The people we meet

Disclaimer – this entry isn’t funny, or even marginally amusing.  If you’re not in the mood, don’t read.  I won’t be offended.  

Have you ever counted the number of people you meet, and then forget?  Or that you meet, think about fondly for a few moments and then forget?  There must be hundreds.  I sometimes catch myself accidentally meeting someone’s eye in an airport or on the highway, and wondering what their story is.  Would I like them if I knew them better?  Would our paths ever cross in our daily lives, or do we move in different circles?  Sometimes, I selfishly wonder how that random person could advance my career or make my life better; rarely do I wonder the same about how I could help them.

I try not to take these meetings for granted, but of course I do.  Sometimes, one of the meetings evolves into something impactful.  For example, I pretty much owe my current career path and current job to two random meetings. One happened over the phone, the other over a lecture in grad school.  Neither lasted more than a few hours.  But my life is vastly different, and better, because of them.

Last week, at the APAP conference, as I enjoyed a presentation by one of the speakers, I thought “I’d like to know this guy”.  Coincidentally, he turned out to be the man with whom I and several of my colleagues were scheduled to have lunch later that day.  We ate Japanese and talked about building new theaters.  He seemed like one of those people whose brain is going in 20 directions at once, and sometimes, I hadn’t the faintest clue what he was saying.  But I liked him.  He had a great smile, huge enthusiasm and was clearly very smart.  I was glad when he gave me his card, because I had a feeling he was one of those “meetings” that I shouldn’t let pass.

Yesterday, I sent him an email that said I hoped we could keep in touch.

Today I learned that he died on Monday.

It’s unclear why, but he fell 14 stories from a hotel roof to his death.

He was 48 years old.  He had two sons.  And though I only spent a few hours in his company, I know he adored them; it was obvious in how much he talked about them. 

I’m not sure what lesson to take from this, beyond the cliched “tell your loved ones every day how much you love them.” I feel sad for his family and friends, and I suppose I feel some of that eerie sense of mortality that we usually manage to keep under wraps. 

But most of all, as crass as it sounds, I feel cheated. I’m pretty sure he would have returned my email.  Maybe we would have stayed in touch.  Beyond that…who knows.  

I’m left with a lingering sorrow, and guilt that I have no right to feel that sorrow.  What a strange thing it is to wrestle with sudden, unexpected death.

RIP, David Taylor.  I’m glad I got to hear you speak and share lunch with you.  It’s clear you’re missed already.  I hope those who knew you better than I find comfort in the days and weeks and years ahead.

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