It continues to baffle me (and many others my age) why most of our people continue to only ask or try to learn about people among us we see every day, only after we hear they’re forever gone.
It’s a phenomenon our calypsonians have sung about, pleading for us to honour each other while alive — and not after death.
We’ve seen it at play every day – from not knowing or appreciating our heroes, to appearing not even caring to find out, as if confident historians will do the job, if not for us, for our children — and theirs.
But it’s not only our acclaimed heroes who have stories, we each do – some longer than others, but all of which matter.
Yes, all stories matter – and ought to be told while those who lived them still live.
But, as if destined to always prefer eulogies and epitaphs — if only because of ‘Wakes and Nine Nights’ (of ages past) or yesteryear’s ‘After-Funeral’ parties or today’s COVID Age online funerals – we tend to prefer to watch ‘Death Announcements’ daily and every night mourn the death of someone we knew.
I saw it at work yet again last week, after I offered a solicited DBS TV News comment on the death of Lyndell Gordon, the late Managing Director of The VOICE newspaper, who died last Thursday at the tender age of 83.
Lyndell’s death was met with the typical response, everyone saying they ‘knew him’, but ‘didn’t know who he was…’ until he died…
The most recuring decimal in all the responses was ‘I did not know…’ that he was ‘an engineer’, or ‘a photographer’, or that he had any association with the VOICE newspaper – or that he was ‘a Gordon’ or “Michael Gordon’s brother.’
The funniest true explanation I offered to a Rastafarian friend who said he’d seen him ‘many times’ but didn’t have any idea who, was: ‘His brother is the Chairman of the National Marijuana Committee…’ – the response to which I avoided as I would not have been able to answer his too-many questions…
The most interesting related response, however, was ‘I never knew The VOICE was so old’ or that the over-130-year-old newspaper is ‘The second oldest newspaper in the Caribbean’ after the Jamaica Gleaner.
The newspaper was actually founded in 1885 and has survived every other English-language newspaper of its kind across the former British West Indies, the oldest in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and second-oldest in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
It’s also the place where the best of the best among local journalists honed their skills, from Guy Ellis to Rick Wayne and so many others before and after.
The VOICE also coexisted over the decades with The Crusader, The Star, The Mirror and One Caribbean, but today is the only one published twice weekly, the others either having folded-up or changed publication dates, One Caribbean being the only other weekly.
Under Lyndell’s watch, The Voice Online edition came to life – and was truly his baby.
In my year as Editor of The VOICE in 2018-2019, Lyndell only entered my office once, but rolled through the virtual revolving door of the newspaper’s online version a-million-times-plus.
I was always fascinated by his immeasurable offline interest in the online version, feeding it exclusively with photographs and stories acquired by his measured observations along his varied ways.
The fact that so many people did not know Lyndell was a perfect fit for the man who, like I said, had a permanent smile carved into his face that he could easily turn upside-down — and wouldn’t utter a word unless absolutely necessary.
Not that he was a quiet man.
To the contrary, like everyone else able to, he lived and enjoyed life to the fullest as best and as much as he could.
Typically quiet, but with roaring joie -de-vivre, his photographer’s eyes and engineering precision focusing on wider horizons and objects than project plans or paper projections.
My Canada-based cousin Charles ‘Clifford’ Mondesir, a schoolmate of Lyndell’s and fellow engineer who stays in touch with home through The VOICE Online, would inquire about his friend and colleague’s health each and every time we spoke on weekends, each time also recalling ‘the good times we had’ growing-up in Castries and working in London.
I dutifully kept Clifford updated with every old saucy goose-and-gander gem I recalled about his old friend, or pleasant memories fished with fishy intent from those closer to him, but solely and only for this very limited sharing purpose.
Clifford, five-or-so years older, will be proud to have survived Lyndell, but more than sorry to have lost a long-lost friend he’d been virtually reunited with in their ‘old age’ by the online technology at their fingertips, which neither ever even dreamed of while measuring roads and construction projects with ‘tape measures’ and wrapped wooden ‘rules’ in yards, feet and inches.
From alphabet and primary school, colonialism and independence, imperial and metric tables and drawing plans on paper with pens, pencils and rulers to doing it all on a computer and now online, offshore and from home in the Age of COVID, the likes of Clifford and Lyndell lived and survived from one century to the next, seeing it all and living to tell us all they’ve ‘been there, done that…’
Lyndell’s invisible fingerprints remain etched on many a building and hardly or nary a project of old was without his thumbprint.
He’s gone, but just can’t be forgotten – not even by anyone who knew as little about him like me.
My condolences to his younger brother Michael and the rest of Sir Garnet Gordon’s Kith and Kin, Heirs and Successors.
Meanwhile, the VOICE is approaching 140 years as a Saint Lucian institution that, like so many others we see and grew-up with every day, few of the island’s students of history have any idea about.
Sad, but true…