Sometimes we’e unable to measure the magnitude of a person until they have left this world.
Upon their death, we learn about the many more lives they touched beyond our own — about their joys and pains we were oblivious to, and about the small, everyday moments that amounted to the greatness of their being.
As their memory box is unlocked and opened by loved ones, those from a distance begin to grasp the depth of their character, and even those closest learn something new about their dearly departed.
It has been just over a month since the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna, and the seven other victims of that fatal helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020.
Since then, we are still grappling to process this tragedy.
Through the many expressions of grief, we’ve learned so much more about Bryant than his career as a legendary basketball star. A celebration of life memorial was held symbolically on the calendar date 2/24 — both Gianna and Kobe’s jersey numbers.
Through the collective tears shed, swelling of emotions and poignant moments of laughter during the service, we were given a gift through Bryant’s legacy of how to be better.
And while we can’t make sense of this tragedy, if there’s a silver lining at all in Bryant’s death, it’s that he has left us with shining examples of how to be better — be it in showing vulnerability, in our work ethic, in championing for girls in sport, or in our relationships as fathers and mothers, as friends and as spouses.
Moving moments at Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial
Tears streamed freely down Michael Jordan’s face as he spoke about his “little brother” Kobe. Our hearts ached as we saw his swollen eyes. We felt the enormity of his pain when he said, “When Kobe died, a piece of me died.”
Thankfully, Jordan gave us some relief through the tears, joking, “Now he got me … I’ll have to look at another crying meme.”
Yet we didn’t hear the usual jokes about “crying men” after Jordan expressed his grief so openly and vulnerably. The following day, NFL quarterback Tom Brady shared his pain over the loss of Bryant in a lengthy social media post.
Through this tragedy, we have been reminded that it is okay to show our vulnerability.
During the memorial, WNBA basketball player Diana Taurasi, UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, and Oregon Ducks women’s basketball player Sabrina Ionescu were among the selected speakers.
This was not by coincidence — this was purposeful, as was the plethora of images and video of Gianna in her basketball element, placed on equal display with that of her star father. These were deliberate decisions about moving the dialogue and championing of girls in sports forward.
NBA to rename All-Star MVP trophy in honour of Kobe Bryant
Through this tragedy, we have been reminded of the importance of girls in sports.
The courageous words of Vanessa Bryant, now a widow and single mother of three, gave us the most insight into the lives of her beloved Kobe and Gianna. Where she could have remained private in her grief, she chose that Mamba mentality of strength and bravery to share a universal message which was equal parts heartbreaking and heart-mending.
She shared many of the everyday moments of their love as husband and wife, and Kobe’s role as a father from school pick-ups and coaching to simply being the thoughtful man of the house — “He never left the toilet seat up” — she brought us into their home.
She even gave us a glimpse into deeply personal memories, like Kobe’s thoughtful, tender ways, including how he had gifted her with the dress from The Notebook on a particular Valentine’s Day, after they had come back together after separating — bringing pause that theirs was not a perfect love, but a real one.
Through this tragedy, we have been reminded of the power of forgiveness and love.
Throughout the memorial, the power of parenting was a central theme. “This was always about the children,” coach Auriemma said. Ionescu said Bryant taught her the most important thing in basketball was “to make everyone around you the best version of themselves.”
He was the kind of man, Vanessa Bryant said, “who wanted to teach the future generations to be better.” She said he always taught his children “how to be brave, and keep pushing when things get tough.”
And in Bryant’s words himself, played during the Nike Forever tribute video, “Coaching young kids is the most important thing we can do.”
Staples Center prepares for Kobe Bryant, Gianna Celebration of Life
Through this tragedy, we have been reminded that parenting is paramount, and the most important lessons are about so much more than sports.
This week I lost my cousin. He was just a year older than Bryant, though they lived worlds apart. But much like Bryant, it is in his passing that I have come to feel the magnitude of his existence and the effect it had on me.
He made everyone in his presence a better, kinder person. He had the ability to do that without uttering a word. Unlike Bryant, the world may not have felt his loss. But for his family, he was their world and the loss is immeasurable.
Sometimes we cannot see people’s greatness until they are gone. My hope is when we do see their true depth, we learn from their lead, so we can be better in the here and now.