Everybody dies. We are all mortal, beings limited in space and time. Unlike animals, we are the only species that knows we and everyone we love, will die.
This absurd and disturbing reality would be crippling but for our ability to occupy our lives and minds with a cornucopia of distractions. The distractions are limitless — jobs, spouses, friends, children, books, movies, cellphones, TV, restaurants, sports — to name a few. We are able to keep death at bay.
But then on a recent Sunday afternoon, NBA icon Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter die in a helicopter crash. It felt like a hard punch to the stomach. The death of a young charismatic celebrity reminds of just how omnipresent death is.
Now I didn’t know Kobe Bryant or his daughter or any of the other people who died in the crash. But I do know and love my son, Nick, who will turn 41 in May — the same age as Kobe. Nick, like Kobe, has a wife and young children.
I do know and love my son, Chris, who is married and has three children. Chris, like Kobe, is the basketball coach of his two oldest daughters. Lily is the oldest. She is 11. They go to the games by car instead of helicopter. He and Lily, like Kobe and his daughter, discuss strategy on the way to their game, and then evaluate performance on the way home.
I’m 70 years old, but I remember being 41. In the almost 30 years I have lived since being 41, my life has been wonderful. I’ve seen my three boys marry great girls, experienced the birth and lives of seven grandchildren, and spent 30 years married to the love of my life. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences. Kobe and all the other passengers on the helicopter will experience nothing anymore. They will never have those 30 years. Ever.
What is especially disturbing about these deaths is not the celebrity, but the age of the deceased and the suddenness. Kirk Douglas died recently too. He was 103. My dad was 91. I was relieved. All death is sad, but the death of the young has special poignance.
So while I mourn the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his death’s significance to me is the gut-wringing fear from the reminder that life is not permanent and can end at any time. I suppose such a death is a clarion call to make the most of whatever time we have. For sure.
But. Everybody dies.