A TRIBUTE TO MY FATHER, HARRY BALDEO

MARCH 19, 1927 TO JUNE 15, 2002

BY ALBERT BALDEO, ATTORNEY AT LAW

"If any man serve me, him will my father honor"

Jesus, John 12:26

"He that is least among you all, the same shall be great"

Jesus, Luke 9:48

"He who ascends to mountain tops, shall find

The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow;

He who surpasses or subdues mankind

Must look down on the hate of those below."

                                                          Lord Byron

My father is an unsung hero, a simple, quiet, unassuming leader and inspirational force who holds, from research done thus far, a unique world record. He is the only known person who has fathered four children in four different professional fields. His eldest son Frederick is a Professional Engineer, who now holds a Masters Degree in Education, Philip is a Medical Doctor and Professor of Medicine, Grace is an educator and financial consultant, and Albert, yours truly, is an Attorney at Law and former Magistrate, Prosecutor and State Counsel in Guyana.  When Harry Baldeo’s humble beginnings as a coconut oil producer and hire car driver are factored in, his abiding motto, which he made our mantra, "The heights that great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were busy toiling through the night," takes on manifest reality. His own dreams and aspirations as a child vicariously blossomed and ripened into us, his children.

From his humble beginnings in Plaisance, Vryheid's Lust and Better Hope, in colonial Guyana, to this wonderful congregation consisting of so many relatives, friends, well wishers and neighbors, a true microcosm of the world, his life was an inspiration and an example to all, a life in which he never lost the common touch.  He earned the respect, admiration, love and friendship of all he came into contact with. The sobriquet "Captain" was never more apt.

For him, it was both a term of endearment as it was of affection and respect. It fittingly described a husband and father of great fortitude and resolve, love and compassion, unqualified devotion, a man for all seasons and an ambassador for the concept of respect for your fellow man. In his epic struggles to be a success in life, and in his perseverance when confronted with the worst challenges life threw at him (and they were many), he is best exemplified by the poet William Ernest Henley, who wrote, "In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud; Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody, but unbowed. I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul."

My father always admired icons, such as the Denbows for their medical achievements, the Jagans for their dentist dynasty and the Luckhoos for their achievements in law, but his own achievements, now manifest in his children's, are peerless, and an example to every person out there, that you too, whatever your circumstances and shortcomings, can be a success. And this is my father's legacy to the world. We all came from a tiny village called  Vryheid's Lust, from relative obscurity, to carry the torch my father lit and carried for us during his lifetime. We shall carry that torch henceforth. I thank God that my father was able to live out the dreams he could not have realized, because of his circumstances of having to raise his 11 brothers and sisters from the tender age of 14. His sacrifices crystallized in his children's achievements. He was not lettered, but his conquest of challenges and hardships made him a hero and a warrior of unusual strength, a real master of life. Love of his fellow man was his major, coupled with humility and sincerity.  He always fought the good fight. It was only late in his life that we found out that he was born with a congenital heart defect, a setback that never dampened his fighting spirit. Indeed, this fallen warrior came out of a coma last year to give us one more year of his beloved presence, for which we thank God. We are his legacy, and testimony of what he believed in, and that legacy will be carried by all of us in his revered memory. And I know that we, as a minority community, will achieve the empowerment and the respect we so badly need and deserve in this Great Land.

My father always yearned and prayed for that moment to come. He always fought for the underdog and the underprivileged, for he knew what it was to be one. He epitomized the concepts of family unity, a hallmark of Guyanese and Caribbean culture often so sadly lacking in America today, and to the extent that the migration of these concepts can benefit a nation, his works stand out like a beacon. As such, every life we save, every child we teach, every bridge we build, every person we free, every achievement we reach, every person we help, we do so in the revered memory and on behalf of our beloved father and mother.

For us, a family that had the privilege of having him as our father and husband, he was our greatest friend, teacher and guide. He instilled in us courage, fortitude and humility.  He was our inspiration. He carried us upon his shoulders, where no burden was too heavy, no task too hard, no dream too far. He materialized dreams, which often seemed so distant.  He picked us up when we were downtrodden and defeated. He nursed us to get up, raise our head, and fight the good fight in the cycle of life. No battle was too frightening, no road too rough to travel, no river too wide to cross, no star too far to reach. And now that his days are over in this world,  I can say to him, and I know that he can hear me, "Well played, skipper! You have charted unknown territories and conquered new heights! May you have eternal peace and happiness in the greater duties you are called to do. There can be no better choice than you. Walk well." It was perhaps destiny that every father's day we will remember you in more ways than one. We will observe both your death and what you meant to us as a father and husband, brother and teacher, friend and guide.  But more importantly, we will celebrate your life, a life well lived and an exemplary life, on auspicious Father's Days to come. "Oh death, where is thy sting, Oh grave, where is thy victory?"

His soul has now become, in the words of James Baldwin, a "Witness for the Lord."  Indeed, Hopkins was right when he said,  "The true meaning of God and the creation is found not in the joyous passages of Christ's life on earth, but in his crucifixion. Not in the joy of the world, but in its suffering." The poet Milton perhaps had you in mind, dad, when he wrote: "The better fortitude of Patience and Heroic Martyrdom" in his epic Paradise Lost. But, as in the spring, you shall reap the divine harvest, and like the eagle, you will soar once again, for all earthly pain and suffering is no more.

And as is  written in the Bhagwad Gita, if I may borrow a phrase, which he would have  liked, for he loved and respected all creeds, religions, ethnicities and  nationalities, "His soul is a lamp whose light is steady, for it burns in a  place where no winds come." Farewell dear father, may you find eternal life and may your soul rest in everlasting peace. Thank you for a life well lived.

 
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