a right splendid do.
They talked about his Loved ones, grandchildren, loving wife
They flicked through all the pages and read chapters of his life.
Dad passed all his tests with flying colours, lots of frills
And God was laughing, drinking real ale, and eating jellied eels.
His family and friends came to greet him, Tom, Barry, Ernie, Den as well.
God welcomed him with open arms to Heaven, forget hell.
His character was oh so Great, compassionate and kind.
The spirit of community a truly special find.
A gentleman who longed for peace-but worked so bloody hard.
It’s not fair that you’ve gone so soon, our lovely Dad the bard.
Oh Dad I feel so sad, feels like I’ve lost my ally.
My fellow romanticist, my poet, my daydreamer to the sky.
The Baker mould is so unique, we won’t let it fade away.
Were laughing on the other cheek. . . . we’ve got you D.N.A.