Ryan Shepard
About Author
January 29, 2020

On Love & Loss After The Death Of Kobe Bryant

I am torn. Not over how I feel about the passing of Kobe Bryant—the man who lifted my heart and spirit to impossible heights game after game after game as the star player on my hometown team—or over the crushing death of his baby girl Gigi (a kid who reminds me so much of my own little sister) and the deaths of the seven other innocent human beings who left this earth one normal Sunday morning.

I am torn into pieces. Unexpectedly. Suspended somewhere between disbelief and true heartache. I don’t know how to come back to normal. I don’t know where normal is. A riptide of grief I can’t loosen from.

How did this even happen?

What do you mean two 13-year old girls will never get the chance to grow up? How will the Altobelli children make their way in this world with their mother, father and little sister gone? Why didn’t God choose other people? I mean, I’ve got a pretty good list of trash humans he could have pulled from.  

I’ve experienced so many thoughts and emotions over the past few days, but I’ve finally settled on uncontainable grief and heart-racing anxiety.

I think of Vanessa Bryant and wonder how she’s breathing...is she breathing? Has she inhaled even once since she heard the news? Have any of those left behind stopped reaching over to a cold side of the bed or paused mid jaunt downstairs only to remember that they are looking for someone who isn’t there anymore?

How do you survive a tragedy like this?

I’ve spent hours since hearing the news looking at my own husband. Tracing his features with my eyes, praying over him while he speaks to me about normal things...where should we go out to eat next week? What do you want to watch tonight? Do you need me to fold the laundry?

I unceasingly pray and pray and pray that I never have to know the hurt these families are experiencing now.

I beg God, my ancestors, shit whoever to please keep my love safe. Our future children safe. My heart intact.

Please let us see achy knees, creaky hips and creasy eyes together. Please let me sit outside one sunsoaked day while the breeze licks my cheeks as I watch my husband twirl his grandchildren in the air. Please let us grow grey and content. Please...

To love another human being is perhaps one of the most unappreciated acts of bravery. To love means to accept, on some level, that you’re risking the soundness of your mind if tragedy should come knocking. But living fully means embracing that.

Chunks of my heart have broken off and drifted away. I mourn for my city which has had to bury two great men in less than a year. I mourn for families who will never be whole again, and I cry because I feel so fucking lucky.

I’m so grateful and so keenly aware of what a gift it is to watch my husband’s chest rise and fall when I’m laying beside him in bed. I am thankful for the gift of life and the health and safety of all those I love.

If this tragedy has taught me anything, it truly has taught me that the world owes you nothing. Love boldy, live bravely and count every morning you open your eyes and return home safely as a blessing.

To Kobe I just want to say thank you for the joy. Thank you for teaching us all, with your life and your death, the importance of having a Mamba Mentality.  Take it easy.

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