He was a husband, a father, and a son.
He was a brother, an uncle, and a grandfather.
He was a best friend, a mentor, and a ball buster.
He was hated and revered.
It has been 14 years since Dale Earnhardt passed.
We mourn collectively as a fandom and feel the loss acutely as if it had just happened, again.
Vigils are held, reminiscing occurs, tears flow freely.
A driver was lost, but he was so much more to so many.
NASCAR, we are told, is a family. As fans of NASCAR we are a part of that family.
Earnhardt’s loss sent a rippling effect, one that still resonates.
Time heals but never completely.
Time marches on but memories never fade.
The delineation is still marked before and after this day.
In death, however, Earnhardt may have possibly achieved more than in life.
His role in NASCAR as a legendary driver had already been set. The seven championships that tied Earnhardt to “King Richard” Petty had already been earned as were his 76 career wins including the Daytona 500.
As Obi Wan Kenobi stated in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, “If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”
Earnhardt has transcended life and death.
By dying Earnhardt has become immortal.
His destiny to reach generations of fans is being fulfilled.
Had Earnhardt simply grown old his reach wouldn’t be as far, his words as powerful, or his persona so large.
By losing Earnhardt we kept him forever.
His legend grows, his lore is passed down, and his greatness never challenged.
Earnhardt is a NASCAR hero.
Earnhardt is a national hero.
Even more so, he is a Classical Hero who will forever be lauded.
We mourn today.
We weep today.
But we will forever remember Earnhardt and our tears will turn to laughter and smiles.
Our depleted spirit will get rejuvenated.
Our determination will get more focused.
Light a candle, mention a memory or several of them, and keep Earnhardt’s name on your tongue today.
He unified many on this day.
He created a brotherhood still bound.
He was Dale Earnhardt.