There is still so much that is unknown about the deaths in the past two weeks of Kurtland Ma, 34, and John Winkler, 30. It will take time to determine whether, as some have alleged, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies overreacted in shooting Winkler. It will take time to determine whether, as others are saying, cocaine adulterated with dangerous “bath salts” provoked the stabbing rampage by Alex McDonald. And it will take time to determine (if that is even possible) what provoked a man like Andre Davids to murder his lover.
Then there are the deaths in the past few months of three men, ages 27 and 28, from meningitis. Their names haven’t been revealed, but we know that they are gay and lived and socialized in West Hollywood and thus were part of our community.
The deaths of all of these young people who lived in or had ties to our small community are a reason for us to mourn and a reason to reflect, even if we didn’t know them.
We should mourn the deaths of Ma and Winkler in part because they had great careers ahead of them. Both moved recently to West Hollywood — Winkler from Seattle six months ago to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and Ma barely a month ago to pursue his career as a doctor and live in a city known for its acceptance of gay men.
Given their ages, they had decades more to experience the joy, the sadness and the fulfillment of life. There was every reason to expect that each of them would have had a life as complete as that of Ric Rickles, who died on Monday at the age of 89, leaving behind a much-admired reputation as a civic activist and advocate for West Hollywood’s senior citizens.
We also should mourn the sad twists in the lives of Andre Davids. Until this past summer, Davids was the well-liked building manager at the United Methodist Church of St Paul and St Andrew in New York City. McDonald is a talented digital designer who is design director at a new mobile app called Pogoseat.
The deaths of Ma and Winkler and those of the young men killed by meningitis also should prompt us to reflect on our own lives. Notwithstanding the calculations of life insurance actuaries, there is no way for any of us to know how much time we have left. For you, as you read this, it may be an hour. Or it may be three or four decades. Faced with the uncertainty of life, the only answer is to reflect regularly on whether your life is as fulfilling as you want it to be and, if not, to figure out what you can do to change that.
When the information about the circumstances of the deaths rolls in, we’ll have other work to do. We’ll have to evaluate the appropriateness of the response by the Sheriff’s Department deputies and decide what, if any, action to take. If drugs were involved in either incident, we’ll need to look harder at a scourge that affects young men in our community both straight, like McDonald, and gay, like Davids, and what to do about it. We can continue to press the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to communicate more quickly and openly about the meningitis outbreak and what we can do to address that.
Otherwise, all we really can do is mourn and reflect. We all have busy lives, but each of us should make time for that.