A letter to Peter Lenz- Forever 45
It’s been four years since you left us suddenly and as cliché as it sounds, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about you.
Sometimes it’s a fond memory that pops into my head, like the first time I was coaching you and you were acting all goofy and silly. Instead of doing the drills, you were riding up over the curbing, pretending you were winning a race, standing up on the pegs, playing your imaginary violin. Your dad started to get mad and was about to pull you in to tell you to smarten up, when I stopped him. I told him that you probably only preformed for an audience and I pulled him into the trailer. We hid on you.
When you passed the pits we could see you looking around, trying to find us. You played around for another half lap, all the while trying to spot us before giving up and getting back to work. We smiled in the trailer as we watched you tuck in, hammer on the gas and begin to practice the drills and execute them perfectly.
There was also the time where you and my hubby John were playing around at the kart track in McMinnville. You guys were racing back and fourth and both acting like 9 year olds. You passed him and left him in the dust and then crossed the line standing up pretending to play the violin. I snapped a photo and to this day it remains one of my all time favourite shots of you.
You and he were like kindred spirits in a way, you seemed much wiser than your 9 years, he much more immature than his many. I loved hearing you guys bench racing and goofing around, playing online video games and bantering back and fourth. And when you both rode together on the track or in the dirt it was like watching waves in the ocean, smooth and aggressive, strong and beautiful.
Sometimes I just remember the way you laughed or the way you got out of the van all sleepy eyed with crazy hair in the morning. You would pull a hoody over your head, run your hand through your hair to spike it up, and then grin the widest Peter grin as you headed off to the rider’s meeting. You looked sleepy eyed and tired while listening to the meeting, throwing in a sly comment here or there. You’d stroll back to the pits, casually get on your gear and then absolutely pin it when you got on the track. I was always so amazed at how you could go from zero to full throttle instantly.
Sometimes though I remember the day of your accident. I hear the words that were spoken that day, I feel the same paralyzing pain of your absence, I remember the words of condolences that were written and I recall sitting stunned in front of the computer screen reading the news, tears streaming down my face. There is such a deep and empty space where you used to be. You were there and then you were just gone.
I remember watching a Ukrainian dance recital that my son was participating in. The three and four year olds were so adorable and as the show progressed older and older kids came out to do their routines. I was happily watching the show when four boys around the age of 12 came onstage and started their dance. I was suddenly hit with the idea that YOU would find it amusing to see these boys dancing in their colourful costumes and I started laughing at the odd parallel of lives, kids that race motorcycles, kids that dance, kids that play football or ride horses or swim. You would have giggled at their dancing, not in a mean or condescending way but in a lighthearted and gentle way and would have probably gotten up to try a little jig yourself. Then I got all choked up and thought I was going to burst into tears in the middle of the recital, strange how emotions can change so rapidly.
The loss of you has been a series of life lessons for me.
It’s been a lesson in grief. Sometimes I just cry. Mostly at night when it is dark and quiet and my mind wanders. I think of you and I feel the weight of your loss so heavily it’s like I’m being crushed into the mattress. I cry for all the things you will never get to do and for all the things you will never get to experience. I feel my own sadness and can only imagine what your family must be going through. My heart aches for all who loved you so dearly.
It’s been a lesson in regret. I regret that I didn’t take a photo of you and my one-year old son Ashton together that last day I saw you. I was coaching you at Greg Moore Raceway and you kept looking at my little boy and saying, “awwww, he’s so cute! When he’s five I’ll be 17…and when’s he’s 10 I’ll be 22 right?” We were joking about how much fun you guys would have riding and racing together and I never took a picture. I never took the damn picture.
It’s been a lesson in letting go. Sometimes I just have to sit down and bawl my eyes out for all the things that can’t happen now that you are gone. I can’t be your riding coach and I won’t get to watch you become world champion one day. My kids won’t get to ride alongside you. The world won’t see how good Peter Lenz could have been, or experience the joy of being in your presence.
It’s been a lesson in anger. Sometimes I’m angry that it happened to you, because you were so young, because you had so much going for you, because you were such a good kid. Sometimes I get angry at the fact that some of my memories of you are fading and feel frustrated and upset that I can’t remember everything about you crystal clearly like I want to. Sometimes I just want to punch a wall.
It’s been a lesson in fear. After you passed I was afraid of watching kids race motorcycles. I avoided coaching other kids because it was too hard be around little people that reminded me of you, and I struggled with the thought of my own kids wanting to ride and potentially race. I still struggle with it every single day. I support kids in the sport, my kids ride, I’m back coaching but I’m still scared. I’m not sure if as a parent you are ever NOT scared.
It’s been a lesson of acceptance because well, there is nothing we can do but accept what has happened and move forward knowing that we were lucky enough to have known and loved you, and to have been loved in return.
It’s been a lesson in gratitude for I am grateful for having had the privilege of knowing you so well and for having you give joy to my life. I’m grateful for all the memories and for all the smiles and laughter. But it’s a different kind of gratitude as well, for the loss of you has taught me so poignantly that life is short and that nothing can be taken for granted. So on the days that my own two children are driving me crazy and I feel frustrated and annoyed, I stop to appreciate the fact that as hard as it may be for me in that moment, I should still appreciate THAT moment. Not every parent gets to hold their kids every day and kiss them goodnight. Not every parent is blessed with healthy happy children and every time I get lost in my own day-to-day chaos and stress I stop to remember that life is so fragile and precious and that nothing is guaranteed.
We’ve started a fundraiser in your name in order to raise the remaining $75,000 needed for your school to complete the Peter Lenz Memorial Athletic Field in your memory. I ask everyone reading this to please visit http://www.forever45-fundraiser.org and donate. You deserve to have something grand to celebrate your life and your achievements. I hope we can get this done for you and that you somehow know how many people love and miss you every day.
Four years. I miss you kiddo.
8 Responses to “A letter to Peter Lenz- Forever 45”
Once again Misti, those words of yours are so moving. The hurt is obvious, but I kept repeating that sentence, I’m grateful for the privilege of knowing you so well and for having you give joy to my life.
You were indeed privileged, so never forget that. The rest of us admirers just have to make do with artificial photos and videos, not able to feel the small details of the actual boy he was, never to hear him laugh or shake his hand.
They tell us to try and let go, to move on, but they don’t tell us how.
So its 4 years. Might as well be 4 minutes, as he’ll never be forgotten. Forever 45.
Wow. Misti, you’ve once again evoked emotion in me. This is such a heartbreaking letter, and at the same time what a tribute to a kid who was such a great one!
I too, was lucky that I had a chance to meet him (and be passed very handily by him on the track). I never “knew” him but there were days when I sat back and watched and listened as he entertained everyone around him. I have gotten to know him through you, and your writings.
The world is a better place for his being here, and clearly he is still teaching you, and others how to live without him.
As a parent of a racer there is always some fear.. the anxiety of being on the pit wall when your kid is even one or two seconds late coming around that last corner. You look up to the tower hoping the yellow is not flying .. or the red. I have been through both. Sometimes the feelings are confusing. As an ex racer I get the same pre-start butterflies with my kid at the same time, the adrenalin rush when the one-board goes up.. or is it fear? I think its all kind of the same. We feel like we know Peter.. and Kenny. The incredible part to me is that my kid, and surely the other kids in the pipeline know of the losses and the potential for loss or injury. Amazingly to me is they still grid up at their young ages. They are fueled by the same human spirit and passion doing what they were born to do. Some will say we are irresponsible for letting our kids race but is it not more so to let them rot with junk food in front of a gaming console? is that “safe”? No it is not. As a parent knowing the potential brings up a multitude of feelings of their own. I have another kid who has gone off to war twice. I waited for over a year for the homecoming, twice. People who put themselves in potential harms way don’t speak much of what can go wrong.. I spent six years on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. I just did it everyday, people were injured and died in front of me. I simply went back up there. Police don’t dwell on getting shot, firemen don’t dwell on falling through floors, etc.. My son is now racing a bike ridden by one of our fallen, he says he can feel him. He says its a comforting feeling. I believe him. These kids are exceptional and very special human beings and they will grow up to be the Men and Women that other Men and Women want to be around. So Be Proud Peter and Kenny, you are still doing great things.
Wow Misti. This makes me both sad and happy. Sad for the loss of such a wonderful friend, and happy for your great memories of Peter. You get an extra big hug next time we meet. XOXO Mike and Rebecca.
Thank you Mike and Rebecca, hugs back 🙂
Wow, Scott. Thank you. Your reply articulates why these kids do what they do and why they deserve these opportunities we as parents struggle to provide them. Yes, Peter and Kenny are still doing great things. Well said.
Thank you Nancy.
I’ll never forget you, Peter.