Sunday, October 28, 2007
This morning a little after six, the phone rang. It was my cousin Val, calling to tell me that Scott died about 1:30 this morning. She said his passing was peaceful.
She and her brother Tod didn't make it out to San Diego to say goodbye to him. That's going to be especially hard on Tod, who was also a few hours too late to say goodbye when his father, my Uncle Harry, died.
Scott was a force of nature, a big guy with a booming voice. When I was a kid, he'd greet me with a reverberating "Cousin Susan!" and sweep me into a hug. He terrified me.
In 1994, I was in San Diego for the MLA Convention -- where literary academics on the job market have their first interviews -- and I arranged to have lunch with Scott. When I went down to the lobby to meet him, wondering if I'd recognize him after so many years, I heard a booming "Cousin Susan!" Once again, he swept me into a hug. This time, I wasn't terrified. Over lunch, I told him how much he'd scared me when I was a kid, and he just laughed.
"Me? How could you be scared of me?"
I'd told Scott that I wanted to take him to lunch, and he found a beautiful cafe overlooking the beach, since he knew I loved the ocean. When the check came, he insisted on paying it. During the meal, he told me fascinating stories about his spiritual life. In his twenties or thirties, he'd been diagnosed with a degenerative, supposedly incurable spinal condition. His spine was literally dissolving, and he was in excrutiating pain. His doctors wouldn't give him pain medication, because they said that if the pain went away, he'd do more than he should and hurt his back even more.
So Scott took up yoga and started meditating to deal with the pain. He told me that after a few months of this, he learned how to leave his body. He was drawn into the famous white light, where he found himself filled with bliss and the knowledge of divine love.
When he returned to his body, his back didn't hurt anymore.
The following week, he went to the doctor. Previously, Scott had been almost unable to walk. During this visit, he did a karate kick, extending his leg all the way to the top of the office door frame. The doctor squinted. "You can't be able to do that. This is impossible."
The doctor ordered x-rays. The x-rays came back completely normal: Scott's spine showed no damage at all.
Scott also told me that he was at his father's bedside when Harry died. He saw Harry's soul rise out of his body, and after the death, Scott spent time with his father's spirit during several journeys out of his own body.
I wasn't yet religious when I heard these stories; they both spooked and fascinated me, not least because Scott was a football-and-auto-mechanics kind of guy, the last person I'd have expected to be into astral encounters. But now, remembering these stories comforts me. I'm sure that Scott is with Harry and his mom Marian now, and I wonder if he left his body when he was in the ICU, if he saw his grieving wife and daughters at his bedside. If only he could have channeled the power needed to heal his liver disease, as he'd done to heal his spine! But by all accounts, his attitudes towards the illness that claimed him was rather fatalistic: he didn't do everything the doctors wanted him to do, a source of great sadness and frustration for his family.
In the shower this morning, I was trying to remember when I last saw Scott. I think it was in 1999, when I was in San Diego again for the Popular Culture Association meeting. I spent the night with Scott, his lovely wife Sandy, and their delightful daughters, Shannon and Britney. Scott was still generous and loving, but he was also moody, and it was clear to me that living with him wasn't easy for the women in his household.
I called him in 2003, when I was going to MLA in San Diego yet again -- this time to interview candidates for a job at UNR -- but we didn't manage to connect. I spoke to him on the phone when I got home to Reno; he sounded troubled and angry. I can only pray that at the end of his life, he once again found the peace he'd discovered through meditation. And I hope that when I die, I'll be welcomed into the hereafter with a booming "Cousin Susan!" and a sweeping hug.
I told Val that I want to fly down to San Diego for the funeral; she's going to let me know when the service is scheduled. Please keep Scott and everyone who loves him in your prayers.