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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Surviving are...

Newspaper obituaries have always annoyed me for their complete and utter lack of warmth in producing announcements for regular folks, especially in the northeast where I grew up. All you get is a few sentences, highlighting the vitals, arrangements and "in lieu of" instructions. At least down south they will let you know where you can drop off the pound cake, peach cobbler or picnic ham. They might even print Willa Fern's favorite passage of scripture. What I really find amazing is that motorists will pull over and wait while a funeral procession passes, regardless of how long. In the north I've seen folks cut between the hearse and pallbearer vehicle to get to Taco Bell. Of course, if you are someone of note, motorcycled police will stop traffic, but if you're just an ordinary joe... faggedaboutit! Thank God LeRoy Whitfield was not ordinary
I had been preparing myself all week for the call and when it came, I was still not ready. LeRoy's brother, Crofton, became my best friend in 1999 and with him came the light that was LeRoy. The very first time I saw him was on a sunny day in Manhattan as he was walking up Greenwich Avenue. His smile was gleaming like the grill of a Rolls. The smile matched a glowing spirit. From that day he began to enlighten and inspire me.
I had been told he was HIV-positive and after meeting him I began to question if someone was pulling my leg. I wasn't naive enough to think that his physical appearance would announce the condition. My stepfather looked phenomenal and he lived with HIV for seven years before finally giving up the ghost, but there was something in his demeanor that let you know something was wrong. LeRoy had none of that. His mood spoke nothing of impending doom or great sorrow. He had a bounce in his step and a glint in his eye that said, "this is my world... I got shit to do."
As I grew to know him and familiarize myself with his work I became a fan. He always had something new and useful to share and was constantly trying to get me switch from PC to MAC. He was relentless and dogged in his pursuit and exposure of the truth. He has left a body of work that demonstrates his mission. For links to some of his articles, check out Keith Boykin's site. He has written a beautiful tribute that highlights LeRoy's personal and professional life.
The last time I saw him was in June and his physical decline was clearly evident. Despite fatigue and weakness, he still managed to brighten the corner where I was because he was still here and very much in the moment. It didn't matter what it looked like. It was very apparent that he had work to do and he pushed himself forward each day. I am very sad that he's gone, but so glad he was here. The lesson he leaves is so simple, yet profound, live for as long as you can.
As I prepare to fly to Chicago for the celebration of his life, I feel strange because I feel his spirit all up and through here. All that's left for me to do is bake the pound cake that he enjoyed so much and eat a slice or two in his memory. Anyone up for a FGS?

Posted by Rodney :: 6:44 AM :: 3 Comments:

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