When my youngest son told me that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, I brushed him off and said, “There’s no way that is real. It’s probably some stupid, internet hoax.”
It seemed too far fetched to be true. And we all know how fast rumors spread through social media. So I forgot about it and went about my day.
Later, the story was confirmed by reputable news agencies. We discovered that Kobe, his thirteen year old daughter and seven other people did, in fact, die during a helicopter crash.
As more details emerged, we learned about the other victims. A mother and her daughter. A husband, wife and their daughter. A female basketball coach who leaves behind a husband and children. The pilot.
Nine lives, wiped out in an instant. And when I heard this news, I cried.
I cried for strangers
I cried for people I had never met. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but I’m willing to bet that some of you cried too.
Like I said, I’ve never personally met Kobe Bryant. Truth be told, I didn’t know much about him either.
I knew he was a basketball player with the Lakers. And my kids yell, “Kobe” every time they shoot trash in the garbage can. That was the extent of it.
By all accounts, he was not only an outstanding basketball player, but also a good man, who was actively involved with his family. And when he passed away, he wasn’t trying an extreme sport or involved in something dangerous. Kobe was doing a totally normal dad thing; taking his daughter to a basketball game.
I never met Kobe Bryant, but his death still rocked me and weighs heavily on my heart.
When I learned about the accident, I cried for the nine people who lost their lives in the crash. I wondered if they knew what was happening and if they were scared. I wondered if the parents tried to shield their children. I wondered if they died instantly or succumbed to their injuries before help could arrive. I hoped their passing was fast and as painless as possible.
I cried for the teenage girls who were on board the helicopter. Death is always sad, but when a child passes away, it is amplified. These girls had barely begun to experience their lives and they were tragically cut short. They would never go to prom, learn to drive, go to college or get married and have a family.
I cried at the unfairness of this situation and because I can’t understand why things like this happen. I cried because families are suffering.
I cried for Kobe’s other daughters. The trajectory of their lives has changed and they will grow up without their father and their sister. This type of tragedy permanently alters the direction of your life. From now on, their lives will be split into “when dad and Gianna where alive” and “after dad and Gianna died”.
But mostly, I cried for Kobe’s widow, Vanessa. She not only lost her husband, but her daughter too. That is a grief I cannot imagine and my heart aches for her.
And truthfully, I selfishly cried a little for myself. I never met Kobe Bryant or his family, but I also have a 13 year old daughter, who played competitive sports.
Like Kobe, my husband often took her to travel meets. There were many times over the years where I kissed them goodbye and sent them off on a plane with their teammates. But my family always came back. Vanessa’s didn’t.
I never met Kobe Bryant
When I told my husband that my heart was aching for those families, he looked at me like I was a little crazy. “You don’t even know them,” he said. Yes, it’s true. I never met Kobe Bryant or his family.
But I didn’t need to know them personally to feel their pain. As a mother, this is the type of thing that makes you wonder how you would react if this happened to you. Would you be able to survive after losing your husband and daughter?
Vanessa, you don’t know me, but I am sending you strength and love from all the way across the country. We all mourn with you and your family.
I’ve never met you, Kobe or your daughters, but as fellow wife and mom, my heart is breaking for you. I hope you can feel the outpouring of support from around the world and it gives you a small measure of peace.
I hope you have family and friends to support you, cook you meals and make you get up out of bed every morning. I hope that you and your daughters always feel Kobe and Gianna’s presence with you, watching over and supporting you for the rest of your lives.
It seems trite to say to hold your loved ones a little closer, but that is exactly what I have been doing. Last night at dinner, I was gazing at my daughter. She noticed, gave me a strange look and said, “What mom? Why are you staring at me?”
I replied, “I was just thinking how lucky I am to have you as my daughter.” And I really felt that deep in my soul. I am lucky and I need to treasure every moment, even the not so fun ones.
This morning, I was straightening up her room after she went to school. I gazed around at all her sports medals and trophies and I started to cry again. Like a slightly neurotic woman, I sniffed her pillows and cried.
I selfishly thanked the universe that my daughter was still here with me and I cried for Vanessa and her daughters.
I never met Kobe Bryant, but I cried when he died.