King: “one that holds a preeminent position” – Miriam Webster Dictionary
My grandmother named my father on August 21, 1940. She believed he would leave his mark. She wanted a name that indicated such. She named him King. He didn’t have a normal name, a traditional name. For me and my family, and for most everyone in the memorial service this past Sunday, he did hold a preeminent position in our lives. King. Not a traditional or normal name. Definitely an appropriate name.
King Martel Baker joined this life as the fourth of seven children, son of a traveling salesman and absentee father who died during my father’s teenage years. Most considered his family poor. He could have gone off the rails, strayed, or even followed in his father’s footsteps. He chose a different path. He joined the Air Force, used the GI Bill to become a pharmacist. He decided that his family’s life would be different than his. He had a vision of the legacy he wanted to leave. He spent his 77 years on this earth building that legacy.
He left a legacy of faith. Dad required us to attend church when we lived in his home. Church attendance didn’t define his faith. He set an example through reading his Bible, serving his church, but mostly in his selflessness. He refused to put himself before God or us. While enduring the degradation of his health due to muscular dystrophy, he refused to complain or seek attention or pity. He sought to minister to others. Even though he could no longer physically participate in the medical mission trips he so loved, he still helped by organizing the supplies and finding donations of vitamins and other medications.
He left a legacy of family. Before he left this world on January 12, 2018 at 3:20 a.m., he waited until all four of his children had gotten to his side. Family meant so much to him, even in death. He held on until he knew all arrived. As adults, my siblings and I have differences. We bicker and argue and hold grudges. Dad didn’t care. He willed us together. At his funeral, he made sure all of our cousins and their families attended through the relationships he kept with them. Even when we as their cousins lost touch, he wouldn’t.
He left a legacy of love. When a member of the Sadducees challenged Jesus to name the greatest commandment, He named loving God and loving others as yourself as the greatest command. King Baker made that his life’s work. In 2005, King’s home church called a new pastor. He gave the message at my dad’s funeral this past Sunday.
“When I first met King Baker, he told me that he loved me. I didn’t know how to respond. I knew my own father loved me. But I didn’t come from a family or tradition where men told each other that. The next few times I met King, every time I saw him, he told me he loved me. It wasn’t long before I realized something: he really does love me and care about me. Because of that, he changed me. I learned from him not to go through life without telling the people around me how I feel about them, that I really do love them. Without King Baker, I never would have done that. He lived out the love of Christ. I bear witness to that,” he said.
Every day I spoke to my father, he made sure to tell me he loved me. He hugged and kissed me. He did all of us. I never had to wonder. For a lot of my life, I tried not to be like my father. Today I pray that I can live like he did. Loving God, loving others as myself. Like King Baker. Thank you, Daddy. I miss you so much.