Sir Roger Scruton and Mick and Lilly: Dignity, Tenderness, and Eternity

‘Ive been reading lately about Sir Roger Scruton from Great Britain who died on January 12.  As the dust of his life scatters, I’m appreciating his enduring imprint. I see patterns resonating with themes that pervade the book I’m currently writing.1

Every person’s life illustrates patterns. Patterns worth repeating and patterns worth avoiding. I’m trying to illustrate  each concept in my book with true stories. I discover good stories in my listening, reading, and daily living.

Listening to Sir Roger speak, I sense grounded reasonableness (for the most part) carried on the soft breezes of his temperament.  Even his striking criticisms of modernity leave me quiet in spirit rather than agitated.

I suppose his tone is shaped by his full-faced acceptance of his humanity and mortality (rooted long before his cancer diagnosis) plus his compassionate awareness that the rest of us grasp no more than he does. In our hubris (ignoring our brevity), he is humble for us. We should learn.

Sir Roger is a British philosopher (a lover of beauty and truth), a conservative (wanting to conserve the rich roots of his culture), an author and professor, a husband and a father. I write in present tense, because Sir Roger’s life and legacy are still here, even though he does not walk among us.

In contrast to the high brow of the humble Sir Roger (about whom I listen and read), my daily living is currently in Florida, among the needs of dear friends I’m calling Mick and Lilly. Not highbrow. But like Sir Roger, respectable, humble, limited, and needy. Lilly knows she’s needy. Mike doesn’t.

Digressing deeper into Alzheimer’s disease, Mick cannot know. Lilly does all the knowing. And the planning and the doing. Paul and I drove down to Florida to spend a few weeks with them in their new, retirement home, to help them set up house here and settle in. We feel great joy in coming along side of Lilly and Mick.

Paul is painting the interior of the house (his main project), changing light fixtures and window treatments, and doing other such things that are needed or desired. Oh, decisions, decisions. Lilly has to make them all! She has help from her daughter and son-in-law who live an hour away, but the decisions are hers. Her children can’t always be here to assist. No longer is she a leadership team with Mick. She is a single leader, taking care of her sweetheart of over 50 years. Fortunately, Mick is not hard to care for, thus far, though he continues to decline and is showing more touches of frustration and negativity.

Collecting lovely, decorating ideas.

Sir Roger lost his battle with cancer in less than a year – maybe in six months. However, Alzheimer’s usually takes a person’s life slowly.

“In the face of death,” Sir Roger observed, “human beings can still show nobility and compassion and dignity.” Nicholas Boys Smith begins his article in The Critic entitled “Sir Roger Scruton – the Last Commission” with this quotation. Then Smith notes that Sir Roger “certainly did that himself. And, I would add, courage.” 2

Lilly is doing this. And I would add, courage. She is demonstrating human nobility, compassion, and dignity – from within herself – for herself and her sweetheart – and for us to follow her noble pattern.

She and I set up a notebook on Monday, January 20, the day after Paul and I arrived, in which to record imaginations and plans for decorating and furnishing Lilly and Mick’s “new” home. We opened our record with eight principles of design to guide us. We set up two pages per room to list ideas and purchase goals. From there, we began to confer, explore, and go on shopping adventures. (I try to go to bed early.)

While we are gone, Paul paints and watches Mick. Mick observes Paul at work. He sits quietly. He stands and watches. He roams the house. Peeling little oranges, Mike carefully extracts the pulpy strings and separates each section. He meticulously stacks the pieces of peeling. Then he eats each section.   Since this is a a fastidious interest,  we need to maintain a small stock of these.


Lilly and I wore ourselves out shopping and choosing by our third day together!  Fortunately we had located the nearest public library.  Lilly came prepared with proof of her new address in order to obtain a new library card. Mick went with us on this outing and roamed the small, extension library while we girls chose several interior decorating books and a few novels.

That evening, we began reading an easy read book aloud together around the kitchen table.  We read the first chapter to Mitch Albom’s book, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, which is a sequel to his New York Times Bestseller, The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven is easy to follow, even without having read the first book. Mick sat quietly at the table, sometimes watching us and sometimes snoozing. A few times he chuckled. Lilly was riveted by the story, and that’s what I wanted. Some distraction that would also add some meaning and inspiration to the day.

The first chapter is entitled “The End”. The chapter begins with this:

“This is a story about a woman named Annie, and it begins at the end, with Annie falling from the sky. Because she was young, Annie never thought about endings. She never thought about heaven. But all endings are also beginnings. And heaven is always thinking about us.”

Hmm. Interesting. All these various strands of my thoughts are weaving together:

Sir Roger Scruton, the philosopher: 75 years then gone. Mick, the husband: 72 years and fading. Lilly, the wife, 72 years and quietly resilient. Paul, the painter: 65 and happily diligent. (The crazy, happy boy.) Karen, the come-along-side decorator: 65 and obsessed (with achieving a peacefully lovely house for Lilly and Mick).

A fabulous find at a second hand shop for $5.00!

The resilient, the happily diligent, and the goal oriented obsessed ones are also fading, fading, fading, until we too become as invisible as Sir Roger.

A basic principle of planning is to begin at the end and work backwards from there. Albom’s narrative illustrates that humans tend not to do this.

While his theology is not biblically sound in many ways, he does show that our incomplete, narrow, earthly views lack the broad, eternal perspective, that we are blind to the many layers of our human interconnectivity, and that many things work together for the good – a good we don’t currently understand. He repeated states that  “all endings are also beginnings.”




The new color palette coordinates with the new flooring: grays as major neutral and beiges as minor neutral. Now we need a splash of happy color.

Psalm 39:4 offers a no-nonsense prayer: “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.”

What do we gain by “numbering our days” (Psalm 90:12)?

Psalm 92:12 tells us that numbering our days has the potential to offer us wisdom. “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”3

Since numbering our days demonstrates how fleeting our lives are, of what good is any wisdom we may gain? Why not just “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, we will die”? “Vanity, vanity! All is vanity!” – is declared right smack in the Bible – in Ecclesiastes!

Ah! But there is value in even that which is fleeting. How can that be?

“Vanity” is not synonymous with “meaninglessness” (as the NIV unfortunately treats the concept). Both testaments testify to the eternal meaningfulness of the fleeting – the temporary – the vapor of each of our lives.

Ecclesiastes concludes with these wise words:

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14).

The New Testament explains

that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10).

Thus, wisdom has value.

Eternal value. We are eternal beings, looking ahead to an evaluation of our lives. I was a teacher, and I noted that if I explained that “X” would be covered on the exam, then “X” became important. Valuable. Our whole lives are the material of God’s exam. We are the “X”.  Important. Valuable. The vanity (temporariness) of our lives carries treasures of eternal meaning.

Sir Roger understood that his coming death was not the end of him, that there was a coming evaluation, and that his life held dignity and meaning. His awareness of his and our vulnerability, his and our humanity, formed a humility in him and a tenderness toward others. Whether he personally knew Christ, I don’t know.4  I hope so. He was drawn to and shaped much by Christian teaching.

“In the face of death,” Sir Roger observed, “human beings can still show nobility and compassion and dignity.” Lilly and Mick illustrate this nobility. Lilly moves with resilient tenderness. The fleeting demands of the moment, tense with sadness or bright with humor, carry the weight of eternity. The load of hope: “All endings are beginnings.”

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Philippians 1:21

We were so excited when we found this entry way table! And the “home” canvas contains both our neutrals with splashes of happy color! Perfect for our peaceful affect.

  1. I’m in the middle of writing a Bible study, A Traveler’s Guide Through Suffering and Joy with the subtitle, Navigating by the Lamp of Scriptural Theology. Currently, I’m finishing a chapter on compassionate suffering and joy. I can identify sketches from Sir Roger’s life that illustrate this species of suffering and joy, as well as the foundational three kinds I’ve already written about. Note previous posts from the last half year.
  2. The Critic article on Sir Roger:
  3.  Here’s a good blog article from Ligonier Ministries on the topic, if you have time to check it out. 

4. By “knowing Christ” I mean having a relationship with Christ — personal and interactive, based upon the biblical teaching that Christ died for our sins, which I gratefully accept; Christ calls me to follow Him; His Spirit gives me new life and comes to indwell my mind, conscience, and spirit to renew me. For a start, read Romans 5:1-11.







Categories: Biography, Perspectives on Culture, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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