Susie Wheldon: Opening up about life without her race car driver husband

Susie Wheldon: Opening up about life without her race car driver husband

For months, Susie couldn’t get out of bed. While others took her boys to play, she sat alone in that big house Dan had built, surrounded by his trophies, mourning that their children would never know him, except through the stories of others.

 

Hundreds of fans and drivers wrote letters. They wanted to honor Dan, find ways to keep his name alive. So Susie would drag herself into the shower and steel her way through public appearances.

 

She took the boys to the next Indianapolis 500, where 300,000 fans donned Dan’s signature white sunglasses. She took the boys to a go-cart track in England, where Dan’s boyhood buddies told stories of his pranks. She took them to a Top Kart race in Indiana, where a team owner presented Sebastian with his own go-cart. The boy, barely 4, begged his mom to let him “drive like Daddy.”

 

Susie wanted to go to those events, to show her boys how beloved their dad was. “But I felt like I had to share Dan with so many people, I couldn’t figure out where I fit in any more,” she said. “Every time someone told a story about Dan, it was like ripping off a Band-aid.”

 

That whole first year, she kept thinking Dan was going to come home, just walk through that door and scoop her into his arms. “It wasn’t until I had to go to the Social Security office and sign that form that said: Marriage terminated by death. That’s what made it real.”