One Light Extinguished (Opinion)

Kevin Barchas / Guest column

When I first met Tyler Kavanagh galavanting through the dry-storage hall of The Rocker on his first day back into the kitchen, I thought to myself: “Gilberto’s gonna be upset, there’s a new dishwasher in town!” But at this time, our new determined Sous Chef was ready to put me in my place — a strategy unavailable to many lead-kitchen heirarchicals: he was almost like a bigger brother. 

Then Tyler finally arose to our head chef. He accomplished drafting his own new menu, fought diligently during our most critical kitchen skirmishes, but lead his team with a  brutal and demanding touch. For Tyler had his own battles to fight, within. It wasn’t until shortly after that we’d witness how they could affect his countenance; his manner. How issues bubble to the surface.

After a few months of operations, Tyler one day disappeared. Word spread: he’d left our kitchen due to a hospitalization wrought via his mental-health circumstances. This couldn’t have been easy for him, maybe even less so for his spouse. But he was alright, and overcoming. 

Tyler returned as a gentler, more sensitive soul. Honorably, he’d pursue a newfound solace via abstinence and diligence, both of which he navigated openly. He seemed truly to try to improve. 

I worked with him again at Tahoe Forest Hospital, where he cooked and I washed dishes. He appeared happy, but I intuited his struggles were deep. As he kept at it, and as his condition continued to improve, I’d spend time at his home with him & his wife, our friend Emma, and her daughter Olivia — with which whom he was precious. He’d offer me advice like with someone who I’ve seen eye to eye, always. After I left Tahoe Forest Hospital due to my own unforeseen dilemmas, it was Tyler who messaged me to reconvene & return my belongings. I wouldn’t reach out to him again until 4 days before he died.

It seems cruel, after having fought for so long and surviving so much, that Tyler would ultimately become the victim — killed by an oncoming truck in a head on collision, on his way to doing what he loved. I know his spirit was in a way unsettled, but his purity and perseverance always shone a light through. I’m disappointed he didn’t respond to my last text before his ascension, but in the words of the late author Kurt Vonnegut, “so it goes.” The enthusiasm he’d muster when we did speak was more than enough.

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