What do I value most in life? To figure this out I am going to answer questions about my 75th birthday party, who’s going to speak, what about, and why.
I have a few friends now, along with my fiancé, who might still be alive when I hit three quarters of a centennial, so I’ll start with those. My best friend Annie, I could see her getting up to read a speech that she had carefully laid out, only to take one look at it, crumple it up and throw it sideways. She knows me to the bone, and doesn’t need notes to lay out exactly who I am, and what I’ve done in my life. She’ll start with how we met during PIA on the USS Ronald Reagan, and how we became the best of friends, leaning on each other for support in a male-driven environment, and building each other up through prayer and connection. She’d say how she came out to me, and how immediately supportive and loving I was, and have always been, no matter what she was going through. Sure, we’d spent years between visits, but every phone call, even if it had been over a year since our last chat, was like picking up the conversation wherever we left off last time. Then Annie would go on to start describing how much talent I have.
This is starting to sound incredibly self serving… so I’m going to try to do this the way the book suggests, as an obituary of myself, written by those who know and love me. I’m changing my name in this to Cara Baker, because as soon as I get married to my fiancé, that’s what it will be.
Cara Baker was a loving, caring, and giving mother, grandmother and great grandmother, who was never afraid to show someone she cared. Even to her own downfall sometimes, she would always do what she could when she met someone homeless or in need of a hot meal. She couldn’t stand it when people showed any kind of utter disregard for humanity, no matter what the situation. During the bombing of the Boston Marathon, she cried for the terrorist, hurting for him the way few, if any, could even think of, purely because to her, he seemed so young and impressionable. To her, he was nothing more than a little boy, lost and confused, who had been convinced to do something stupid. He was someone who needed prayers more than anyone, someone who truly needed God right then.
It was always incredibly important to Cara to show God’s light to those around her, but not in the way that you would think: She was kind, generous, loving… she sincerely tried to be like Jesus. While she didn’t attend church with any kind of regularity, she still loved to go, to commune with fellow worshipers, to sing to God with more than once voice. She always loved the song “Amazing Grace”, because as sad as that song sounds, if you really truly listen to the words, they’re really … well, amazing. They’re uplifting, and so was she.
Cara was a creative, through and through, and it didn’t ever matter what the medium was, so long as she could express her thoughts and her work through something. She was an incredible writer, capable of deep, enigmatic poetry, and an amazing storyteller. She loved to sing, and she loved above all else to sing with other people, to commune in that way. She never thought of herself as a “singer” per say, despite how beautiful her voice is. She always used to say, “I have no stage presence” with a laugh, but she really did shine on the stage. She loved to act, too. You could say she was a woman of many skills. She even enjoyed cooking when the bug bit her. Most of all, though, she loved to create things. Whether painting, drawing, handling clay or using the computer, she absolutely loved “getting her hands dirty” with some new concept. She could take the idea of a client and expand on it to something incredible, poignant, saleable. She had an incredibly creative mind, and could invent new ideas at the drop of a hat.
Cara’s husband, Noah Baker, knows well of her creativity. “We’ve got her creations all over the house,” he said. “But my favorite is the self-portrait she did in college, just a burst of colors with just enough shape to see that it’s her, in the scarf and hat she’s always wearing. It was her to the brim.”
Her friends also frequently saw her new creations on facebook, even if they were halfway around the globe. “I’ll always remember telling her how beautiful her work was,” said her best friend Annie. “Even when she had worked her way up the corporate ladder, she never stopped letting her creativity shine. She had this one amazing project where pre-schoolers got to plant trees, and it was her job to promote the event. People are still talking about that project.”
“She was a great photographer too,” said another best friend, Jessica, who was backed up by her husband and also friend, Jeff. “She’d only had a little training, but she really had an eye for composition and balance. She would have loved to have taken more photography classes. Maybe in the next life.”
One thing Cara did do, however, was get her Masters degree in art. After completing her BA and realizing how badly she’d really wanted a BFA instead, after a few years and some time to save some money, Cara went back for her MFA. Always the eternal learner, Cara wanted to learn even more about hands on art, and she chose to follow her talents in photography. Yes, we know we already said she hadn’t, but apparently she’s going to some day. She also really wanted to learn how to further her skills in drawing and painting. Hopefully the MFA will have accomplished this for her.
Cara Baker was known throughout the region as someone who would help a body out. She made sure her donations were to causes she could get behind, like St. Jude and to local shelters. She spent time in the local soup kitchens at least once a month, and was also insistent that her family join her, to understand just how life was for some people, and how they could help.
Her time in the Navy showed Cara how to appreciate a multitude of cultures, and she strived to learn more languages during her lifetime. She eventually became fluent in both Spanish and Japanese, though try as Jeff might, Hungarian always eluded her.
Cara also tried to her best effort to see new places. The Navy had taken her to a lot of amazing locations, but she wanted to share her experiences with someone she loved, so after their initial honeymoon to Ireland, Cara also made sure she and Noah continued exploring other parts of the world, including Italy, the Caribbean, and all over America and Canada, from Mt. Rushmore all the way to Ecuador.
With all of these other dreams, Cara’s number one was to get to lead a group of people to success together, a team that worked together like clockwork to get the job done and to feel that sense of accomplishment. Art was what started driving her, and she insisted on doing at least some of the work herself at all times, to make sure that she could contribute too.
So here it is, the world’s longest obituary, because this woman lived the world’s fullest life. She was an amazing mother, always at every major event in her children’s lives, from pre-school graduation all the way through college graduation. Every play, every sports event, saw her there cheering her kids on. Her kids knew to their bones how much she loved them, and Noah knew to his bones how much she loved him too. She was just full of love, and it poured out of her like water. She put it into her art, into her work, into her family and into her friends.
Cara would never call herself a teacher, because she claimed she couldn’t stand in front of a class without her legs becoming jelly. But she taught, alright. There are so many people she’s mentored over the years to successful lives. She always loved the idea of Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, of the teacher who could change lives. Cara did, she just didn’t know it.
This one time, she took a class on how to learn people’s names. Cara could strike up a conversation with a complete stranger while waiting in line at the grocery store, but remembering her neighbor’s name was something that just eluded her. After that she never forgot a name, and more importantly, she never forgot a person who belonged to it. She could give you a smile of encouragement and on your worst day, you’d temporarily forget the bad.
Cara always wanted to be known as a good person, someone you could rely on. She’d help you move, heck she’d pick up your dry cleaning if you were desperate. Cara was the type of woman who would drop everything to go to a funeral of someone she didn’t know, only to support the someone that she did who had lost a loved one.
Cara never stopped writing, designing, or creating new things. And she never stopped loving everyone to pieces.