Wilson family photo

Who I'm thankful for on Thanksgiving

Remind family, friends of your appreciation, and remember others.

This Thanksgiving, I’m inclined to break with tradition.

It would easy to ask Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers about what they’re thankful for and get the same answers each of us could give: family and friends.

What’s the value in reminding everyone that the rich and famous are human beings just like us and care about those closest to them?

I’m grateful for family, friends and everyone who has taken the time to read a story or click a video in the last year, but soul-searching requires deviating from this routine of expressing obvious gratitude.

Why? Because 2015 has reminded me that the longer we live, the more we experience but also the more we ultimately lose. It’s a sad but inescapable reality. So when everyone is sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner and contemplating something meaningful to share on this holiday, remember those who meant so much who are no longer with you.

Here’s who I will be thinking about this year, beginning with a jolly fellow lost last month:

Michael T. Murray (1959-2015) — Ol Cuz M2, among other names my cousin was called, teased me about one-sentence paragraphs. We shared a love of sports. He taught me humility on a golf course, because the man laughed when he flubbed a shot. It genuinely amused him. In my younger days, I’d get so angry, I’d throw clubs. Yeah, childish. By the time I played with Mike, if my voice raised even the slightest decibel, he was amused. It’s just a game. Enjoy the day. He got the message across with a simple smile. Or sometimes a joke. I’ll try my best the next time I hit the links, but will take the good with the bad and remember Mike. He reminded me to laugh, especially when the breaks sometimes are beating the boys, or lads, as he would call them. We enjoyed so many road trips, too many games to remember and were planning another adventure for February. Every adventure was more special because of him.

Mel Daniels (1944-2015) — Many of my colleagues knew him well, so I’m not going to suggest we were close. But I saw Mel the day before he died at a Pacers game and thought it impolite to interrupt a brief conversation when he poked his head into a room where I was sitting. We exchanged brief nods. Like so many others, I’ll remember the big guy for the most bone-bending handshake ever. There was so much more to him than that. You can find the tributes on the Internet, most notably by Conrad Brunner and Mark Montieth, and every word is well-deserved. I wish I would have gotten off my fat ass and shook his hand one more time. Or as it was, have him crunch my hand a final time. I won’t even try to emulate his handshake because it’s physically impossible to come even remotely close.

Justin Wilson (1978-2015) — The affable IndyCar driver from England told me in May that the Indy 500 driver he most admired over the years was the late Dan Wheldon, another of my favorite annual interviews at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Wheldon will be remembered for winning two Indy 500s and entertaining personality. But you will never find a more engaging driver than Wilson. The interviews run together after all these years, but Wilson had a way of making you feel like he appreciated every opportunity to chat. If all the interviews were this easy. If I never interview another driver, it was a privilege to know Wilson and Wheldon (1978-2011).

Ron Lemasters (1938-2015) — The longtime Muncie Star sports editor always greeted me with an appreciative smile and a kind word when we ran into each other at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He departed two months before another installment of “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.” He sure was missed. It only takes a moment to smile and appreciate someone, does it not? Ron always did with me. The world needs more of that. I’ll continue to try to do my part, Ron.

Deryl Chew (1954-2014) — Just 26 days after leaving The Indianapolis Star to join Scout, one of my most devoted Colts fan followers departed. There were no words to describe how much it meant to interview Deryl’s son, Jordan, and others in writing a tribute story. My appreciation and admiration for the man grew with each detail. On the day before he died, Deryl told his son, “You know, I’ve lived a great life. I have no regrets. I have a great family.” 

We should all be so fortunate to have such a moment. This Thanksgiving provides us all the occasion, for those sitting around the table, and especially for those we’ve had the pleasure of knowing, those we miss.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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