On Sunday, January 26, 2020, I was dressing for church when my cellphone alert pinged and I learned Kobe Bryant had died in a
helicopter crash. Unable to believe it, I read the news twice. I rushed to see if my husband knew. From the top of the basement steps, I heard the sports announcer say that Kobe and all of his daughters had been killed. God, how would Vanessa Bryant live with such loss. I cried. Later, ESPN would clarify the deaths and say that only one daughter, Gianna, had died with her father.
Many of my young church congregants were devastated. Our pastor still engaged in sports, and we wore sports jerseys to church on team game days. So the mood was quiet. Less celebratory than most Sundays.
I’d witnessed the scandal surrounding Kobe Bryant. Whether I believed it or not, I’d stopped letting it color my opinion of him and regarded him as he was today. Kobe Bryant’s image had grown into one of loving husband, devoted father, accomplished entrepreneur, and supportive booster of women’s basketball. It wasn’t until his Grammy win that I remembered the scandal and realized it had contributed to why he wasn’t on the stage that Grammy night.
Widely held views were that Kobe Bryant’s death was a prelude to what 2020 would hold. That it may have helped prepare our nerve for the year that would follow. America had just come down from resolutions and we held high hopes for the new year. For me, my grandson had turned two months old; I was 25 days into a healthy eating style; and I’d undergone a successful eye surgery. Things were looking fine.
The terrible COVID-19 virus began raging in China and I sympathized with those poor people. Then I read and watched the updates on the cruise ship that couldn’t dock, and still never dreamed it would erupt and spread throughout our country. Never in a hundred years did I believe American cases would soar to 25.3 million and that our death toll would reach 421,000; and the rest of the world would be sorry for us.
One upside to COVID-19 was the opportunity to watch our now 14-month-old grandson bloom and discover himself in a world that’s nothing like his world would’ve been pre-COVID-19. Quarantining and social distancing drove us into isolation and allowed me a lot more time with him after his daycare center closed and his parents needed to work from home.
I realize there are aunts and uncles who’ve never hugged him. Another grandmother who aches for him. Television commercials featuring children make him halt and stare. He turns, points, and asks, in gibberish, “Do you see that?”
The five of us who are around him exclusively will follow him if he ever goes back to daycare just to catch his reaction/interaction with the other kids.
On the anniversary of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna’s deaths we honor the rest of the girls’ basketball team, parents, and coaches who lost their lives that day, and I reflect on a year that fights for the top two worst years of my life. I’ve learned to adapt. To bounce back. And to man-up!
Living with less has become normal. Less entertainment; less interaction; and less socialization. I’ve done more giving. Dove deep into introspection. Dreamed and practiced visualization techniques. Prayed more.
I pray for Vanessa Bryant and her girls who, in addition to the sudden and tragic death of their husband and father, Kobe Bryant, are forced into a life of isolation by a virus that has shut down the country. I can’t imagine how their 2020 has been and I pray that 2021 will be better.