The life of Gaby Barsky

Last night one of my best friends died.

Contributed Image
Contributed Image

Last night one of my best friends died.

The memory of being told feels like a sudden stab in the heart.

The shower head spurts warm water over my face. There’s a knock on my washroom door. It’s my roommate. My phone had been charging back to life in the other room.

“Something terrible has happened,” he says, his face pale.

I look at him, frozen.

“Gaby Barsky got into a motorcycle accident and passed away.”

The words don’t register. The impossible doesn’t become fathomable.

As a writer, there are few times I’m completely lost for words. In that moment, words had lost all meaning. No thought could surface in my confused mind. Nothing was real.

Why impossible?

After all, we hear about motorcycle accidents all the time in the news. My father, a personal injury lawyer, has warned me on numerous occasions about the dangers of such “death machines.”

It was impossible because it happened to someone directly in my life — someone I could closely connect to, someone who shared the same virtues, someone who lived on the edge, someone with the greatest ambitions and brightest smile. He was a fraternity brother, a co-counselor, a partner in crime, a family man, an adventurer, an academic genius, a storyteller, an athlete, a 20-year old co-op student who was living it up in California with his newly purchased motorcycle and nothing but a bright future to look forward to.

Gaby Barsky was invincible.

But as I stepped out of the shower with all my week’s problems washing down the drain, forgotten and unimportant, I realized invincibility is bullshit.

It doesn’t exist. No matter who you are, no matter what your goals are in life, no matter how smart, how strong, how powerful you feel you are, you are not invincible.

You’ve probably heard it before, but life really can change in a heartbeat.

For the majority of my life, I have lived life with the same perspective as Gaby Barsky. Together, we proudly conversed about the rush of going skydiving and feeling the still world beneath us as if we’re floating. At summer camp, we would jump off the tallest cliff across the lake in our boxers — one time we linked arms and screamed at the top of our lungs “I LOVE MY BEST FRIEND!” as our body hit the water at different times and our heads banged into each other.

He once tried teaching me how to do a backflip. We’d streak any time, any place — our clothes would be flying behind us as we’d take off into the winter night or at venues where alcohol was served a little too cheap. The guy once raised a snapping turtle out of the water by the tail. He and I painted ourselves yellow and ran around the field as ‘golden snitches’ for our campers during a Quidditch game. He’d fly through the sky on his snowboard, dash over the jungle on a zip line, bring anyone to the ground with his martial arts ability and be willing to try anything to immerse himself in a new experience. But last night, one second of recklessness cost him everything.

It’s one thing to live on the edge. But we must not allow ourselves to stumble off it.

Words can not describe what so many are feeling. But they can describe him.

Gaby was an inspiration. His ambition and passion drove him forward faster than any adrenaline stunt he’s ever pulled off. His kind-hearted approach to people and his passion for life shone through with every story he told. Some people just seem so alive, it seems impossible for the opposite to ever take over.

The heart-stabbing emotions that pour through me are simple reminders to appreciate the people in my life and take on each day with the ‘Gaby Barsky’ approach — flashing a smile, taking more than a few shots of vodka every once in a while and knowing a great story can be told.

However, this has also taught me that danger is not the true fulfillment of happiness. A love for adrenaline and adventure is something Gaby and I had in common, but sometimes it’s better to take a cautious step back. Sometimes it’s better to view our decisions on a greater scale, weighing the load of consequences rather than the abundance of temporary excitement.

We must not be afraid. But we must not live completely fearless.

We must know that we are not invincible.

In Gaby’s 20 years, he lived more than people who’ve reached 80 or 90. Not because of his greatest stunts, but because of his charismatic character that forged a connection with all who have been touched by his charm.

Through these connections and this painful reminder, his dynamic presence will live on.

I lost a great friend, but gained an important lesson. Love you man, hope you’re moving mountains up there.

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

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