Long After I’m Gone is, at its heart, a love story. The life-tested wisdom of the late Nelson Good interweaves with the soul-rich reflections of his poet-daughter Deborah to produce a deeply resonant chronicle of a father, of a father and his daughter, and of the ever-widening circles of loving influence that ripple out from this truly special man.
It must be pointed out that, were Nelson still alive, he would already be protesting. The too-easy attribution of “wisdom” to himself, he would patiently explain, wry grin and smiling eyes on full display, is the common mistake of the historian who wants to retrospectively assign brilliance where it would not have fit the stumble-along life as it was actually lived. His modesty in this regard would not be false; “Good” might have been his name, but Nelson knew that goodness came to him—maybe through him—but not from him.
Nelson Good was the truest “servant leader” I have ever known. His mentor, Robert Greenleaf, famously asked this question of servant leaders: “Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” Deborah’s chronicle of her dad’s life provides stories of just this result. Those touched by Nelson rose up to wholeness, wisdom, freedom, capability, and the kind of beauty Nelson himself exhibited, the beauty of powerful, selfless effectuality.
But beyond her chronicle, it is Deborah—Deborah the writer of this beautiful book, Deborah the daughter of this beautiful man—who shows us her father best. Her courage, vulnerability, eloquence, and grace shine as she shares her pride and her grief in her father’s life and death.
Nelson Good was a builder of prototypes—of models—and he continuously reworked his practical experiments for human living. He discerned, thirty years ahead of the curve, that it wasn’t society that was breaking down so much as it was community that had been abandoned. Discerning this, he set upon the task of shaping community spaces in which humans could grow as persons and forge purposeful relationships. He did this work quietly, steadily, against the odds, fruitful decade after fruitful decade. The full extent of Nelson’s “loving influence” will never be known, as its impact is ongoing.
In my own case, if you pull on the thread that was the contribution Nelson Good made to the weaving of my life, everything I currently understand and do comes undone. This isn’t whimsy. It would be a denial of life’s grace for me to say otherwise. It would be un-Nelson-like.
Long After I’m Gone is, most deeply, a love story about the servanthood of God—the humility of God, if you will—in raising us up into our own personhood, into loving community, and into common cause with our companions. Nelson Good, modest as he was on this subject especially, gave us one of our very best glimpses yet of this deeper story. Deborah Good’s love for this man, as captured in her interviews with her father and in her narratives, has now become a grace to all of us through the gift of this book.
—John Stahl-Wert, Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, is father of
Copyright © 2008 by Cascadia Publishing House LLC