This week marks the 100th People's Weekly Brief. The gang at PWB headquarters planned a spiffy celebration down at Buzzy’s, likely involving police intervention, while I spent some time pondering what to write.
And then, earlier this week, my Pop passed away after fighting bravely to recover from his third open heart surgery.
He was a WWII veteran of the Army Air Corp, a career military officer in the U.S. Air Force who also served for almost two decades with the CIA. He loved this country and spent his life serving the nation. Married for 65 years, he leaves behind his devoted wife and four sons who will forever be grateful to him.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to find only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
I found those words by Thoreau written carefully on a small note card in my father’s handwriting in a drawer of my father’s desk shortly after he died.
Words that were special to him. Words that reflect on the importance of living a full and deliberate life.
And that he did. Through a lifetime of devotion to his family and service to the country he loved, this wonderful man not only discovered the essential facts of life, he passed them on to us, his four sons. He showed us through his life what we in turn needed to learn. Honesty, generosity, loyalty, courage and humor.
Winston Churchill once said… you make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.
The equation of Pop’s life was clear and true … he gave more than he got. He made a life worth living. He understood the essential facts and what they had to teach.
And when it came time to die, he knew, with absolute certainty that he had lived.
I’ll never know a better man. From my earliest memories of watching him for clues as to how a man should act… to the last time I had the chance to sit quietly with him and hold his hand, I knew, with my own absolute certainty, that he was my standard for measurement.
More often than not I fall short, but how fortunate am I to have this man’s full and deliberate life as my yardstick. My guide and bellwether.
And so, he went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately, to find only the essential facts of life, and see if he could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when he came to die, discover that he had not lived.
Pop lived. Every day I am filled with gratitude for how he lived. The best man I’ll ever know.
And when it came time to die, in the words of Tennyson, God’s finger touched him, and he slept. He’ll take one last flight soon, back to Washington DC for his funeral and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Til’ next week, stay safe.
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Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector and has recently returned to Diligence LLC, a company he cofounded in 2000, as President. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on counterterrorism, intelligence and homeland security. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant, writer and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks," as well as major motion pictures.