***A NOTE: I am not positive that what I have written below is totally correct, or if I said things in a way that make sense the way I was intending. Writing about the death of a person I did not know in relationship to my own life and others may not be totally appropriate, but it seems to be the direction everyone has taken, so I wanted to comment on it from a cultural faith perspective. So, please take this with a grain of salt as you read. My greatest condolences and prayers go out to everyone who is experiencing grief in the wake of Sunday’s tragedy.
I thought for a while about whether or not I should write anything related to Kobe’s death because, frankly, why would I be holding my thoughts about this up to any standard worth sharing when a wife lost her husband and a mother her daughter. When other kids lost their parents and siblings and parents lost their kids, which is absolutely ridiculous because that’s not the way things are supposed to go.
I wonder at whether his death should be treated with more sacredness and space by culture—or would it be more fitting to talk about death? This shook culture and many communities hard, but not so intensely as it did his family and closest friends.
What is the appropriate response?
We try to be eloquent and packaged when we talk about things that shouldn’t happen. We try to be so clear and give closure and offer answers to the suffering, but there are no answers. When it comes down to it, the only thing we can mutter in full confidence of its appropriateness is “Why?”
Why do parents have to bury their children?
Why do people have to die unexpectedly?
Why do people have to die horrifically?
Why does it seem like people always have to be in so much pain?
And then time passes. And more time passes. And some things dull and some things don’t. It is in moments like this, when we are also forced to think about our own selves.
The last couple of days, I have been steeped in thought.
Beyond the realm of our ability to understand, death happens, and we must sit in the ashes that follow its mystery and abandonment.
No amount of money, fame, or community support changes that there are ashes, and they must be sat in, and they care not for status or financial stability.
Death is the great equalizer, grief too.
We watch people with great names and utterly exciting lives, but then we all leave life, and to an even more poignant extent, we all experience the gut wrenching, live altering, horrific reality of grief.
I watched the frenzy of the public in the hours after Kobe Bryant’s death was announced.
“Tell your loved ones you love them,” and “Call your family” urgencies were thrown out everywhere because if someone that untouchable, carrying the cultural impact he did, could die, what does that mean for everyone else?
It means we can all die, and we all will die.
The apocalypticism of our own thought realities has surfaced in a way we often try to keep subdued. But we cannot keep such thoughts out of our conscious minds when something so shockingly tragic is thrown into the gut of culture.
Not only must we think about our own deaths, but we also must think about the unsettling reality that we are so small in relationship to everything.
Isn’t that what we do with death? Make it about ourselves?
I suppose grief is not really about the one who passed away but the ones who must stay behind.
When I die, it is unlikely (an understatement, certainly, but it will work) that anyone beside a handful of family and friends will know my name. It is unlikely that my death will make the news. Most people will not feel disturbed after I pass away because I will be one of the thousands to die that day, and I will walk into eternity hand-in-hand with my Savior.
And He will not ask me if I was famous or rich, although these things are not inherently bad. But we will talk about how I loved, forgave, encouraged, gave, and all other means of expressing the Love of God through a life lived.
Would we all build a legacy as legendary and meaningful as Kobe Bryant’s—even if it is not remembered on such a scale, the things we invest in and strengthen during our lives here echo out into eternity and continue to ripple through earth and the people on it after we die, through our children, strangers we encouraged, friends we prayed for and with—it all echoes. Would the resounding mark of your life be one of Love, and would you step boldly into living abundantly, with reckless abandon and without fear, for the furthering of the Kingdom and the bettering of every life with which you come into contact.
You are valuable, yes, and that is not determined by how big of a deal you are—would you love on any platform; would you engage and encourage people on any platform; would you bring the atmosphere of Heaven into where you are right now.
That is what matters—that we would bring Heaven now.
And would we remember the 9 who died on Sunday—would we cover their families and friends in prayer, as they swim through unbelievably difficult waves of grief. Would we bring Heaven in the way we come alongside those who are grieving, and would we hold in our recognition of our mortality that importance of loving really well.
And would we remember that every life matters. Yours included. Don’t take today for granted, and live Love.
We are not promised tomorrow.