Eulogy for an Immortal

I first met Stephen Crocker in 2009 at a Christian-run music venue in Gaffney, South Carolina. The band I was in at the time shared a bill with him, and a few other bands who are all now defunct. I was just beginning my transition from “metal elitist” to... whatever I am now. I was very particular about the kind of Hip-Hop I listened to, and upon hearing that a rapper was sharing the bill with Punk, Metal and Post-Hardcore bands, I was interested to say the least.

The band I was in got to the venue way too early, so we had to amuse ourselves for a few hours. It was 100 degrees that day, and I didn't particularly care for performing while sober (I still don't) so I killed two birds with one stone by staying hydrated with cheap vodka, and fruit juice. I wandered around the block with my Styrofoam cup, waiting for the venue to open, and for our chance to perform.

After a generic opener that no one enjoyed, the second band got up, and really killed it. By this point, I was buzzed enough to sing along to their cover of Iron Maiden's “The Trooper” without a single care of how I was being perceived by others; I was officially enjoying the show. Then it was time for Crocker's set. He got up there, and blazed through a half-hour of scathing commentary on politics, religion, and mainstream Hip-Hop; all while injecting his signature brand of wit.

Out of respect for the venue's rules, he did his set without uttering a single profane word. Afterwards, it was our turn; so I set up quickly, and while the rest of the band set up, I went outside to refresh my drink. Walking around front, I saw the guy who was just on stage moments before, and walked over. When there was a pause in his conversation, I tapped him on the shoulder, and said: “Hey man, I really enjoyed your set.”

His eyes lit up in a way that expressed both shock, and gratitude. The conversation didn't go a lot farther than the normal expressions of respect, and thanks, but it was the start of a lasting relationship that has both enriched my life, and briefly torn it apart. We managed to stay in touch online, until eventually we hung out enough (mostly at shows) to begin working together on music. Our first collaboration is something I still look back upon very fondly, in spite of how much the thought of it stings right now.

Years passed, and the friendship grew, as well as his label, Lovelorn Records. I was so excited when he got banned from Spring Fling, and became the talk of upstate South Carolina for a week. “That's my dude, right there.” I thought, certain that all publicity is good publicity. I watched his music career shift from artist to label exec, and beamed with pride at all the progress Lovelorn Records made as a collective. Along the way, I even made a few new friends who were part of the label.

Recently, I hosted the Q&A session after the documentary that accompanied his collaborative album with label-mate/friend, Walter Kronkite, “High Almighty”. About eight of us went to get food after the screening, it was here that I learned I was considered an “honorary member of Lovelorn Records”. We all laughed a lot as I sipped my coffee, and soaked it all in; we then went to his house, and stayed in the studio until about 3am. Watching such gifted artists work on new music in person was a treat, and not one that I will soon forget.

On Halloween, 2014, I helped organize a show that he was scheduled to perform at; marking his first live performance in quite some time. Lately, running a record label didn't leave much room for live shows, so we were both disappointed when cops shut the show down before he had a chance to grab the mic. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time talking with him, as always. If you've never had the pleasure to meet Crocker, he's brilliant, and sarcastic. A humble titan, a ball of energy, full of love, and desire to see humanity reach higher consciousness. Never afraid to speak his mind on any topic, especially when it comes to politics, and religion.

He's also one of the rare people I will actually discuss such volatile topics with; he is thoroughly informed, and quite insightful. He once said that the only Bible verse he liked to reference was Psalms 82:6 – he said it was the one verse that empowered him, instead of chaining him. I never have gotten around to thoroughly discussing the different religions, their similarities, and what it all means, but maybe one day. Last I heard, he thought that maybe the afterlife is just “talking it out” with someone until you finally get it all figured out, and then that's it, you're done. A nice, long conversation, perhaps under a tree, for what seems like eternity.

December 5th, 2014, I was happily working on material for the current band I'm in; something we hadn't done in a while. At the end of the night I relaxed at home, zoning out in front of social media, and there it was: the news that has left me in a numbed state of shock ever since. Crocker was admitted to the hospital after attempting to leave this earthly realm on his own terms. I was able to visit him on December 8th, and tell him, far too late, that I wish he would have just called me.

I spent the previous night listening to his music, scrolling through his photos online, and focusing on a mental image of him in a hospital bed, opening his eyes. I tried to prepare myself, but there's nothing quite like the real thing. Seeing him hooked to a ventilator made me want to tear my eyes out, so I could never see such a heart-wrenching sight again. I composed myself, and spoke to him about how many people loved him dearly, and just wanted him to come back.

“Come on, don't you want to argue with these priests here? You know you do.” I said, hoping that the offer would entice him enough to stir up some signs of life, but there was no such luck. I hugged a few people, said my goodbyes, and walked out of the hospital, numb to the cold wind blowing through a city bathed in gray. I'm still in shock, and disbelief as I write this; I desperately want to wake up from this nightmare, but again, there is no such luck.

Crocker is now immortal, I told him so. He will continue to live through his music, and in the hearts, and minds of every life that he touches. His music is equal parts history lesson, diary, and reverse brain-washing tool. He wants people to engage in critical thinking, and love one another regardless of any perceivable differences. He wants people to stand up against oppression of any type, and never be afraid to speak out against injustice. He wants these things because he genuinely loves people.

People genuinely love him too, the woman at the hospital's front desk didn't even have to look up his room number when we asked where he was; clearly he had gotten a steady stream of visitors all weekend. Crocker is loved more than I think he imagined. Our lives are so fragile, and precious, but sometimes we lose sight of that when we struggle with our own minds. No one is immune to feelings of hopelessness, and it's up to all of us to make sure that we're there for each other.

For far too long, we've treated each other as cruel children on a playground. Loudly laughing when someone falls so we can draw attention, and more laughter from others. Oftentimes, someone struggling with issues like depression won't speak up about it because they think that no one will listen, or care. This is the cruel world that we've built for ourselves. We can destroy it, and rebuild, but it's going to take a conscious effort, every single day by every one of us. Compassion, and empathy should be viewed as something far greater than wealth and status because I assure you, they are much more valuable.

All we have is each other in this life, but as children we pick up on bad habits, and some of us are taught the wrong way to think; then we become bitter, mean-spirited adults who think only of ourselves. We can break the cycle if we just reach out to one another, and show love. It doesn't hurt a bit, it's absolutely free, and the government hasn't figured out how to tax it or make it illegal yet. Don't give up on us, and become indifferent or jaded towards this life. Even the worst day can be made a little better by something as simple as a hug; call me sappy or whatever you want, but I'm not wrong.

It's well beyond the time for us to stop dividing one another by race, class, social status, or any other meaningless label we place upon ourselves. We have to start considering each other as equals, and understand that we all suffer, and we all want happiness. We have to understand that we are all the same, right down to our molecules. How can we expect someone to reach out to us for support if all we do is act cynical? How can we love each other if we don't love ourselves, and how can we love ourselves if no one shows us love? It's reciprocal, give it, and you'll receive it.

Stop buying into the lies you're told by a media who only wants you to feel insignificant so you'll go buy their product, and feel less insignificant. That is of course, until the new version comes out. You don't need any of that stuff they're selling, what you need is love, and that's free. Reach out to someone if you're feeling low, and please, don't leave us; we need you more than you may ever know.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. You may feel a little vulnerable doing so, but that doesn't make you weak, and you shouldn't listen to anyone who says different. Reaching out just means you have the self-awareness to recognize a problem, and the courage to make the effort to help yourself. It's not easy to get through any kind of mental illness, no matter the severity, but if we're there for each other, we can ease the burden for us all.

15 comments:

  1. This is beautiful and perfect in describing him.

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  2. Thank you for adding beauty to the horrific...Stephen would love it.

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  3. Rip Crocker !!! U were def one of a kind love always Kayla Caldwell until we meet again....

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  4. May he rest in peace. I think people do sometimes get distracted by whatever problems they're going through and lose sight of just how much they are loved by others. It's sad that the world has lost someone just because they were overwhelmed by their struggles.

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  5. Rip Crocker !!! U were def one of a kind love always Kayla Caldwell until we meet again....

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  6. This is beautiful and perfect in describing him....

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