This past weekend tragic accidents took the lives of three car racers: Indy 500 Champion Don Wheldon (33), “our own” off-road racer, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro-4 Champion Rick Huseman (38) and his brother, Jeff (26), also a short course racer. To many who don’t follow motorsports or didn’t personally know any of the three athletes, these are just three more deaths that can be added to the silent list of lives lost on US roads, in the nation’s hospitals and in the world war zone, which all combined provide plentiful reasons to mourn.
I’m not in the business of comparing the significance of one death over another, much less one life over another. Although I coincidentally found myself in the same space with Rick & Jeff on Saturday night, that hardly makes me their friend. The thing about racers though (and I’m generalizing with complete confidence here as I know many of them), is that unlike a lot of us they live out their passion in their lives and that in return makes them very happy, grateful people. No matter how you feel about racing, we all have secret or not so secret passions, but really only a few of us get to even come close to bringing our desires to reality. But racers do, and they work hard for it. It’s no matter if they are a pro or an amateur. It’s a hunger they get to feed and when they do, just like a full belly, there is only fulfillment and satisfaction that then spreads contagiously onto anyone in their surroundings. And that’s a great gift to be giving to the rest of us. Think of how many people like this you know. Someone who holds no resentment, because the deepest fire within is kept burning strong, rather than minimized, pushed aside or go forgotten. This doesn’t mean their lives are easy, or problem free, or without obstacles. It’s often the opposite. Racers are often intense, deep in their thought about the smallest of things we “regular” people can’t appreciate, and even when they are having fun away from racing, part of them is always on the track, in the desert, behind the steering wheel, in the shop, improving things, getting ready for the next race. It’s this determined, unwavering love for their sport and the fact they’ve been given the opportunity to repeatedly live it out, whether it’s once a month, once a week or daily, that manifests itself as a sense of gratitude and general deep appreciation of their own existence; quite the opposite of what most people otherwise interpret as disregard for life. Racers get to do what brings them to their highest state of fulfillment, and that somehow makes them an extremely inspirational group of people to be around. From what I hear, these three were no exception.
Although I never shook hands with neither Dan, Rick nor Jeff, this is what I think about: the world had lost three inspirational people that didn’t let anything stand in the way of their passion and fought for being able to do what makes them happy. If we are all honest with ourselves, this isn’t as common as it should be. I know that to their families and friends, so much more was lost than one’s person’s interpretation of their legacy. I still hope it is ok with their friends and families if I borrow this legacy as a source of my own inspiration and keep in my heart what I know these three men had in common – love of life. May you rest in peace. God Speed.