Kobe, Death, and the Women We Must Honor

This week has been rough.

On Sunday, Kobe Bryant, his 13 year old daughter Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter accident that can only be described as beyond horrific. The aircraft plummeted to the ground, leaving zero survivors in the aftermath. I don’t have to go into detail because you already know all there is to know. You’ve pieced the story together yourself from various tweets, IG posts, and news stories. And by now you have already tweeted and posted about the matter yourself. A hero with a complicated legacy, a father and husband—Kobe was clearly a lot of things to a lot of people. I myself do not know a lot about basketball but I certainly know the weight that comes with losing a giant like Kobe. I also know the weight that comes with the loss of several family members, young and old. Other parents and kids also died with him and I am still processing all of this today.

While I’ve always known life to be fragile, I think hearing about people starting their Sunday with hope for a fresh new day only to fall into death’s arms moments later is just a heavy reminder of just how fragile it can be. There is a lot going on here. For one, we collectively do not grieve celebrities well. We place all of our hopes and dreams on these people because they are the ones who made it. They are the ones leading the way for the aspirational ones in their field. They are real, but they feel godly to us. But. They are real. Their spouses are real, their children are real. We are all disgustingly real. And to be real means to be temporary. We have a hard time processing that truth—that the people who bring us such fantastical hope could have such a horrific end. It truly feels almost impossible to comprehend.

Another aspect of that realness is that real people are not perfect. While Kobe has changed countless lives just by living his own, there is still the assault case that will never be forgotten. This man was a basketball legend, an inspiration to many, the face of LA, a seemingly wonderful father, but he also might have raped someone. What do we do with that information? We must acknowledge it, I know that much. That woman is out there somewhere and we owe it to her to give her our full support, just as we are sending love and support to Kobe’s wife, Vanessa. People may say “now is not the time to talk about this” but it’s always the time to talk about this. We are allowed to grieve this man’s death and also support victims of sexual assault and rape. We also aren’t wrong for being sad—death is sad. In a world oversaturated with opinions peoplehave no trouble fitting into 280 characters, feel what YOU want to feel in this moment. Sometimes grieving another is also to grieve oneself, and you owe it yourself to feel those things.

We are feeling our own realness in this moment. We are placing ourselves in that helicopter and feeling what Kobe and his daughter and the others might have been feeling—the fear, the panic, the realization that it’s over. Death is not something we think about all the time. To quote my friend’s therapist, “if we did think about death all the time, we would be running around screaming our heads off.” We absolutely wouldn’t be able to spend two hours browsing the internet for new plants to order, or tinting our eyelashes, or celebrating birthdays while others are on their death days. The mundane would feel useless. So to combat that, we are in a constant state of denial. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing—it is inherently human to be in denial about one’s mortality. Because how can we create such greatness in our lives without that denial? How could Kobe have been Kobe without his own denial? What is life without the mundane, or without those moments of true uninterrupted happiness? The moments where we tell death to go find someone else to pester. The moments where we feel like we are truly on top of the world.

We spend our whole lives building our persona, our essence. We wear the uniform, we speak in our own unique twang, we have interests like house music and the color sea foam green and we prefer to have our coffee black and our cocktails strong. We have passions like basketball. But when you’re moments away from losing it all, I would imagine you’re just another person. You’re one of billions that walk this earth, that have already walked this earth, and those that have yet to take their first steps. It’s a harsh dose of perspective for me and for us all. Now is the time to celebrate the humans that have touched us and to nod to those that we will never know. We are all bound together more than we realize.

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