Chaos Theory says that tiny events can cause monumental shifts in the order of everything whether nearby or far away. In a brief moment on July 19, the theory proved itself real when my friend, Kentucky Opera Director David Roth, passed away while driving home to Louisville. It was a split second that is only beginning to ripple through the lives of those close to him and the communities he touched.
The next morning my phone rang just as the sun was rising. I was sleeping and didn’t respond for a couple of hours. When I did, David’s life partner and my best friend told me that he was gone. I felt sick to the stomach. I loved David. He was family.
I’d forgotten how immediate and final death feels. It’s been a while since I’ve lost someone close. It is eerily quiet and tense. It’s tough trying to remember that nothing is permanent — especially our places in the world. We are promised only to the ether and that is the one certainty we can have.
The first time I met David was at a tiny restaurant near the Seelbach Hotel. My friend Bryce and I were nestled in a tiny booth and David sat at the table next to us. He was wearing a dark suit, tie and a nervous smile. He was new to town, getting his bearings in his position at the Opera while trying to build a social life.
I didn’t know that this meeting would be the beginning of a sweet friendship. Bryce and David would eventually fall in love and I was lucky enough to be one of the first witnesses.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last week recalling moments spent in David’s company, the amazing people met from knowing him, his devilish sense of humor and his focus when it came to his job. Watching him during an opera was as fun as the shows themselves, especially if something went awry.
As a rule, I don’t like to dwell in sorrow, even when I feel it deeply. It’s a risky place for me emotionally. I feel as though I’m being selfish and wasting time that I could be celebrating the person that I knew and the relationship we had. Nor do I want to offer platitudes and encouragements to appreciate every day. It is common and dull. Grief should happen as it needs to, and the way we live is completely our decision. Whether or not we are present and appreciative, life will continue. Getting wrapped up in overthinking life instead of living and untethering ourselves to worry is one of our greatest failings. I’m guilty of this.
There are things we can control. We can control what we eat, what we wear and whom we choose to surround ourselves with but we cannot, no matter how hard we try, control the cycle of life. It doesn’t run on the same metrics of regularity and predictability. Life is erratic and volatile; and no matter how much we accept this, it is impossible to understand when it proves to us how uniquely beautiful and incomprehensibly brutal that uncertainty can be.
Despite this, we try to make sense of these situations — pick up the pieces that are left over and go on living with these holes. In all honesty, we often try to fill them with distractions but we don’t need to fill in our blanks. They give us patina.
We are flawed creatures and chaos is guaranteed to creep in. Then we’re awake, two in the morning, typing and trying to understand one of the most natural parts of living. It’s tough to accept because we then have to face our own mortality in real terms. For one thing, it is the only club of which we’re all members.
Perhaps nature is at its kindest whilst stealing our memory with age, allowing us to forget bad things that put a shade over what is grand in our lives, allowing us a little respite from reality.
The tiny bridges we build between others and ourselves give us chances to be amplified and remembered. These interactions provide us moments of joy and of sorrow but allow us the opportunity to know that we’re not alone. David certainly wasn’t alone and I will forever cherish our tiny bridge.