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Gary Lukatch

On not waking up: RIP Gary Lukatch

The expat community in Budapest is reeling at the news that long-time resident Gary Lukatch has died in his sleep while on holiday in Beirut.

On 28 March last, he posted on his Facebook page

Once more into the Breach, Dear Friends!

Yes, I’m off on another amazing adventure. This time it’s a week in Beirut, Lebanon. Will be out of touch until April 3, so no need to respond to this message. Watch for photos and upcoming blog when I return, unless you see me on the evening news first, wearing my keffiyeh and babbling an incoherent confession for something.

Until next week…..

Gary was a staunch supporter of Gift of the Gab when it was in its infancy. He made a great judge. He’d show up, usually, alone, but once there, he was never short of company. The title of his blog Travels with Myself speaks to how comfortable he was with himself; the tributes pouring into his Facebook page show how comfortable others were with him. I didn’t know him very well – and we certainly disagreed on what makes an Irish pub Irish – but if we turned up at the same event, we’d chat, swapping stories on where we’d been and where we planned to go next. I’m not around Budapest much these days so it’s been a while since we’ve run into each other – the last time was at the Caledonia when he happened to pop in while I was there and he joined us for a beer.

He expected to come home from Beirut. Everyone expected him to come home. I was looking forward to reading his blog posts as it’s on my list of cities I want to see. That he won’t be around to bump in to is something that’ll take getting used to. But man, what a way to go. In his sleep, on his travels, doing what he loved to do most: explore.

I grew up among aunts and grandaunts who listed in their nightly prayers a prayer for a speedy death, a quiet death that caught them unawares. It’s my prayer, too. Death is something we can’t escape. Not all of us will drop dead of a heart attack on the 17th green after sinking a putt for an eagle. Or die in a deckchair while sitting in the evening sun listening to waves lap the beach. Or in our sleep in a hotel room in Beirut.

But those, like Gary, leave a legacy of goodwill and fond memories. RIP teacher man. Safe travels. And thanks for the final lesson: Live life to its fullest, as you did, because we never really know the morning we’ll wake up for the last time.