I’m not an NBA fan; I don’t watch any games, turn on ESPN, follow any players, but the news about Kobe Bryant and his daughter punched me in the heart.
Famous people dying is in the media all of the time. It’s sad, and we can feel some sadness. But often we move on.
The news about Kobe should have done the same for me.
But it didn’t.
It hit me. It lingered. I felt it kick me in the heart, like a full backswing and put-your-body-into-it kind of kick. It was like I lost someone I knew. I was surprised.
Minutes before I saw the news, I indulged myself at a ramen joint I wanted to try out. It didn’t disappoint. Day-long simmering broth, perfectly cooked noodles, and pork-belly sloshed around my belly as I wobbled out the door. It was bliss.
While commuting back home on subway, I opened Instagram and saw a post from Gary Vaynerchuck paying his respects to Kobe as if he died.
And I was like, “Wait, what the?!” It knocked some wind out of me and I found it hard to breathe. I was in disbelief that Kobe could be anywhere near dead. “Not Kobe, too!” I thought.
Quickly I snapped a browser open and started googling and saw the news: “Kobe and his daughter die in helicopter crash, no surviors.”
The happy buzz I had from that heavenly meal started to feel a touch hellish as my stomach churned when I continued to click and scroll, click and scroll, burying myself in the story.
And somehow there were more flashes of memories about this man that I never met, followed, or even cared much about. There I was on the 7 train heading back into Manhattan, moved, caring.
Why was I so emotional?
Maybe it was the tragedy of a great player who died at such a young age with his daughter in tow who had barely even begun living. Maybe it was those Nike ads that talked about his work habit, his mindset, his tenacity, his audaciousness. Maybe it was the fact that two of my friends’ parents died in the same week as Kobe.
There was just too much death swirling around me. One of my friends found out that her mom died abruptly, and my other friend’s father had a long slog with cancer.
And all of that made me think about my father’s death and the fact that we all die. It was overwhelming.
Then, Kobe happened.
I was overwhelmed.
I stopped and reflected on all of this and saw things more clearly.
Even if I wasn’t a fan of the sport, I was a fan of this sportsman.
I just respected him.
I respected the way he carried himself even when people hated him, even when he was getting punished by the media, even when he really screwed up. He had class. He was a winner, even when he lost.
And after losing basketball, he lived his life.
Living life—that’s what I’ve resolved to do. I was spending too much time worrying about death.
We should think about it though. Our mortality is a teacher as the ancients and sages teach.
My father’s death has taught me much: not to take life for granted, not to assume tomorrow is ours, humility (I’m always working on that one), every day is a gift.
Death also forces us to really look at how we live. It makes us want to do better, seek truth, not put up with too much BS, take chances, feel alive.
But worrying about death is dumb.
No one knows when their time will come. So it’s useless to fret about what we can’t do anything about.
What we can do is live as well as we can today. We can love those around us, hug them, encourage them. We can love ourselves.
We can mourn those who’ve passed, remember them, celebrate them, tell their stories.
We can be thankful for what we have, find true meaning, grow.
Sadly, death is inevitable.
But living well is a choice.