I woke up early this morning in a little bit of a daze. I thought about the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others yesterday and my initial thought was, “Oh, it was just a bad dream.” Then a few more breaths and I realized, “Nope, not a bad dream, a sad reality.” My heart sank.
The fourth anniversary of my sister Lori’s passing was earlier this month, followed by what would have been her 50th birthday a few days later, so I have been thinking about life, death, loss, and the fragility of it all a lot in recent weeks and months (over the holidays).
It feels sad and scary to think about this for many reasons, but also important and liberating at the same time. I often think about and quote something that was said to me many years ago, “You’re living your life as though you’re trying to survive it…you have to remember, nobody ever has.” So true.
When people die – especially when it seems too soon and it doesn’t make sense – it’s often hard to process. Even when people are older and/or have been sick for a while, it still can feel wrong, unfair, and confusing. We live in a culture that is obsessed with results, action, youth, beauty, winning, progress, and more. While these things aren’t bad in and of themselves, our obsession with them, and our tendency to forget to focus on who and what matter most, can be incredibly damaging.
In moments of loss like this – whether the loss is personal or public – it serves as an intense reminder for each of us and all of us to stop, reflect, and take inventory of our priorities.
I didn’t know Kobe, his daughter Gigi, or any of the other people on that helicopter yesterday, but my heart breaks for all of them and everyone who knew and loved them. They are all in my thoughts and prayers.
And, as I sat on the couch last night watching the Grammys with my wife Michelle, our daughter Samantha (who is the same age as Gigi), and our younger daughter Rosie, I cried during a number of the songs, speeches, and tributes – thinking about Kobe and everyone touched by yesterday’s tragedy, and also thinking about my sister Lori, my parents, and everyone important who I’ve lost in my life…as well as all of the loss and grief we each experience as human beings.
Death can be so painful, and grief can be so hard. And yet, it is one of the most universal experiences of being human. It reminds us of the fragility and vulnerability of life in a body, forces us to put things in perspective, challenges us to expand our understanding of how things work, and connects us with one another in a profound way.
When something like this happens, it makes it clear to me that we’re all in this life thing together, doing the best we can, and that there are no guarantees. And, as scary as this can be, there’s also some real freedom in it if we’re willing to embrace it, be real about it, and lean on those around us and tap into our spiritual connection in an authentic and open way.
Let’s be gentle with ourselves today (and every day), do everything we can do focus on love, forgiveness, and the people and things that truly matter most.