When Tragedy Gives You Perspective

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.

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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.