When Tragedy Gives You Perspective

By | June 20th, 2018

After an immeasurable loss, Dubuque G&CC’s Executive Chef Chad Myers is more dedicated to his craft and his family than ever before.

True tragedy gives you perspective in the harshest ways.

On June 8, 2018, my nephew and Godson, Gavin Myers, was killed by a drunk driver in Loveland, Colorado. He was on his way home from fishing when a truck jumped the curb, ran into him, then barreled another few hundred feet before he hit a barrier. The driver survived and was arrested. He is being held for investigation of Vehicular Homicide, Careless Driving Resulting in Death and DUI.

Gavin was only 13 years old. He loved life and especially the outdoors. He thoroughly enjoyed fishing and was involved in football, baseball, lacrosse, and swimming. He also wrestled and swam for Lucille Erwin Middle School. His latest love was scootering (or “scootin’,” as he called it) with his Loveland friends and especially his best friend and cousin, Eli. Gavin’s family skied in the winter and went boating at Horsetooth Reservoir in the summer.

Gavin was caring and compassionate, especially to those in need of help. He loved snuggling with Bella (his Golden Retriever) and taking her on walks to the dog park. He even taught her to hold her own leash.

On the day he died, Gavin had been walking on the side of the road facing traffic so he could see oncoming cars. There isn’t really a sidewalk or adequate lighting where he was walking and now, as a result of his death, there is a movement called Gavin’s Sidewalk petitioning the city of Loveland to finish the sidewalk so that this never happens again. It’s my hope that the sidewalk will be built and it will provide some element of comfort to my brother, Eric, and his wife, Melissa. It wouldn’t bring Gavin back, but it might prevent another family from losing someone so precious.

I wish I could completely put into words the sadness that I feel. No one should ever have to experience this pain. It’s not fair. And it’s just plain shitty. But it stirs up so many thoughts and questions.

Last year, Gavin spent the entire summer in Iowa. He even spent a week with us at our house. He’s usually 13 hours away, so this was a wonderful chance to spend time as a family. My kids got to know him better and vice versa. As an avid fisherman, he would get up at the crack of dawn, go hit a few spots, come home, spend time with us, and then jet off to a different spot. He was passionate about catching the next big fish. I’m so, so thankful we had this time with him.

On his last day in Iowa, I told him that even though we live far away and don’t see each other often enough, I love him and I am immensely proud of the person he is. It makes my heart smile knowing I got to tell him that to his face.

The loss of Gavin has forced me to question what is truly important in life. It reminds me of how the death of my mother when I was 21 changed my whole perspective and ultimately inspired me to go to culinary school.

I’ve been asking myself what truly makes me happy? Am I doing all the right things? Am I reaching for the stars, setting and attaining goals that fulfill what I was put on earth to do? Are my kids happy? Is my wife happy? Should I move closer to my brother in Colorado, so that I can help him grieve? Am I going to become the chef I’m meant to be if I stay in Iowa? Is my current position the best place for me to grow, evolve and perfect my craft?

I don’t know the answers. I know that I love the kitchen. It’s that place where I can concentrate, where I can care for my members by creating delicious and beautiful dishes that bring them happiness and comfort.

On the same day Gavin died, the world also learned of the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. His book, Kitchen Confidential, is one of the few books I’ve ever read cover-to-cover. I read it in culinary school, and it gave me immense insight into how crazy the chef world can be. But it taught me that if you love it, it can become a sanctuary of sanity in an insane world.

For me, when things are rough or I can’t concentrate, I put on my apron and I cook. It’s my outlet. I work on the line and I channel all that confused energy into something that allows me to forget the other stuff and create something tangible that’s beautiful, flavorful and unique.

Bourdain gave us more than simply insight into how nuts and insane is to be a chef. He was able to show the world that with the right passion and dedication, one can succeed at something others might find impossible. He taught us that it’s our duty to experience other cultures and other people. And he taught us that with a rawness that is enviable. Because of that, the world has become an honest and more accessible place.

His death is terrifying because too many chefs abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to slow themselves down. It hits home because he was one our own.

So how do we balance these losses? How do I grieve for my nephew? What do I learn from Bourdain’s life and his death?

I know that I want more moments with the people I love like the ones I had with Gavin last summer. I know that I want to push myself to be a better chef for my family and for my members. I want Gavin’s memory to live on. I want to make him proud. I want him to see that I’m someone who does the best he can every single day. I want to be the person who perfects his craft and has fun doing so.

We only get one shot at this. Don’t waste it.

Let Bourdain’s and my nephew’s stories be a reminder of what is truly important in life. Chase happiness in a positive and healthy way like Gavin. And reach out for help if you need it.

7 Responses to When Tragedy Gives You Perspective

  1. Sabatino Tomeo says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your families. Nothing can replace the love and innocence of a 13 year old. Keep his spirit alive and finish that sidewalk. Protect others for Gavin’s sake. Gavin needs to be remembered everyday for the kind and loving young man he was.

  2. Steel says:

    Well said, my friend. Love you. “S”

  3. Ronda says:

    Excellent writing Chad and a wonderful tribute to Gavin. We should all live our lives to be what we are meant to be and work hard but still be able to love and enjoy our family.

  4. Cheryl Hogan says:

    Thanks so much for this tribute to Gavin. Most certainly you have touched many lives with this insightful post. May God richly bless you in all you do.

  5. Carol Lavallee Troxell says:

    Dearest Chad, we have never met but your dad and Colleen are my dear friends. I have heard so many wonderful things about you, and what you have expressed here for all to read shows the inner soul of a young man who wants to follow a path and purpose that has been meant for you since you were born. The loss of your nephew is something so sad and painful to endure and I know your heart is aching with pain like you have never experienced. That, too, is part of what God wants for you to experience. Already I sense from what you have written, you have learned another little lesson about life. We do not understand any of the whys that happen as this tragedy has occurred so suddenly and shockingly. You do know what your brother and wife are feeling, you cannot feel it exactly as they are, but you are aware of the deep pain and sorrow they are living every single day. I just wanted to reach out to you, you look so much like your father, and tell you that I am proud of you. Just your sincere hearfelt words are out there for others to grab hold of and come to their own conclusions about this life we live. We are to do for others, we are to love one another unconditionally, and we need to be thankful for family and friends we do have to share our time and days with. We have this day only, no guarantees about tomorrow, and yesterday is gone, so no getting a yesterday do over. Make the most of today Chad….I know you will be a better man, husband, father, son, friend. You name it, Gavin has been taken away, and his death has touched you so profoundly that already you are a better person. Sending much love, warm hugs, and God to bless you and heal your pain. Carol Lavallee Troxell

  6. Mary Ann Knight says:

    So well said Chad. Thoughts, love and prayers for your family in this sorrowful time of your life.

  7. Junks says:

    What an insightful and soul searching epithet for Gavin, it does him honor. Our thoughts and prayers are with your families,

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