Monday, January 27, 2020

Goodbye Kobe Bryant

The cursor is blinking at me. I'm just staring at it.

... ... ... what can I possibly say about this catastrophe?

Terrible accidents happen every day in the USA and all through the world. Most of them are unnoticed except by those most closely affected. But this accident has made us all pause because of the fame and accomplishments of one of its victims — someone who was also very special to a lot of people.

On Sunday morning, January 26, 2020, a helicopter crashed in the greater Los Angeles area, killing all nine persons on board. There were three 13 year old girls, mothers and fathers, a coach, the pilot ... the disaster abruptly ended the lives of ordinary people and lacerated ordinary families. Spouses and children who didn't happen to go on the helicopter that morning — for what was meant to be a brief, routine trip — suddenly found themselves widowed and orphaned.

Helicopter transit is not a completely unusual way to get around in Southern California, where the urban and suburban traffic is impossibly tangled. Of course, access to a private helicopter presupposes being wealthy, or knowing someone who's wealthy — that is, "wealthy" in terms of the kind of riches that, in the perspective of this tragedy, turn out not to be worth much.

And, in fact, this helicopter had been chartered regularly for many years by a very wealthy man. But it so happened that this man had wealth that was so much more than just money and material things. Indeed, he gave far greater riches to those he inspired over two generations.

Still, Kobe Bryant was only 41 years old. His 20 year legendary basketball career with the Los Angeles Lakers was behind him. But there was so much life ahead, and many people who depended on him.

Above all, there is his family. The youngest of his four daughters was just born this past July 4. He left behind his wife of 19 years, Vanessa, and three of their four girls. And this is where the Bryant family's unimaginable tragedy is multiplied beyond measure: Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, the second oldest of their daughters, was with her father on that fatal Sunday morning flight.

Two other families were also sundered and bereft of parents and children on that day. Indeed, the sudden deaths of nine people have spread around much grief to many loved ones and friends.

In a big world of rapid transportation, this kind of grief comes every day to various people in a multitude of different places. The depth of sorrow for those who are left behind is in each case unique, immeasurable, and deserving of compassion. The shock we all feel over the crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and their companions is not because this disaster is somehow "worse" than others. Indeed, the awareness it has generated in us will hopefully enlarge our empathy toward everyone who suffers in the wake of such things.

When someone famous dies, they receive wider attention primarily because they are more widely known. Also, public figures are remembered and honored for their notable achievements, and for the role they played in shaping the lives of others. In our society, excellence in sports is a genuine kind of achievement, and communications technology brings sports competition into view for people all over the world. There is real value in this.

Kobe Bryant was an amazing basketball player. Basketball is played throughout the world today. It is part of the daily life of young people rich and poor alike. It is not surprising, then, that many throughout the world feel something of the impact of his loss. He still had much to contribute to the future of the game and the next generation. Working with his daughter Gigi's basketball league was one of the ways he was doing it.

He loved his family. It breaks my heart what they must be going through. What a tremendous sorrow! My heart goes out to them. I pray for their consolation, and for the other families.

And may God grant eternal rest to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the other passengers, and all those who depart this life in tragic circumstances such as these. May they rest in peace.