My world. No make that the world is a little emptier today. Ryan Peters passed away early Sunday morning of internal injuries sustained as the result of an accident at Windy Hollow Speedway. I wasn’t there. I don’t know the details and is always the case, I have heard four or five different sets of details. To be honest, the details of the incident are very inconsequential. The only fact and detail that matters is that the world is a little emptier.

A grandmother is missing the grandson she raised, family is missing a brother, friends are missing a loved one. The racing community is missing one of its own. More importantly to me, The world is missing one helluva guy.

In the past three years previous to this one, I was privileged to get to know Ryan and be able to observe him. From my spot by the pit gates as I waited for heat winners to arrive, I would see Ryan always moving around the pits: sharing a smile and a kind word and more times than not helping turn wrenches on a car. Usually someone else’s car. Amazingly enough, oftentimes, a competitor in his own class. It isn’t rare to see racers helping other racers by lending them a tool or a part but Ryan had a special love for helping others. You could tell by the smile.

It would be easy to simply explain Ryan as that guy that ran around the pits with the jeans that were more holes than denim. Easy to say that he was a man of simple ways and words. Easy to pass over the way he could bring joy and a smile to those around him. Many times, just having him come sit in the booth and shoot the breeze while he was looking at photos of his car was enough to alleviate the misery of a hot August afternoon with no breeze. He was always ready with a joke or a story.

Many people have racing stories they can share about Ryan, but I have a favorite story that doesn’t involve racing. A group of us were at Starbucks and Ryan said he had never had a Starbucks coffee and didn’t really see the big deal. I offered him my Caramel Macchiato that had extra shots of espresso in it to feed my caffeine addiction. Ryan took a few sips and said I don’t see the big deal. As Fuzzy and us looked at photos on the computer, Ryan began tapping his feet on the floor and fingers on the table. He got progressively more animated. We all had to finally laugh as he turned the cup up and said that hits you slow doesn’t it.

To say that Ryan will be missed is an understatement of immense proportions. Every loss leaves an emptiness, a longing, a bundle of lost potential and opportunity. Each loss of a loved one causes a period of mourning and  lifetime of memories. But on rare occasions, too rare in my opinion, a giant of a person is taken from us all too early. All our lives are diminished in our shared loss. All our hearts are heavy and weary. We seek to console one another when we need comfort ourselves. We seek divine answers. We curse and  doubt the divine.

In times like these, we have two options, to continue life, forgetting the past and the knowledge of that person over time or we have another option. To live our lives with the joy and happiness that Ryan taught us to share. To live in camaraderie with one another that he showed us. The world is emptier today but I hope that we can use the example to Ryan’s life to make it a fuller place tomorrow. Full of the love, hope and joy that was Ryan Peters.

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