A Tribute to my Brother, Scott Bishopp

by Troy Bishopp August 5th, 2017 United Methodist Church of Livonia

Charlie Brown said, “Goodbyes always makes my throat hurt”.

The rock band Creed, who was on my brother’s Spotify play list said in their song,  Don’t Stop Dancing:                                                                                                                                                                                                                “At times life’s unfair and you know, it’s plain to see                                                                                                                                   Hey God I know I’m just a dot in this world                                                                                                                                                    Have you forgot about me?                                                                                                                                                                                 Whatever life brings I’ve been through everything                                                                                                                                      And now I’m on my knees again                                                                                                                                                                        But I know I must go on                                                                                                                                                                             Although I hurt I must be strong                                                                                                                                                                 Because inside I know that many feel this way”

Dear Lori, Derek, Zachery, our families, relatives, coworkers, and treasured friends,

Thank you for your love, support, prayers, compassion and memories for my little brother, Scott. 

I’m Troy Bishopp: A son, a big brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a 4th generation farmer who would like to share with you a snapshot of my brother’s life and passions, in hopes of mending hearts and spreading love and healing to all who cherished him.

To compose this most important dedication, I turned on my computer. For the first time, I noticed the curser blinking, like the heartbeat of Scott.  It was processing, processing, processing until I prompted the keys for action, much like my brother did for so many.  I hope you will find strength and hope as I reboot all the memories and personal thoughts in honoring my brother’s legacy throughout his 52 years on this earth.

From an early age my brother was a tinkerer with a duck-tape, baling-twine, farmboy mentality. Sometimes I think he broke stuff (which was often), just so he could figure out how to put it back together and add some of his personal touches, like adding a chainsaw motor to a go-cart or seeing how many engines he could stuff inside an Estes rocket and launch towards the moon.  He doctored wiffle balls with electrical tape to create his signature, “floater” or “Slurve”, who no one could hit.  He was never happy just sliding down our hills in the winter without at least one epic jump that would make most folks gasp as we crashed time after painful time and loved it! 

He was an avid trapper and thrived on figuring out which lure or trap camouflage to use to catch an elusive fox or mink, all before he went to school in the morning. He loved fishing with my Grandpa Steele on the Nile Mile Swamp and listening to the many stories of yesterday of the Loomis Gang.  He maintained the Deansboro Cemetery grounds during summer break and was always busy putting hay in at the farm as well as for other area farmers.  The boy was strong with the stamina to go with it.  He had an affinity for working on cars, especially Volkswagens, and had his own farm body and paint shop.  The neighbors always knew when Scott was leaving because of the dust flying and wheels screeching down the road. 

I was lucky to be close in age when we played sports in high school, much like Derek and Zach, because we could ride together and learn the lessons of winning and losing together. Scott and I played on the line together for Waterville High School’s first ever championship football team in 1980 with a bunch of other farm boys who were affectionately known for “smash-mouth” football.  Scott went on to become an All Star Linebacker and Full Back and most valuable player for his team as well as a catcher in baseball.  Our ole Coach O’Brien said, “Scott was an over-achiever and one that could always be trusted to do the right things by his team and his community in valor or defeat.”  His determination when he carried that pigskin validates how you remember him today.  I can’t tell you how many times I watched him literally run over people instead of trying to out-finesse them.  It wasn’t pretty but it was effective.  That in your face style and giving your all attitude carried him well through life.

The funny thing now, looking back, is while I was reading farm journals and milking cows, he was reading about computer codes, developing his passion and craftsmanship, graduating from RIT and working in programming and custom software development that helped hospitals, transit authorities, garbage companies and even auction houses throughout the world. Because he was farmkid, bosses would regularly request his consultation, “for the real story”. Scott had a knack, a confidence or maybe a gift to give his opinion and not have to sugarcoat or smoosh the truth.

He was authentically independent and you know where you stood.  And the dude could fix stuff with that duct-tape spirit.  His co-workers called him a computer programming prodigy and often said how fierce he was at nailing down a problem and working night and day to fix it.  He loved the challenges. “Scott could always make us laugh. Quick witted and skilled at just about anything he tried, there was never a dull moment when he was around. He was truly one of a kind.  He may be known in the record books for inventing:  “Smash-Mouth computer programming”! 

It’s not surprising that this computer language prowess brought him into another type of operating system when he found the love of his life; a sweet, caring farm girl named Lori. He has told me numerous times of his love for this young lady.  They were blessed with 2 boys, Derek and Zachery who have been a source of pride and inspiration.  Something I cannot stress enough is how Scott and Lori were the kind of parents who are always on the sidelines or at the rink cheering and supporting, no matter what the weather or circumstances.  It is this commitment to family and others that I truly admire.  My little brother also coached, mentored and delivered lessons in life to young players; allthewhile working all night long to fix a computer problem across the continents and showing up for practice day after day.  His passion was relentless. 

His little Bulldogs wrote about him saying: “Coach Bishopp never give up on us even if we were losing.  He would always say we were still in it.”  “I’ll never forget that you never cared if we won or lost as long as we did it as a team.”  “I learned a lot from you and I will miss your style of yelling!”

He lived his life through his boys and was so proud of them. When I sat next to him at a game I  could feel him subconsciously take every hit, block every puck and score every touchdown or goal.  He lived for it.  When the family got some down time, he had plenty of ongoing projects, as do we all.  Remember once a tinkerer always a tinkerer!  He loved traveling to the beaches of Maine, North Carolina and Florida to relax as well as spending quality time with Ed and Sandy and his extended family and friends around New York.

At 3 am last Sunday, we got the call that after spending an awesome day with Lori, Derek and Zackary on the beach of the outer banks and leaving their signatures in the sand, the Lord delivered a peaceful journey to heaven to be with the angels watching over all of us.

All I could think of was our childhood prayer we used to kneel down to say before bed: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray to the Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Perhaps being a farmer has conditioned me to the cycles of life but it has no less pain or sorrow. I’ve been through a lot but one cannot prepare for the sudden death of your only brother.

In the Bible (Samuel 2 Chapter 14), the verse says “We must indeed die; we are then like water that is poured out on the ground and cannot be gathered up. Yet, though God does not bring back to life, he does devise means so as not to banish anyone from him”.  

As farmers sometimes do, I took a walk to clear my head and heart on my brother’s land here in Livonia. I used the trail system he kept mowed through the soybeans, pasture and forest as a sanctuary to contemplate why I was continually drying my eyes. My tears, I hoped, would help nourish my bond with my brother’s tracks when they rolled down my face.  Charles Dickens used to say, “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.”

My Grandpa Steele had a saying, “Sometimes I thinks and sits, sometimes I just sits.”                                                                          As I sat on a stump amongst the majestic locust, poplar, walnut and willow trees; a symbol, of my brother’s spirit rose out of the field margin to greet me.  It was beautiful buck in the velvet who just stood there and let me confess my grief and take his picture. 

As he and I parted ways, I noticed the sun shining through the heavy woods to illuminate one single 4 inch tree seedling. In that moment, I saw life again, I saw resiliency, I saw regeneration.  I regained my faith and strength again to be strong for my family.  Certainly this was the sign I needed to move on this week. 

In 1989, the year Scott and Lori were married, my brother penned the most powerful essay I ever read: What is Really Important, summarizing the book, Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.

In it, Scott writes: “True values come into existence when we realize how well our parents have raised us, and we pray that we can instill in our children the values that were instilled in us.  I think there is only one value that is universal; that is happiness.  All other values are a product of our desire to achieve that one elusive value.  I believe in Thoreau’s statement:  “That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  For me this has proved to be true.”

Our friend, Roxanne Blatt, said of her father that he was “noble”, which I think accurately portrays my brother. During her dad’s funeral she uttered these most powerful words that gave me solace, healing and hope that the lord will provide in our greatest hour of need: “When we bury him today, he will become part of the soil that feeds the roots of the trees and part of the air that warms the spring to coax the buds from the branches. When the snow melts, his spirit will stir the corn planted in the field and rush through the first breath taken by a newborn calf. His body has died, but his spirit has returned to the source of every miracle; all love and life.

As I close, in honor of Scott, I’d like for you to consider my brother’s words:

“Destiny may be unchanging but we don’t have to take the straight line to our end. However mean your life is, meet it and live   it; do not shun it, move forward and disregard the past.  Strive for happiness, for only then can you exude the happiness that will infect the people around you.  You are your only critic; don’t be quick to judge yourself.  You don’t have to be like everyone else.  Love your life; it is why you are here.  The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men and women.  So walk it with heavy feet and leave your mark!”