deATh; you did it again.....
A couple of days ago, I discovered that my friend Troy passed away on the 4th of July.....
Troy had been a regular fixture in Uptown for many years. When we spoke of him, we never needed to say his last name, because Troy was Troy! Unmistakably unique, the only one! Everyone in Uptown's long-term chronically homeless community knew him; his strengths and his weaknesses. They deeply loved their elderly buddy; this rugged survivor and veteran of Chicago's harsh streets and bitterly cold winters!
My earliest memories of Troy was when he used to hang out with his very close friend Ronald. These 2 were inseparable! About 9 years ago, they stayed in our overnight men's shelter located on the cafeteria floor. During the day, they would try to make a few bucks by collecting thousands of empty beer cans just outside Wrigley Field. These 2 older men, of about the same height and age, would wander in together to get their thin raggedy blue mats and gray itchy blankets. They were normally a little tipsy from too much alcohol and would start endlessly giggling, chatting and discussing deep theological truths. The surrounding men, attempting to sleep, would yell at them to shut up often resulting in tiresome rants.
In those days, just after the lights went out, someone would stand up in front of the hundred (or so) men to deliver the "Word!" This happened every night and these few minutes of elaborating on scripture would help mellow out and encourage the masses. Troy and Ronald would faithfully always listen. They were both short in stature, but big on opinions! If they disagreed, they would often loudly question the speaker while he was still preaching his message. We often allowed our residents to preach and we heard some incredibly powerful testimonies, but if Troy or Ron felt the speaker was a phony, a fake or a "flim flam", they would loudly rant in absolute disgust. The "Word" was their time and they loved it!
As a side note; my dad came to visit at this time, and one night I gave him the opportunity to deliver the "Word". Troy always fondly remembered that night and constantly spoke of him coming all the way from New Zealand to preach a message.
Ronald passed away around the time that our original men's shelter shut down in 2004. The men disappeared from Clifton, but I would see Troy periodically as I wandered the neighborhood; he would fluctuate from being housed, to being homeless, to being cooped up in a Nursing Home.
In the harsh brutal cold January of 2007, we allowed a very small number of older guys to reside in the Sylvia Center and Troy suddenly entered our life again. I knew I was taking a risk, because alcohol had always been his number one vice. I didn't want this elderly gentleman to freeze to death, so I gave him a bed!
During his time at CCO, I really got to know Troy. We spoke often. I loved the way he thought about his vocabulary, by using a wonderful array of descriptive words. He greatly respected this opportunity, by keeping himself drunk free. He received SSI and was faithfully saving his money every month. When I would wander into their room, Troy's area would be immaculate, with his KJV opened by his bed every day. Darrell and I held a weekly bible study, which Troy regularly attended and would espouse his knowledge on the Scripture. Troy had surprised me by his self restraint and discipline. He had kept himself away from the people, places and things that were his triggers. He had told me he'd made a vow to the Holy Spirit and he was keeping it.
Troy had been living in CCO for quite a while, and the time came when he had to think about moving into his own apartment. I had set him up with an appointment for Friendly Towers (housing for people over 55), and he had over $3000 saved. He was ready! At that time he'd started drinking a little, but not enough to gravely concern us. He'd had no drunken incidents. I'll never know if it was a fear in moving, a fear of being alone, a fear of interviews, social anxiety disorder or a desire to remain on our 4th floor around his friends, but Troy drunk himself into absolute oblivion that morning. He could barely talk or walk, and obviously never made it to the interview.
Unfortunately, that day triggered a return to the intoxicated Troy "of old". His Bible disappeared from the table next to his bed, there were drunken incidents, his area became messy and stinky, he had worsening hygiene and he loudly ranted his opinions about the Bible, world events and crack cocaine (which he never used). Troy did not want to be controlled by alcohol, but it tightly gripped him and it was not letting go. The sight of alcohol's power on his life depressed me. His saved money was disappearing slowly with endless excuses. We fought to overcome, we worked on numerous solutions, but the bottle deemed itself superior. We discussed AA meetings; but he knew the 12 Steps and the book inside out. We discussed treatment; but he'd been through it many times. We tried harm reduction; but he went beyond the beer to the gin. He was in a battle for his life, and I couldn't rescue him.
Troy had just gone through a very successful period of his alcoholic life, which was quickly descending to one of his most depressing. His repeated binging incidents put him in the verge of getting kicked out of the shelter! He often tried to return to his recent history, he'd bring out that King James Bible and tell me he would renew his vow to the Holy Spirit, (I advised him that was dangerous promise), and after a short sober intermission, his erratic behavior would continue to become more vulgar and hostile. I was on the receiving end of some of those horrible rants.
Troy's residency at Cornerstone ended sadly one night. He had got very drunk, slipped in a bottle of gin and continued to get drunk, and then he threw the empty bottle out the window barely missing a mother with her stroller. I hate putting people out of the shelter, especially ones I grown to love, but we had no choice; Troy had to go!
Over the next few months I would frequently see Troy. He rotated from living in a friend's basement to the streets. He was no longer binging, he was continually intoxicated. Crazily drunk 24-7! I wanted to weep every time I'd see him. The pain was devastating. We had been through so much together. All the money he'd saved was quickly vanishing. All we could do was pray, he was dearly loved by God and he was in God's hands. I needed to fall on bended knee and "Be Still and Know that God is God". I wanted to reach out and save him, I wanted to rescue him, but I couldn't!
In desperation, Troy moved into a Nursing Home for the final chapter of his life. This move helped him to regain his lost and out-of-control life. This move helped him to regain his sobriety once again; at least, most of the time. This move helped Troy find himself and renew his devotion to the Lord "who lifts people from the miry clay!"
Troy passed away July 4th 2011.
Troy; I love you, will miss you and our deep theological discussions. Troy; I always wished we'd played that game of chess!
............... Until we meet again, united by Our Heavenly Father!