This post is the first of several dedicated to Florence, my late sister, whose life revolved around teaching. She was the first of eight siblings. The series spotlights the unique role parents such as Isabella and Alpheus Scobie played in Florence's formation and mine and - in the long sweep of history - in making the Caribbean what it is.
The author is sixth of the Scobie siblings
There are lives too valuable to be forgotten. Lives that rob our existence of meaning when we permit teachers like Florence, as Wordsworth put it,
to fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
Florence lived such a life. She died California in November 2022, her roots deeper sunk, and more distant from Victor Valley, San Bernardino than the flying time of ten hours from there to Trinidad and Tobago would suggest.
Geography cannot express this kind of distance. Her roots rested in a confession made by her "dirt poor" but literate father, beset by an insatiable appetite for anything Adventists printed. Alpheus spoke for his parents, grandparents and others before them:
“I have no house or land to leave you. Even if I did, others can take that away. But I will do my best to give you an education. No one can take that from you.”
Alpheus' confession mirrored the version of Christianity that held his attention. His words reflected its core belief that time might end at any moment.
The words spoke to a need more immediate for Adventists than for others. Those who believed time might end at any moment had no choice but to face reality.
As one boy remembered, “finally the idea came in that (while houses and lands would be left behind) when the Lord comes, brains would be taken along.”1
Time extended a difference geography could not measure. Florence was a child of the mid-twentieth century, in the Caribbean. The boy who recalled, “brains would be taken along” lived in the American Midwest, at the headquarters of Adventism in the middle of the nineteenth-century.
Every expression of condolences regarding a life centred on teaching is welcome. And appreciated. Let us not do ourselves a disservice by limiting our expression to regrets, however. For time and geography make Florence, the teacher, far too significant a life to be forgotten.
Florence's Memorial Event
- Waggoner, Ellet J. “Thorough Education Needed” The Missionary Worker, vol. 7, 13, Report on Meeting of the British Union Conference at Southsea, England, 24 Jun 1903. 91. Brackets added for clarity. For more on Waggoner, see upcoming Chapter 2, Lesson 1, Self-critique.