What the death of sports star can teach you

Today the racing world lost one of it’s best and brightest starts. Dan Wheldon, winner of the 2005 and 2011 Indianapolis 500s, was in a devastating wreck this afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the IndyCar Series season finale. His injuries were fatal and he was announced dead a couple hours after being airlifted to the hospital.

This isn’t the first race car driver’s death that I’ve experienced. I heard about the deaths of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin in 2000. I watched the wreck that claimed Tony Roper live in 2000 at the age of 15. I saw the wreck that claimed the life of Dale Earnhardt live in February of 2001. Even in baseball I haven’t been free of it. I remember hearing of the death of Darryl Kile in June of 2002 and then that of Josh Hancock in April of 2007.

None of those affected me quite like hearing of Dan’s passing today. As I rode home on my scooter from my parents home on the gorgeous fall evening, I was questioning myself about it. I seriously felt like someone had punched me in the gut and was in an emotional fog. But why?

I hadn’t felt like this through any of the other losses of sports stars that I’d experienced. The difference I determined? I had something to lose now.

I’m married now. There are times I go through the thought process of how it would affect me if I lost my wife, either in a work related incident or other means. It’s not something I want to think about and nearly brings me to tears when I do before I snap myself out of it.

I always felt that there would be some things that I wouldn’t understand until I reached this point. Until I had a wife or until I had kids. But it just hit me that I do now understand. Dan leaves behind his wife, his two sons who are both under the age of 3.

For once it truly affected me and made me thankful for what I have. Needless to say that I will be reminded to thank God when my wife comes home from work tomorrow. The Wheldon’s will unfortunately not be able to do that.