I'm not sure what I thought, looking wide-eyed at this week's Magpie Prompt. But it made me do a double take at the object in the photo.
You see, just days before, I was packing my bag to return to New York from Texas after the week of farewells to my Dad. My mother came into the room with something in her hand: Seven pocket knives. Immediately I knew they were Dad's. As long as I can remember, he carried a small pocket knife with him. Always! Men of his generation seemed to ALL carry pocket knives. And over some five decades he rubbed each one of them smooth and used them for opening cans, cutting finger nails, slicing envelopes, and lord knows what else. It's just a small thing that we don't ever think about.
I particularly remember Dad giving himself a quick manicure with his pocket knife on occasion. It fascinated me that someone could have their fingernails looking so clean and professional looking with a pocket knife! He had a technique about it that made me think that he could probably do just about any utility with that little knife.
Once I bought a cheap pocket knife and carried it around like Dad did. I never used it. Didn't quite know what to do with it, so I stopped carrying it. Men of his generation lived through tough times, knew more stuff, learned to do, create, repair, prepare, and utilize little tools like pocket knives, simple as they might have seemed, to get through life.
Or so I reckon.
Anyway, there Mom was, offering me one of these knives to remember Dad by. I picked a smooth, worn, amber-colored bone pocket knife. I don't know how I'll use it. But I'll carry it in my pocket and feel the smooth sadness at my finger tips.
And so we gather from all directions tomorrow to bid farewell to my Dad. A WWII veteran with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the US Army Air Force, 493rd who was an honorable American; a hard working salesman who provided well for his family; a man who taught and instilled a work ethic in his children and grandchildren; a husband who loved his wife and considered her a living angel. He was a man who earned respect from those he met because he was honest and true to his values and principles.
We are all on this Earth for various reasons. But we all share something in common: The need and goal of helping guide each other through this endeavor called life. We do it with varying degrees of success or failure. Ultimately we cannot save each other from our final moment on Earth. Sometimes we feel we cannot save our loved ones from suffering and pain, hard as we may try.
Perhaps that is a part of what makes us grieve. It makes us stop our normal routines and look inward to what's truly important in life: Living our lives, as encouraged by my minister Douglas B. Finch, in the spirit of kindness, and with an attitude of love.
I love my Dad. But holding his arm, and caressing his forehead as his last breath shattered silence, none of us could keep him from leaving.
Rick Burnett Baker currently is self-employed as a narrative photographer, and is a member of the National Press Photographer's Association (NPPA). Baker, a native Texan, is a graduate of State University of New York (Albany) with a BA in Asian Studies, (minor in classical Chinese literature), a Graduate Certificate in US Urban Policy, and a Masters (MRP) in Regional and Urban Planning, Third World. He has worked with a mining company in Honduras, with a civil engineering firm in Saudi Arabia, and traveled andworked throughout Southeast Asia, China, and Northern Africa with Halliburton for nearly a decade, based out of Singapore. During his years living in Singapore he was also known for his radio and television voice-over work. Baker returned to the US in 1985 to complete academic interests and continues to live in New York.