Remembering Kent Taylor – a good man gone too soon

Like many people in Louisville, I was surprised to hear about the passing of Kent Taylor, the founder of the restaurant brand Texas Roadhouse.

I never knew Kent, but by all accounts, he was a great person. There is no doubt that he was a successful businessman. If you’ve never eaten in his restaurants, by all means, you should. There is a real niche for steaks that are prepared well, but not at the level or price point of a Jeff Ruby’s, or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. His reputation in Louisville is somewhat legendary as well – big personality, successful business, generous person. By all accounts, just a good guy.

Several people have posted messages, tweets, or posts about Kent and how the city lost an icon with his passing. All those things are true. There really is nothing that can be taken away from this man and his accomplishments.

What bothers me about the people doing the posting is that they gloss over how we lost this legend. We lost him to suicide! Let that sink in for a moment. A great man, loved by the community, successful in business, was lost to suicide.

If we only focus on the greatness of the person, it removes our responsibility to consider how we may have been able to help. It also sugarcoats the travesty of the loss. This man didn’t die of old age, not through a car accident, he wasn’t skiing at his favorite lodge – doing what he loved. No. He was lost through suicide. How the actual fuck does that happen?

If we cut through the bullshit, here is the thing with suicide –

  • There is a person – a real living human being; with hopes; fears; dreams; a family; a past, present, a future; and pain
  • This person looked at the world in front of them – their future
  • This person considered the pain they were in
  • Then, this person made the decision that the pain they were in today was worse than the potential reprieve of tomorrow
  • And, they decided to end their life to end that pain
  • And now they are gone

We often view suicide as if it is the cause, but the reality is that suicide is the last tragic symptom of pain. The cause of death may be suicide but the cause of suicide is pain.

The family and the company have kept many of the details surrounding his death quiet, and they should. Suicide is tragic enough, we don’t need to be macabre spectators to the details. I don’t know any more of the details surrounding the suicide than what has been shared in the media, and there is no reason to recount those here.

As I said, I never knew Kent. But here is what I would say to him now.

My Brother,

The world failed you, and for that I am sorry. I do not know the pain you were in, or how well the reports portrayed your day-to-day experiences. However, I know you were hurting. I know you were in pain. And while the world recalls your accomplishments, I choose to focus on the loss of you and the things that made you make that choice. I acknowledge your pain, and I grieve for how you must have felt. Hopefully one day the research you funded will help others so that they don’t have to suffer as you did. You are a good man, and the world will not be as good without you in it. I hope you have found your peace, I hope you have found your quiet.

To my friends reading this, I ask you to think deeper. To honor the man means that you must recognize the pain that preceded his loss. You can honor that pain without glorifying it, but ignoring it only diminishes that person’s toughest challenge. We can be better than that.

And if you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to provide free and confidential support 24/7. They can be reached toll free at 800-273-8255 or by chat.