This morning, I read an article about Justin Wilson, the Indy driver who died after being struck in the head by debris in a race on Sunday. I’m not a fan of racing, and I had never heard Justin’s name prior to reading the article, but it struck me. Hard enough to spend time thinking about it today — hard enough to write this post.
The reason why is simple. Like me, Justin was in the ‘prime of life.’ Those years when you’ve gotten through your preliminary investment and you’re starting to see things pay off. You may have started a family, built your career past the entry level jobs or be in a home. Both Justin and I had met the key criteria:
- Justin: Age 37, established as a credible driver and married with two kids, ages six and nine.
- Mel: Age 42, established as a business professional and married with two kids, ages fourteen and eleven.
And, at this point in my life, I can’t read articles about people like me without going through a self-reflection. What would it mean for my husband if I was taken suddenly through tragedy. How would my kids, still finding their way to a start point in adulthood, respond? What emotional heartbreak would my parents face, having to watch their first-born child leave this earth before them, only to hear people say,
“You lost her in her prime.”
In our prime we are sandwiched between young people, who still need our guidance and help to finish their roots, and our parents, who expect to leave us to care for our own grandchildren someday. Losing someone at that stage feels unnatural exactly because it is — leaving two slices of metaphorical bread without their filling.
So when I read the article, I felt empathy for Justin’s wife and children, for what it must be like to carry on alone. I felt sympathy for his parents, having watched my own grandparents mourn the loss of a child. But if I am really honest now, the strongest feeling I felt was fear. Fear that my assumption that I will someday be a short, over-energized white-haired 90-something pixie is unrealistic. Fear that I will be taken by some disease or accident or crazy circumstance in my prime.
You know, when I’m the filling.
Tomorrow, I will wake up again confident in my certainty that I will be here for a long time to come. I will park the fear and focus on the things I control and make the best choices I can to increase the odds. Thankfully, my job doesn’t require me to drive an open race car hundreds of miles per hour, so that should help.