Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
There is nothing I can write, say or do that hasn’t already been written, said or done over the last 24 hours to express the severity of this tragedy. It is a terrible, terrible thing.
Shortly after the news broke, the group text among myself and a couple other people important to Nothing But Nylon was populated with messages of the crash. In one of the texts, someone wrote the most pertinent thing I have seen in the wake of this catastrophe: “Hug your wife and family.”
I was hanging out with my girlfriend at the time, watching basketball and enjoying our Sunday together. Like the rest of the world, I was shocked to hear the news. I had other people in my life text me about it, and I was reading up on the latest news. But when the message to hug my family came across my screen, I paused, turned off my phone, and focused the entirety of my energy on being with my loved one.
Nothing can be done now to bring Bryant, his daughter, or any of the other seven people on the helicopter back. The Bryant family will have to carry this burden with them for the rest of their lives, as will the families of the other victims. Death is absolute.
Life is temporary, and its fragility is astounding. In 2019, a person close to my family passed away suddenly, and at an age that was too young. It is a surreal experience. Until a person reaches old age, you don’t consider the concept of them dying any day, or at least I didn’t. I understood that everyone around me would one day perish, but the flip of a switch, sudden ripping away of someone from this world wasn’t something I had fathomed emotionally. Then I had to.
The person I knew was in his 50s. Kobe was 41. His daughter, 13. Millions of people die each year across the world die seemingly out of nowhere at ages far too young. It can happen to you and your loved ones, too.
This is not meant to scare you. I’m not intending to loom the fear of death over your head.
I am intending to instill the love of life into you.
We are all temporary. Everything in temporary. Your current life situation, the problems you currently struggle with, the positives that you relish, all of it. It will not last, for better or for worse.
And death comes for all of us. It doesn’t matter how much money we have, it doesn’t matter how many articles we write, and it doesn’t matter how many baskets we score. The finality of life is around the corner, and you can never know when it’s coming, for yourself or those you love.
So, don’t waste time. Don’t let what doesn’t matter stand in the way of life. There is so much noise in our lives – social media, the rat race, petty dramas – and we can let it take over the things that matter. You time is finite, and the time you have with those you love – your parents, your grandparents, your children, your siblings, your spouse, your friends, your dog – is finite.
So, what really matters? I am a sports reporter covering basketball. I love what I do. I have a passion for it. I am under no delusions that it matters, and I am under no delusions that I matter. At least, not intrinsically. It can matter by having an impact in the lives of others, giving them a platform to achieve their dreams and do what they love, and I can matter through my actions. But in some fashion, I will still die. There are more than seven billion other people on this planet, and they will also all die. So, what really matters?
Life is intimidatingly fragile and short, and there is no way to avoid its eventual end. You are guaranteed periods of struggle and strife no matter who you are, no matter where you come from and no matter how many zeros are in your bank account. There will be suffering. There will be pain. You cannot avoid it.
During a time last winter, I was going through a bout of depression. I was experiencing a difficult time in my life, and every day felt like a chore. I felt the weight of one million things on my mind, and I yearned to return to the tranquility I felt I had reached earlier when the weather was warmer.
One day, I went for a walk around my neighborhood in an attempt to get out of the house and hopefully help my mind. The cold bit at my skin, the wind doing its best to rob me of my warmth. The trees were stripped in their leaves, naked branches rustling above the empty sidewalks. The grass and flowers called out in despair, struggling to maintain their vibrance as grayness enveloped the sky. Death was in the air.
For the first few minutes of my trip, I felt the negativity. I experienced and malaise and took it personally, wishing for the end of the miserable environment and the stop of Mother Nature’s wintry grip. I fantasized about the spring and summer, when these same roads would be deeming with life: the crisp blue sky, the perfectly green grass, the color wheel of flowers and the noise of people, animals and children celebrating the beauty of this world.
Then I realized, there would be none of that if not for winter. The leaves had to fall off the trees, and the plants had to die. They were needed to help fertilize the soil for new growth in the spring. But it isn’t only from a practicality standpoint: if there was no winter, then spring would not have the same meaning. It would not be the incredible rebirth of life, it would be Tuesday, just another day in a long line of many. The death and pain of winter had to happen for the life and beauty of spring to hold its same significance.
My outlook on death and the suffering of life changed that day. Even before I had a sudden death in my life, I began making it a habit to rotate through my out-of-town friends and family, people whom I see rarely but have been very important to me during stages of my life, calling them to catch up, see what is happening in their lives, and to continue that connection. When I have been faced with trying circumstances, like sudden death, I remember the transition from winter to spring, and like the changing of the seasons, there is nothing I can do about it. When November and December roll around, the leaves are going to fall, whether I like it or not, and come March and April, birds will be chirping again, whether I want to hear them or not.
Winter is dreary, and death is a horrible thing. There is no sugarcoating this, and I am not pretending to. Grief and pain are real, and they are coming for you, whether you would like to admit it or not. There is nothing you can do.
But this means spring and life provide the opposite, and both only come around for so long. During the few months of spring, go outside, walk around, smell the fresh air and relish in the beauty that surrounds you, for you know it is temporary. With however many years you have on this planet, do the same.
You can score 81 points in an NBA game and still die at 41. You can inspire an entire generation across the globe to pick up a basketball and still die at 41. You can be a father for four children and a spouse for 19 years and still die at 41. But you can’t do any of those things from the grave.
The passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, plus the seven others on board that helicopter, is a terrible, terrible thing, and nothing can be done about it now. Don’t let this tragedy be in vain. Grab your temporary life and make something of it. That’s what Kobe’s Mamba Mentality represented. Do what you love, surround yourself with the people you want, don’t let nonsense bog you down, for you never know when your journey or the journey of those around you will come to an end.
There is nothing you can do about death. All you can do is hug your family.