Most of us just knew him as a ball player.

To those who knew him best, he was much more than that.

Roy Halladay, a likely hall of famer, was a heckuva pitcher, earning a pair of Cy Youngs while tossing for the Toronto Bluejays and Philadelphia Phillies.

He died this week when the plane he was piloting crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. He was just 40 years old.

The age, that’s what got me.

All baseball fans knew Halladay was great, but that’s all we knew about him.

We saw him at work on the mound and marveled at his abilities. That was not what mattered most to his wife, children, parents, family, friends and teammates. They knew him better than fans, and they will live with the loss for the rest of their lives.

He was just 40 years old.

The brevity and fragility of life always strikes me when someone young dies, and 40 is young.

We never know how long we have on this earth, but it’s how much time I have with the people I love that makes me pause and think when I hear about tragedies like that of Halladay.

He was just 40 years old.

It is easy to say we should treasure every day and every memory we have with friends and family, but it’s not as easy to live that way.

We get caught up in the day-to-day grind of life, the routines we settle into, and sometimes we forget to appreciate all we have.

We assume life will last a long time, and if we don’t see someone today we will tomorrow, but sometimes those tomorrows don’t come.

I’ve lost enough people in my life that it has made me both appreciative of the people around me and worrisome.

It always makes me uncomfortable when my kids are traveling late at night or long distances until I hear they have arrived safely.

Most parents feel the same way, but we never share the same concerns when we are the ones traveling.

I’m sure the Halladay family is thinking they wished Roy hadn’t taken up flying or that he had done certain things differently. It’s human nature to think that way, but it does not change anything.

More than anything, they miss him and wish they had more time with him.

He was just 40 years old.

Even with its frustrations and hardships and ups and downs, life is amazing because of the people we have in our lives.

A simple evening out last week with my family reminds me of how lucky I am to have them.

That is an experience the Halladay family will never have again, and that is hard to comprehend, that life can be going in one direction and then the next minute you are tossed into another direction you didn’t expect to go.

The lucky ones among us will grow old and live long, happy, productive lives.

For reasons none of us on earth can comprehend, Halladay didn’t get that opportunity.

He was just 40 years old.

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.