Last Sunday my Uncle lived a dream. For 12 laps around the Michigan International Raceway, he drove a stock car. He wasn't a passenger on some pre-canned "experience". He was suited up, handed a helmet, briefed on the do's and don'ts, and let out on the track for a dozen life-affirming laps.
There's video from the infield of him building his confidence on the oval, his family looking on as their father, grandfather, and friend got to experience the dream of every life-long NASCAR fan.
He got passed. More than once. But he was finding a rhythm. He was braking later and nailing the throttle sooner, the thrum of the V8 bouncing off the concrete pit walls as his speed grew in concert with his courage.
When his time was up, he slowly rolled into the pits, contorted his 64-year-old frame through the slit of a window, posed for a photo, and donned his trademark ear-to-ear grin as he walked off.
He described it as one of "the most incredible experience of my life."
A few minutes later he had to sit down. Then he collapsed. Then he stopped breathing.
The medics got him to the closest hospital, a 30-minute drive from the track. A few hours later, my mother called.
"Richard's dead," she choked out through the tears and the agony and the shock.
Just over a year ago, she lost my father. Now, her only brother.
But there's a cold — frigid — consolation in the fact that he died minutes after the realization of a dream. For 12 laps, he was his own hero. He scaled one last peak.
It's a cliche, but that doesn't mean it's any less true: We should all be so lucky.