I don’t know who first said it but it’s as true a statement as one can utter: Death is the great equalizer.
On Monday, April 19, the Southern California swing music scene lost a bandleader/musician and all-around great guy, and I didn’t know him. Tim Gill, 37, and his wife Joylani Kamalu, 40, died in an airplane crash.
When I say I didn’t know him I mean it. We weren’t even Facebook friends. I probably had seen him play but I don’t think we were ever introduced. Which means I can’t speak from the heart about him, but I do want to speak about our collective hearts.
What I do know is that several people I consider very good friends felt the loss deeply. In fact, one of them a fellow musician is such an optimist it’s rare to see her post anything that isn’t serotonin fueled. I am the rain cloud to her ray of sunshine, so when I see her post something that gets even remotely close to solemn, I know something has rocked her.
I texted another friend of mine to offer up a kind word. (Both of these friends prefer texting even if I don’t and, in this instance, it seemed the right type of communication.) He proceeded to tell me that Tim was an expert pilot and had just gotten a new Cessna so his guess is that it wasn’t pilot error but probably mechanical issues. This is one person’s opinion, and I don’t present it as fact. We won’t know for a while and by the time that information is available will anyone even be talking about it? Probably not.
I want death to be explainable. Even though the rational mind knows that isn’t always how death works. I want to throw untimely deaths into a file in my brain labeled “Could this have been avoided?” If that folder contains these questions and I keep asking them maybe I can completely deny the randomness of death and keep the rest of my brain clear of the idea that shuffling off this mortal coil can just …. happen.
Here is what I would like to say about a man and his wife that I didn’t know. They were loved—a lot. Every musician who posted on social media about Mr. Timothy Michael Gill said the same thing. Yes, he was a good musician but more importantly he and his wife were stellar people.
This year has been so unbelievable racked with death that certainly the grim reaper must be satisfied with the enormous windfall enough to give the other ways of meeting your maker a pass. No cancer, no airplanes falling from the sky, no fires—just give us a stinking break or we will cram that scythe where the sun doesn’t shine.
But no matter how it is processed or parsed out it doesn’t matter, because you can’t kill death.
So, here is your warning: after you get your COVID vaccine and you see me and I hug you just a little bit too long for comfort, deal with it and hug me back. And if you aren’t a hugger, do it anyway because I just threatened death in a very public forum.