I learned Kobe Bryant was dead in a helicopter crash while driving home from the market after a long Sunday hike.
My first reaction was, this is fake news. One of those death hoaxes that permeate social media.
But the news was worse than I imagined as the NBA legend’s 13-year-old daughter also perished, along with seven other vibrant human beings.
I still can’t explain why I was impacted so deeply by this tragic, too-soon demise.
I mean, I wasn’t saddened. I was grief-stricken. I had to pull over and push tears out of my eyes. I had to sit there and process what my wife said to me.
Maybe it’s because he gave me 20 years of thrills as I followed his NBA career, which included five championships, two Finals MVP, and two Olympic gold medals.
Maybe it’s because he was so young, 41, and left behind a wife and three daughters. Maybe it’s because helicopter crashes seem like a particularly horrifying way to die.
Maybe because Kobe’s name had been mentioned repeatedly the night before as LeBron James passed him to take the number three spot in NBA points all time. And Kobe graciously tweeted his respect for James’ milestone just 16 hours before his life ended.
Maybe it’s because losing a husband and child in the same accident is a fate crueler than most anything imaginable.
Or maybe it’s this wicked sun-devouring inversion that has made for one dark winter in Moab.
Maybe it’s all of the above.
Kobe’s death, as has every death that has ever affected me, reminds me once again how fragile life is. How random. How unfair it can be, at times.
This reminder in turn reminds me to continue working on being a better person, to be a little more understanding, compassionate and patient – and to be gentle in my dealings with others as nobody knows what the other person is going through.
Like most everyone who has lived long enough to make it over the hill, I have lost loved ones. I’ve never fully recovered, but I have moved on – and so have you.
My advice: Give up the grudges. Forgive the slights. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Yell less. Praise generously. Hug more. Hug like it’s the last hug ever because, one day, it will be.