Remembering Sarah Burke — Rory Bushfield
I can ramble for a while about Sarah. It’s not very hard. That girl. I feel like I’ve had a guardian angel this whole time; she’s been looking out for me. Sarah. We miss her. I miss her.
I watched how she lived her life, and so many things she did I never understood. Like she would lose her cell phone, and she didn’t care. I just couldn’t understand how she could do that. She just had it. She had it right. She was living every day. She didn’t let little things get on her nerves. She let big things get on her nerves, and she did something about it. She was so good at worrying about things she could control and not worrying about things she couldn’t. I was always the opposite, worried about stuff I can’t control. That’s been a big one, trying to take that as a life lesson from her. I guess we met in Ontario for the first time at a mogul competition. She was shredding, as usual. I knew who she was long before she knew who I was, that’s for sure. I remember being intimidated by Sarah. ’Cause she was so sick. So hot. The girl you really like… everyone gets intimidated.
Losing her has affected my views of skiing in a few ways. I’m a super avid pusher of female sport now. I always loved it for Sarah, but now even more. That was her passion. She wanted to build a sport, wanted other girls to rip, too. She never had a competitor really. The other girls were just her friends. And Sarah would be just as happy when they did good as when she did.
I love skiing just as much as I always did—fucking love skiing. For a while there, it was so hard for me ’cause it’s like skiing’s what took Sarah from me and from the world. But at the same time, she died doing exactly what she wanted to be doing. She wanted nothing else but to shred halfpipe and be exactly where she was. She was happy. And just to know that and know that it wasn’t something stupid… the fact she was stoked to the last minute doing what she loved helps me.
The first day I went skiing was when [Josh] Dueck did his backflip. It was a changer for me. I don’t think I skied for—it was a little while. I went sledding to some hot springs one day with [Mark] Abma and some guys. Then [Mike] Douglas called me up and told me Dueck was doing his backflip and to come out. I ended up towing Dueck around all day. I specifically remember, I was towing Duey up and he was on his sit ski with a quick release, but he couldn’t really get to it. He was towing behind the snowmobile, and I came around this corner and went to pin it up this hill, and my sled just fully lugged. I was still pinning it like crazy, like, What is going on? I looked back and Dueck’s upside down getting dragged, like augured into the hill. I stopped, sled rolled, total mayhem, rope’s all in the track of the sled, and I got back to Dueck, and he was laughing so hard. We got it all together and my first thought was, “Can’t wait to tell Sarah.” Then I just, instantly, was so sad the next 20 minutes ’til Dueck did his next backflip.
Rollercoaster. Things will make me smile about Sarah, and then there are the things that will make me super sad. And then it’s followed by a smile. She’s always left me with such a smile. Well, not always though—you know what I mean. I would have loved to tell her about that day is basically what I’m getting at. I loved just coming home and telling Sarah about the fucked up shit that I did. Most people would say, “What? That sounds ridiculous. Were you wearing a helmet?” Sarah was just always stoked to hear my stories. I felt like maybe I’d go a little crazier just so I could tell her crazier stories when I got back. Any switch double back I ever did was probably just to show off for Sarah.
She knew that’s what I loved to do, and so she always supported my antics more than any other person I’ve ever met in my life. That’s why I loved her so much. Not just that, but she encouraged me to do what I wanted to do and just wanted to see me smile. And I know she still does.
[At contests] I would be at the top, and would watch her land her runs, land her last trick, and I bet you I was as stoked as she was. You can feel that stoke for someone else. I would get nervous, definitely. She’d always leave it ’til the last run. That was her thing. [laughs] It was like, “Why don’t you just win on your first run, Sarah?” It’s amazing to get to be that guy who got to share that stoke with her, ’cause she did some amazing things. And she won by landslides. I always thought she deserved to win, but when she did, it was, fuck yeah!
I’m so, so happy that I got to get married to Sarah, I got to spend that year and a half married. I was really stoked that day, and I knew she was genuinely so happy.
Fully still, in the back of my mind, I don’t really believe that the accident happened. I haven’t really moved past that. The whole time in Salt Lake was the same thing. It was just too much to fathom, the fact of what actually happened. I know that Sarah wouldn’t want us to be super upset. I kept that in my mind and tried to stay as positive as I could. I did what Sarah would do in the opposite situation; that’s basically how I made all my decisions. It was hard just seeing the pain in Sarah’s mom and dad’s eyes, but they were amazing. I love them. We knew we weren’t leaving the hospital with Sarah. The fact that we were married, all of a sudden gave me all this—I had to make decisions. It was really hard.
It was amazing having people around for support. I could go in and get distracted by all these awesome people. Sarah has so many good friends who were there. My family was there and so many other people came to offer their support. Having Riley and Trennon kicking around… those guys helped me out a lot. If I was there alone, I really don’t know if I’d be in the same place I am now, that’s for sure.
I think Sarah would want us to remember her for just how she took care of people. She was just an angel. She went out of her way all the time to help other people, whether they were her friends or total strangers. That’s what I remember about Sarah most. And the fact that she’s a total badass, way tougher than anyone I’ve ever met.
She’d go so out of her way for other people’s stokedness, and at the same time she’d be baking cookies, cooking dinner, sending emails to the Olympic committee or X Games. She just did so much, I don’t know how she packed it all into the day. I’d wake up in the morning, and she’d already have done all these things. I’d ask, “Want to go biking, Sarah?” It’s like, “OK, but then I’ve got to go up to Whistler. I’ve got these meetings. But we should meet up for dinner, then we’ll go to a movie.” She had her priorities so straight. I learned a lot from Sarah, and I still am. She keeps giving to me in so many ways. When an ember from a fire gets cold, the heat doesn’t disappear. It just goes into another form. And I believe her energy is somewhere good. She was an organ donor, and I got something in the mail a while ago that said she saved a couple of people with her organs.
She was so good at speaking without words. I can pick so many things that she would do, I didn’t even understand at the time. Now as I grow and learn, I start to understand things. She had such a good outlook on life. What would she say to us now? She’d say not to be sad and to celebrate her life and not to let fear get in the way of your dreams. Get as bad as you can while you’re here. That’s what she’d say, I think. That’s what she said to me.