Last week Thursday I heard that my good friend and mentor, Barry Marshall, had drowned while paddle-skiing in the sea in his hometown of Port Elizabeth. I received the news en route to Dullstroom for a lonely weekend retreat sans Macbook, so had a lot of time to think about things before writing about how I felt.
Barry was special to so many people, as is evident by the numerous tributes I have stumbled across online (Aiden, John, Dion and Clive to name a few), and I am priveleged to say that I know that I was blessed with more of Barry’s time than I deserved or appreciated. He was the kind of guy that everyone wanted a piece of – it’s a marvel to me how he still always found time to have coffee, listen to my childish rants, encourage me and even bring me petrol when I ran out on the N12 highway… twice.
The only tragedy of Barry’s passing is that he leaves such a beautiful family here to miss him, and miss him terribly I’m sure. Maybe the reality of losing him hasn’t quite hit home yet, but I am otherwise simply grateful for the man he was, for the impact he made on the church and community he cared so much about, and the legacy he left behind. It’s not every day you meet a Christian minister who swears in sermons, gives up shoes for Lent, fights for the rights of homosexuals, enjoys Live, Ben Folds and Dave Matthews more than Hillsongs, drives like a maniac, and the list goes on. He lived life to the full, celebrating people, and lifting the lives of those who came into contact with him.
I’m not going to say that Barry’s death has taught me to live differently or change my ways. Knowing Barry, he’d piss himself laughing at me if I got that emotional in a blog post. But one thing Barry always encouraged me to do, from day one, was live a life of significance as opposed to success. I’m not someone who lives by goals or wild ambition, but I do find myself constantly coming back to that question as I view snapshots of my journey: am I chasing success, or significance? Tomorrow, when I attend his funeral with so many friends and acquaintances from my past and present, acknowledging the gift of a human being that he was, I will get to ask it again.
Thank you Barry for all you meant to me and did for me. I will make you proud.