I received an email this morning from a friend letting me know her father had passed away, suddenly. Liz and I worked together closely for a year, enough time to hear all the sordid details of each other’s childhoods. We had a bond: Louisiana. She was from there and I lived there for eight years. We understood the context of each other's stories, we recognized the family names, knew what the weather must have been like during a particular story, we could picture the food, and we remembered the same elections.
Her father, as I came to realize through her stories, was a truly great man, even though she never said so directly. So, when her family came from small town Louisiana to San Francisco to visit Liz for her grad school graduation, I was eager to meet him, and all the other characters I’d come to know through her stories. He was surprised I wanted an autographed copy of the novel he’d written decades earlier, but I really did.
Included in Liz’s email to me was a link to her father’s obituary in a regional publication called http://www.thetowntalk.com, “serving Alexandria, Pineville, and Central Louisiana.” The obituary began with the type of language obituaries are always filled with, but what struck me was that in John “Jock” Wyeth Scott’s case, it was all true. He really was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He really was a dedicated member of his community. He really was a devout student of his religion.
There have got to be millions of men like him and they are just under the radar because our culture isn’t interested in holding them up as examples anymore. I want more Jimmy Stewart movies and politics. I want to feel my city is full of men who value their marriages, who feel honored to raise children, and to help their neighbors. I want to know about more men with a clean mouth and a clean life, who are intellectual and spiritual while staying rooted in the dignity of taking responsibility.
I remember Liz telling me, years ago, about her father’s original research into his aunt, Natalie Scott, and his plans for a book. This “conservative” man was extremely proud of his non-traditional, trail-blazing, left-leaning aunt and felt her legacy must be preserved. Natalie was a risk-taking war nurse decorated by France in World War II, a world-traveling expat journalist and newspaperwoman, an intellectual, philanthropist, and adventurer.
There is a special joy in knowing that someone completed their masterpiece before they depart. Even if you don’t really know the person, it makes the world feel ordered, like everything is as it should be. That’s how I felt when I read in the obituary that Jock did finally finish the book, just last year. It’s called Natalie Scott: A Magnificent Life. I just bought one on Amazon here. My friend Liz looks almost exactly like the portrait of her great aunt Natalie on the cover and I’m so glad her father made sure that she and subsequent generations have that treasure of a book to read over and over. It’s so difficult to lose someone who did so much good, but so kind of that person to have left a legacy to inspire us.