One Life To Love

If you knew that you had less than a day to live, what would you do? Would you rush to visit as many family members as you could? Would you run away to a beach somewhere? Would you spend it in prayer at your local place of worship? Or maybe you'd just live out the day as any other. November 26 was an ordinary Monday. The long Thanksgiving weekend came and went and we returned to our day-to-day lives. Jobs and chores continued as usual.

Bill Simmerman had scheduled heart surgery for Tuesday. Like thousands of people every year, he would be having open heart surgery. He had been through it before having dealt with a premature coronary birth defect. This time, doctors would be replacing a pulmonary valve. The night before the surgery, he went on the Internet and visited my website dedicated to his favorite NASCAR driver. Bill then went to the online forum and posted a message about his forthcoming surgery.

Hey y'all, I'm just wanting to let y'all know I'm having open heart surgery in the morning....

Bill wasn't a regular in terms of posting on the forum, but he often read the race thread after every one of Jeff Gordon's races. The race thread is usually about 40 pages long. With 25 posts on each page, there's about 1000 entries during the course of a four-hour race. It provides a snapshot of how the fans were feeling at particular moments during the race. Every now and then he'd have something to contribute about the race -- usually on the Monday after the event. When he posted on November 26, it was an off-topic post about his surgery.

Will be out for about a week, just asking for prayers and thoughts.. thanks! Bill Simmerman

It's fairly unusual for anyone to post on the forum using their full name. But, I suppose it made it easier to pray for 'Bill' rather than his username 'REFUSE2LOSE24485.' There were several responses from forum members posting well wishes for him. He said it would be a week, so nobody was concerned that he hadn't posted about his condition in the days that followed the surgery on Tuesday. Bill made it through the 10-hour surgery. Seemingly, the hard part was behind him. But later that night, he went into cardiac arrest. He passed away shortly after 2 am. He was only 22 years old.

Before the surgery, he told his father Brad about his favorite website. He told him that he posted on the forum about his surgery -- and to let people on there know if anything happened to him. Two days after losing his son, Brad Simmerman logged onto the forum and thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers for his son. He talked about the operation, he talked about Bill's previous heart problems, but he also talked from his own heart.

Bill was a TRUE sports fan, with Nascar, esp Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports, and Chiefs football
at the top of his list. He was an amazing, caring young man, with a capacity for love and forgiveness
that few of us have the chance to really know, I am so grateful that I was given the chance to have him
in life for 22 very short years. I will miss him more than words can even begin to express. From the
bottom of my shattered heart, thank you for your kindness, well wishes and thoughts for Bill.

An internet forum is more than just words on a screen. It took me a long time to understand that. An internet forum is a community and a family. It's not a tangible item you hold onto or hug. It's simply a feeling of being with people that have similar interests. In this case, that interest is Jeff Gordon's racing career. What occurs nearly every weekend from February to November is more than simply cars racing around a track. Rather, it's a worldwide community experience.

Perhaps at these times you could have a thought for Bill. Maybe where ever he is, he will be able to know

Amen Mr. Simmerman, amen. On the last night of his life, Bill posted a message on the forum. You can't hear someone's voice on the forum; you can only read their words. Open heart surgery is an incredibly scary and serious event in someone's life. Yet Bill seemed upbeat about it starting with his "Hey y'all" greeting. He knew the risks associated with the surgery and accepted them. Perhaps there is a calm before the storm. When he logged off the forum that night, could he have known it would be the last night of his life? Could he have known that he'd be reunited with his mother within a day? You just have to live every day to the fullest because you never really know what tomorrow will bring. You now have another day in the bank -- spend it wisely.

Jeff Gordon Online

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to the following:

American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75231-4596
Phone - (800) AHA-USA1
Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinic
Resource Development
2401 Gillham Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64108

In memory of Bill Simmerman

Bill and his dad Brad -- tailgate troubadors -- at a Kenny Chesney concert in Columbia, Missouri in 2007

Bill and his sister Shanyn