The tragic death of basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, a week ago today felt like a body blow for many of us. I first heard the news of Kobe’s death on Sunday afternoon upon my return from San Antonio, Texas. As I grappled with this shocking news, I also pondered why this one tragic loss of life has us all so heartbroken, especially when we encounter death every day, either of friends and loved ones or of persons we don’t know. Death is part of the human condition; it is a natural part of life. My understanding of death, however, was challenged when I learned that Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna (“Gigi”), and several others were aboard the helicopter and perished as well. It all was a great shock. As details emerged over the next few days, it was clear that the extremely dense fog played a role in the crash. By one account, the pilot determined that it was too dangerous to continue going forward. When he “attempted to gain altitude to avoid the cloud layer,” the helicopter hit a mountain and the deadly crash ensued.
I never met Kobe Bryant although I’d seen him play many times and marveled at his athleticism. I joined the masses who prayed for him when his marriage was in jeopardy over the sexual dalliance that became public after charges were filed against him for sexual assault. Kobe and wife, Vanessa, muddled through the challenge and endured the pain, and as a result, became a stronger and healthier loving family. Restoration of the Bryant family was evident when Kobe took his daughter to a Mamba event. The Mamba Sports Academy was created by Kobe to help children work through their personal challenges through sports. The happy picture of Kobe with “Gigi” wrapped in his arms caused many of us to feel the tragedy of their deaths and realize in our hearts that Kobe and his daughter were gone too soon.
Whether or not we knew Kobe personally, we watched him grow up before our very eyes, we watched him soar to international basketball stardom, we prayed him back from challenges and setbacks, and we will remember him as the quintessential family man. Yes, Kobe’s passing is an enormous body blow.
As a church family, we will pray for the Bryant family and the other families who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. As we come to grips with the enormity of this tragedy, we will lean on God because no matter how random and unexplainable Kobe’s death, God is in control.
The bright light in this tragedy was when we learned that Kobe and Gianna attended mass and received Communion Sunday morning before boarding the fatal flight. We praise God and rejoice that Kobe was in a right relationship with God, and we are comforted in the fact that he is indeed with the Lord. Amen!