Life is precious. Life is fragile. Life is not f****ing fair.
I am sitting here, 24 hours after Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, in disbelief. I did not know Kobe, but I was witness to all of his (what seems to be countless) iconic moments in sports history. I have been glued to coverage on this tragedy, listening to people in the sports world who knew and loved him.
I am not one to give much pomp and circumstance to a celebrity’s death, but this one shakes me to my core... and I have been trying to figure out why.
My uncle Jim also passed away last week. He and my Aunt Laurie were both recently retired and looking forward to traveling and seeing the country. They worked so hard to get to this one spot and then suddenly everything changed. It’s not fair. Perhaps this adds to the narrative of my heartache.
There are few instances in my lifetime where time has come to a stand-still over a tragic event. 9/11 comes to mind, as I’m sure those who are older than I recollect where they were when they heard about the JFK assassination.
There is something about the magnitude of this devastating tragedy. My senses are heightened by the fact that this man is a legend. His presence and place in history will live forever. He is supposed to be immortal. Superman is not supposed to die. He is an individual who not only changed the landscape of the game of basketball (which I love), but whether we loved him as a fan or hated him as an adversary on the court, he was also a real individual we were all rooting for in the second act of his career as a father, a brilliant mind, and as a dreamer.
Kobe was finally, truly happy. It’s not that he wasn’t happy before he retired from the game of basketball, but there was an indefinable satisfaction to his demeanor that just made him glow since stepping away from the sport he devoted his life to for 20 years. The people that knew him best all say that he gave even more than he gained through accolades, which were substantial. He had 5 world championships, he was a 2-time Finals MVP, he had 18 All-Star game selections, 4 All-Star MVP’s, a 2008 League MVP, 2 Gold Medals, and surely more than that. He was accomplished. He was decorated. But it seemed like his life had just begun. He wasn’t finished. He had so much more to accomplish; so much more to give.
Kobe set a standard that was rooted in his work ethic. Nobody worked harder at his or her craft. He was intense and he was confident. Maybe other NBA stars played the game to near perfection, but when Kobe took the floor, you saw a symphony. You saw a work of art.
Kobe was a family man. He had 4 daughters, including one who perished with him in the helicopter that crashed; Gianna who was only 13 years old and was a budding basketball star. She was adamant about carrying on her father’s legacy. I can’t imagine what Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, is going through right now. She has three other daughters to be a mother to in the wake of suddenly being widowed. How does one explain this to a 3-year-old child? How do you be who you need to be for a 7-month old baby in the midst of this?
I can’t imagine Kobe in the moments leading up to the crash. Did the passengers know they were living the last precious seconds of their lives? What was Kobe telling his daughter as he was surely hugging her and holding her?
I didn’t know Kobe, but he left such an imprint on what I know so well, and he had so much more he was going to do. Selfishly, I feel jipped. Unselfishly, I feel like he was jipped.
He was supposed to coach his daughter.
He was supposed to see his daughter play for UConn.
He was supposed to see her do great things in the WNBA.
He was supposed to be a grandfather.
He was supposed to give his Hall Of Fame speech this fall.
There were so many generations for him to teach.
In the second act of Kobe’s career, he was all about helping and teaching people. He was devoted to what he called the “Mamba Mentality” which is the intense focus and preparation you have for life, your sport, or your profession. He was helping kids and helping individuals understand this and helping them achieve more.
I think there are a few things that I keep thinking of as I try to make sense of and process this. First, life isn’t fair and I have no idea why. In the second act of my life, I have become more and more okay with not having the answers to tough questions, but this one sucks. Why? Just, why? It’s even uncomfortable for me to sit and dwell in that question, because there just aren’t any answers.
Second, life is fragile.
Third, life is precious.
Live every day to it’s fullest. To the people that you love: Tell them that you love them every day.
If anything, let tragedy teach you.
Dwell in the process.
Let tragedy teach you what is truly important.
Let tragedy teach you to not waste your time and energy on things that don’t matter.
Let tragedy teach you to love.
Let tragedy teach you to let go.