This piece was conceived in honor of Pat Scott’s humble and dignified life and is published with the deepest respect for Ralph and their family.
Pat Scott’s faith-filled death was awe-inspiring because of its dignity. From her husband, Ralph’s account, Pat’s process was one of acceptance that “if this is my time, I’m ready.” However, it was not resignation, giving up, or hopeless, but such a kinship with God that I would call it the epitome of “crossing over,” “passing through,” and “living life to its fullest.” When I taught a Death & Dying course many years ago, Pat’s is what we called a “dignified death;” and I would call it the ultimate unification of the human with the divine.
I write this essay with a familiarity that I don’t really deserve. I only knew Pat by name, “she was a Steele.” But it is a matter of “country facts,” (the counterpart of the urban legend) that I know Ralph Scott and his family of origin. I “know” him through that six degrees of separation way typical in the countryside, not unlike “turn left at the big oak tree next to the 25 mph sign on the dirt road up ahead,” or “my neighbor’s cousin graduated from high school with your sister.” This is how I know Ralph: “you know the Scott’s, they lived on the ‘back road’ from Sunnyside to Cypher where our bus driver when the mood struck, took the route backwards so I saw where they lived because I got off the bus last instead of first. I think Sandy was a year ahead of me and Ralph a few years ahead of her in school.”
Back to the future – I know Ralph now, as we are Facebook friends. This is how I know of this most important and personal passage in the life of his family.
Beyond writing of Pat’s extraordinary faith, I am respectfully writing this because of her dignity. Our culture could use some dignity and decorum. I’m proudly a baby boomer, growing up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. We have some experiences to recount at this age. Far from knowing it all, we’ve lived a lot.
Back in our formative years, we honored privacy and we kept things like sex, money, politics, and death, to ourselves. It wasn’t secret, it was private. BIG DIFFERENCE here. Private means choosing boundaries and comfortably staying within them. Secret means hiding from the potential pain of disclosing something shameful. Unless you deem me an artifact and un-hip, I also taught Human Sexuality many years ago, so I’m all about keeping sex private but not secret – it’s a matter of decorum.
Death was private too. In fact, my best friend from junior high thought my dad was dead because any time she spent the night at our house he wasn’t there. But she never “said” anything about it. The fact is, my dad worked in construction and his jobs often took him out of town or out of state during the week and he was home only on weekends. I never “said” anything either. It was private.
Family members of school mates tragically died back in the day of our growing up and I only heard of it as a result of a reunion conversation of a friend of a friend. Nothing was “said,” that I heard at the time.
Politics was off-topic in my home of origin. Voting was a private endeavor. My dad was loudly a member of one political party and my mom was a member of “the other party.” So I grew up, fortunately, with an open mind. I “let my dad” rant about political things with my mouth shut and my mind decided if not open, but respectful of his opinions, strongly held. My mom just shook her head and believed what she believed.
We watch a lot of British television in our household, primarily dramas or crime/mysteries. Mostly through this medium, all I have known about the British parliament is one person standing up, yelling at the crowd of lawmakers across the aisle, with a freight train roar of disapproval from the gallery. I used to think this process somewhat barbaric and was proud of our American political decorum, by contrast. Wow! Have things changed?!
Relatively new to us baby boomers, is the nonstop and immediate nature of the “news” cycle. Thanks to this and the redefinition of journalism, minus the objectivity, politics is no longer private, civil, or dignified. Walter Cronkite, reporting the evening news on the black-and-white TV, our culture is not. Now we have a 24-hour presentation of some snippet of fact enhanced for us by a sound-bite of analysis, explanation, contextualizing, and interpretation of current events. It’s activist-journalism, meant to incite emotion and get a visceral reaction. As long as the media darling cites their bias upfront, bias is okay in today’s journalism.
Today’s dictionary.com Word of the Day: soniferous (conveying or producing sound) reminded me of the proverbial sound-bite, or the boastful person who loves the sound of his/her own voice. We have an acquaintance who tells everyone who will listen about his money, apparently millions of it. Aside from the point that I believe money is a private thing, can you say decorum?
And then there’s the soniferous media-driven celebrity of otherwise ordinary people, blown way out of proportion to what’s authentic – I would have used the word real here, but that word has been so bastardized by “reality-TV” and “real housewives,” that it’s useless to describe authenticity. These people are famous for being famous, not for displaying some great talent, intellect, or skill, but for entertaining the, supposedly bored with their own lives, masses, via a sex-tape gone rogue, a job as a drunken host/hostess of outlandish parties, or their extravagantly plasticized faces or bodies. Can you say dignity?
We could all take a lesson from Pat Scott and live with dignity and behave with decorum. THANK YOU PAT for your generous gift and humble example to us all. You were loved and will be remembered.
(Note: This piece was conceived in honor of Pat Scott’s humble & dignified life and is published with the deepest respect for Ralph & their family.)