By Colleen Sinsky
Last month one of our JOIN friends who had recently moved off the streets passed away after a long battle against chronic health problems. Lordian was a double-amputee who strongly valued independence and refused to cave into the difficult circumstances life had handed to him.
I wish I’d had the honor of having known Lordian years ago. While our lives only briefly shared an intersection I am so grateful for the time we did get to share.
I was introduced to Lordian by Lio, who had met him recently camped out under a bridge downtown. In all of the chaos and desperation that often accompanies homelessness, Lordian was a beacon of hope and calm. He was extremely well-spoken and well-read. I’d been working with him on getting a blog started, and he planned on going back to school to become a paralegal. He was actually supposed to have been the “guest blogger” here this week but instead I’ll share the impact Lordian had on me.
Lordian was one of those friends whom I felt genuinely happy when he name came up on my caller ID. His outlook on life and openness with his struggles and joys were insights that I always felt honored to share. The Friday before he passed away, I was at home, sick in bed and I gave Lordian a call. He was also sick in bed in his studio at the Bud Clark Commons, and dealing with pain that made my cold seem like nothing. We talked for half an hour- a rarity for me because I usually use any excuse to keep my phone conversations as brief as possible. But Lordian had a way of speaking that skipped over shallow chatting and got to issues of life that would open your heart and even restore a bit of your faith in the world. He was hopeful and loving, despite everything the world had thrown at him. He’d talk about the struggles his neighbors and friends were going through and how much he felt for them. At one point I asked him “How do you do it Lordian? How do you stay so optimistic with everything that you have to deal with?” His answer was along the lines of how impossible it is to compare any two persons’ struggles and how we all come equipped our own set of tools for dealing with life. He’d just learned to tap into his and was able to see the beauty beyond the pain.
The morning I stopped by Lordian’s apartment and was told he had died, I had been planning on telling him the good news that we’d received a grant that could help with his educational expenses in going back to school. Lio had just gotten him a pretty swanky electronic wheelchair to replace his broken manual one and Lordian was planning on starting a community Bible study for his neighbors in his building. His friendly nature and ability to reach out to others made an impact on the whole staff of his building. We’ll all remember Lordian Cross fondly, and I hope to learn from his example of resiliency and optimism.
Lordian was a big fan of poetry, especially from the Harlem Renaissance. Here’s one of his favorite poems that reads oddly appropriately now.
The Weary Blues
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway. . . .
He did a lazy sway. . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Coming from a black man’s soul.
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—
“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
And put ma troubles on the shelf.”
Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.