Although I hadn't seen Judge Baker in a few months, he was always in our prayers. It is common that when someone is a part of your family, as Fr. Baker has been to ours, you tend to also love those close to them. This was a gift and grace for us to get to know Judge Baker. Our kids even had the opportunity to speak with him often after Mass, bring him to lunch and eat chocolate brownies with chocolate ice cream for dessert (because vanilla was unacceptable) and to pray for him in his last hours with our family. The last time our family was with him was when we picked him up to bring him to the University Catholic fish fry, where we enjoyed sophisticated conversation with him as always and a huge smile and great laugh.
I was blessed enough to attend his funeral Mass. It was beautiful. To see his son celebrate the Mass, to hear the singing of the monks and sisters, to experience the love and farewell from a community that loved him so much. Fr. Baker wore black vestments, which I have never seen worn before, but was really moved, realizing how much sacramentals are such a huge part of our liturgy.
Throughout the whole Mass there were two things that struck me most. One, was that I thought it was beautiful that during the blessing at the end, Fr. Baker mentioned both his mother and his father when praying for the deceased... I thought it beautiful, being married myself, that that would be an option in the final prayers for the dead. It really moved me to hear their names spoken together. Second, during the homily, the priest was speaking of all the human and spiritual marks Judge Baker had made on the community. One part really stood out. He said, "And then he came into full communion with the Catholic Church, thanks to the example of his children." This blew me away. What a gift! To know that giving life to this world could and does give life to us as parents... in so many ways! In this case, Judge Baker discovered the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church thanks to his daughter and son and their fidelity. It was so beautiful to me. It will leave a mark on my heart forever.
My last reflection is something I have constantly been thinking on. Even as a mom of such young children, I already know the final goal... my only prayer. For every parent who knows the love and mercy of God, you pray that no matter what, you die knowing your children have also discovered the love and mercy of God, that they know Christ personally, and that they will never tire in their journey to find Him, love Him and serve Him. What an amazing gift for this father! Both of his children by his side before his death... both whom know the love and mercy of God! I know with certainty the amazing peace Judge Baker had as a father and a man... Fr. Baker and Sr. Margaret Andrew, you were the biggest grace in his life.
One last thing. In all their simplicity, my 3 and 4 year old expressed their deep concern for Fr. Baker last week after sharing the news with them. I had already explained to them that Fr. Baker's mom was in Heaven and now I shared with them that Judge Baker had left to go there too. I loved their innocent reply to me.... "But wait," said Gabriel, "What will he do with no mom and no dad?" Anthony leaned in towards Gabriel's face, "I know. I know. He has a sister. Mommy said yesterday." Gabriel answered, "OH YEA, HIS SISTER, she will definitely take care of him." And then I hoped to remind them who their real mom and dad were, always there to take care of them... "Guys, who else is Fr. Baker's mom and dad?" "GOD AND MARY!" Yes, certainly. We always have a mom and dad with us. It was so simple. But, it is so true.
Judge Baker, we will miss you. I will most especially miss the story I heard every time I was with you. I know for certain that I heard this story most because my boys were right at the age where "John Sims" was when he was always jumping off the refrigerator. You would ask, "Do you know when John Sims stopped jumping off the refrigerator? When he learned to read." I have always been glad that my boys brought back a memory of your son as a young boy.
Rest in peace. We will pray for you. Pray for us.