I was on a flight back home from Denver tonight when I heard the word that Justin Wilson had passed away as a result of the head injuries he suffered during Sunday's race at Pocono. Like many of you, I was immediately numbed by the news. And still am.
I spent the rest of the flight thinking about lots of things, but I just kept coming back to how sad and how unfair all of this is. While we as human beings can achieve incredible things, we still can't figure out why people die and why the worst things happen to the best of people.
Because writing is how I deal with lots of things, I knew that this post would be forthcoming soon. But as I thought of the words I was going to use and how I was going to convey my feelings, the most simplest of tributes popped into my head.
And this tribute is just two words long: Thank You.
Thank you, Justin Wilson, for week after week thrilling us with your amazing driving talent and for entertaining us with your incredible skill. Thank you for show us that you can race hard while still racing fair and clean and still doing amazing things behind the wheel of a race car.
Thank you for showing that you can be an intensely competitive person (all professional athletes are the most competitive people on the planet) when the visor went down, but when the race was over you could treat people with love, compassion and kindness. Very few athletes are capable of doing that.
Thank you for representing IndyCar with class and dignity. While the ride of your lifetime may have unfortunately eluded you, you never complained, instead you made the most with what you had and still won anyway.
Thank you for loving the Indy 500 as much as we all do. You may have been born across the ocean, but you were one of us.
Thank you for your smile, for being great with the fans, and for knowing what kind of impact a minute of your time could have for someone.
Thank you for loving your family, for being a good husband and father. Though your time with them was short, they will carry you with them forever. Love never dies.
Thank you for choosing to donate your organs so that someone else could have life. Sometime tomorrow, a person will wake up with your heart beating in their chest, guaranteeing them more time with the people they love. Giving others life is one of the most selfless things any of us can do.
It's human nature to think about the legacy we are going to pass along when we leave this world. The older I get, the more I feel the best legacy you can leave is one where your love for others lasts forever. Justin Wilson had great success in his chosen profession, winning races and making a comfortable living for his family. But in the end, his legacy is his gentle nature, kind heart and compassionate spirit...not to mention being a total badass behind the wheel of a race car.
He leaves behind a lot of people that will grieve for him, but in the end I pray that everyone's hearts continue to stay full with the memories of who he was. Justin was the kind of man I aspire to be, and while I'm far from perfect, it's people like him who make me strive to do better.
Whether you are a spiritual person, say a prayer tonight for Justin's family, his wife and his two daughters. Also throw one up for Sage Karam, who while in his heart of hearts knows that what happened wasn't his fault, is still hurting as well.
Faith, hope, love...but the greatest of these is love. We will all miss Justin Wilson, but he will be in our hearts forever.
Godspeed, Justin, and thank you for making all of our lives a little bit better.