“The road is long with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where, who knows where, but I’m strong, strong enough to carry him – he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” – The Hollies
It was late on a hot Wednesday afternoon in August 2016 when the familiar sound of a photographer’s vest edged closer to my office door. As usual, the guy wearing the vest stood politely at the door waiting for a moment when he thought he could enter. Of course, there was never a time when he couldn’t but his inherent thoughtfulness always compelled him to ask. When I motioned for him to come in, Scott Dorsett sat down and we talked. More jokes were told than anything substantive but Scott did want to talk about an idea he had. His idea? Start using videos more so that the stories we told at the Daily Light then would come more alive for readers. I liked the idea obviously and, after a few more laughs, we agreed to talk about it again on Thursday.
Only Thursday’s meeting never came.
Instead, Scott was fighting for his life in the intensive care unit of Parkland Hospital in Dallas. It was then 5 a.m. on Thursday and, like those of Scott’s family who had already arrived, I was in complete shock … and panic. I remember vividly the plethora of machines keeping Scott alive and wondering if what I was witnessing was real. I simply couldn’t grasp what had happened nor did I doubt that Scott would overcome. Truth is, I never doubted it until this past Sunday morning when I received the news that my friend, my brother had died. Even now, I struggle to believe it’s true.
Scott Dorsett, in every way I can think of, was the best of friends. He certainly was to me. Of course, you have some sense of that because of all Scott did for so many in this city. Many of you knew Scott and have for years adorned your homes with photos he took. Rare is it that one man could have such a powerful impact on a generation of people. Scott, unlike anyone I know, had that impact on two generations. Parents who were once students hold dear photographs Scott took of them, whether on the field or off. Today, those parents cherish photographs Scott has taken of their kids, on the field and off. I’ve spent a career around some incredible photographers in this country but none come close to not just the talent Scott had but to capturing the memories Scott captured. Had life not led to a late evening accident three and a half years ago, my guess is that the lives of a third generation would have soon become part of Scott’s remarkable mosaics. In the days since Scott’s death, hundreds of photos, some taken decades ago and some taken in the few years before Scott’s accident, have been posted online and also sent to the Sun. In each of them, Scott’s ability to capture brilliance is obvious. So is the difference he’s made in your life and mine.
I’ll admit to you that this week has been one of my most difficult. Sounds a bit unusual for a man to say, but it’s true. The feelings of loss, deep sorrow, unexpected anger and a sense of incompleteness have encompassed the waking hours ... and most of the hours have been awake. A conversation that starts fairly under control quickly becomes emotionally out of control with the slightest mention or thought of Scott. Such feelings aren’t reserved just for me, especially at a time when life’s fragility is so apparent, but it’s been a long time since I’ve lost someone so valuable in my life. A column won’t come close to expressing how I feel about Scott yet it is a means of expression that I don’t take for granted. We all need outlets for the emotions we feel particularly those emotions that have been stored away for what, for me, has been three and a half years.
Scott had an incredible work ethic. If he knew it would make someone’s life better or improve our community, Scott was there. Didn’t matter if it was the middle of the day or middle of the night, Scott wanted to make a difference. He saw everyone as important. Age, economic status, ethnicity, gender, heritage or even college football preference didn’t matter to Scott. He loved people authentically and was drawn first to the thought of what he could do for them. I recall times in the office when he knew I was determined to write something about someone, usually a politician or attorney with whom I had issue and wanted to talk me out of it. When I listened to him and complied, he’d hug me. When I didn’t, he’d scold me in a way only he could. In every case, however, his judgement was best. Where I found contempt, Scott found kindness. When I resorted to verbal combat, Scott eagerly wanted to help find resolution. Scott’s temperament was wrapped in quiet measure and extraordinary gentleness. He loved his family and coworkers, coaches and teachers, pastors and janitors. When I tell you there is no one I ever heard Scott speak negatively of, I mean it. People mattered to Scott.
In the years since Scott was hit by a pickup truck in front of Shackleford Elementary while out for a late night run, his physical needs have been enormous. Having to re-learn most things we do without thinking, Scott went through rigorous therapy at two different medical facilities. Once he left those facilities, home became home. It was there that Johnna, Scott’s wife, became his caregiver and rock. Of course, their children, Kennedy and Logan, along with Scott’s in-laws and sisters provided the unconditional love we all want in life. In that sense, Scott was blessed. The Dorsett and McCutchen families are filled with exceptional people – people for whom I have great respect and deep love. Johnna is, as I tell people often, a modern day wonder woman. What she did for Scott and the way in which she loved him every step of the way represents the purest form of love there is. If not for Johnna, Scott’s journey would have been far different.
For reasons I give thanks daily but don’t fully understand, God allowed me to travel a scary, uncertain and uncharted journey, up-close and personal, with a man who for so long seemed to be everywhere at the same time yet who lived the last few years of his life in physical pain and a form of seclusion. What I saw along the way were more surgeries than I can number, countless days of exhaustive therapy, palpable frustrations at having to learn to walk again, read again, eat again and hold a camera again. On that long, twisting journey, I also learned that tragedy will sometimes rob a man of his strength and mobility, his agility and balance, his skill and passion. I witnessed the unrelenting ravages of damaged organs, broken bones and loss of speech and I saw a man lose more weight than I thought possible. Through it all, I now know that while a tragedy like Scott’s can even take a man’s life, it cannot rob him of his soul. And, above all, I now know what it means to hold the hand and kiss the face of a man whose heart for people never changed.
Thursday, I said goodbye to one of my best friends. His name is Scott Dorsett and he’s my brother.
Scott Brooks is the Publisher of the Waxahachie Sun and may be reached at 972-316-7712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.