NASCAR

Leffler death stirs a father's emotions

A TRAGIC LOSS
Jason Leffler and his son, Charlie.
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Sam Gardner

Sam Gardner is a general assignment writer for FOXSports.com. Originally from Orlando, Fla., he previously covered the Orlando Magic for FOX Sports Florida and has also covered the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and MLB playoffs. Follow him on Twitter.

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Earlier this year, I became a dad for the first time, and my now 4-month-old daughter has consumed every bit of my heart and brain since the day she was born.

A father’s love for his child is a phenomenon you truly can’t appreciate until you’ve experienced it yourself, I’ve come to learn, and it was with that in mind that the tragic and untimely passing of NASCAR driver Jason Leffler on Wednesday struck me as especially devastating.

Leffler, a single dad, left behind a 5-year-old son, Charlie, four days before Father’s Day.

And if Leffler's Instagram account is any indication, he saw that little boy the same way I do my daughter — as the light of his life: always tragic when a young child loses a parent, and photos like the ones below can’t help but rip your heart out.

There was a clear bond between them that I now understand all too well, and it hurts to look at those images and think of what Charlie must be going through as he tries to understand, as best a 5-year-old can, what happened to his dad.

Hours before Leffler’s death, I took my daughter to the beach for the first time.

She went to her first baseball game at Yankee Stadium in May. In April, she walked (well, was carried) across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time, and she, like Charlie, has so many more firsts ahead of her that I can’t even fathom not being able to be a part of.

That’s all I could think about Wednesday night after I heard the news about Leffler, and the thought of my little girl having to grow up without me is utterly shattering.

I didn’t know Jason Leffler, but I know he was a great dad. And I’ll be thinking of him and Charlie as I celebrate Father’s Day with my little girl this Sunday.

Tagged: Jason Leffler

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