This was blurted out in tandem, by me and my wife, as she was fast-forwarding whatever we were watching and somehow landed on a graphic showing, “Kobe Bryant, 1978 – 2020.”
“Kobe Bryant died?”
The rewind button was quickly pressed and there it was, the “breaking story” that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash.
The initial shock came to me, a seeming pause in time, as is normal when you hear of the sudden death of someone, whether they be a person close to you or even a celebrity.
I headed to Twitter where my feed instantly changed from blurbs about the impeachment, computer programming, and utter nonsense, to about 20 straight tweets of disbelief and hope the news was incorrect.
I found myself stunned but not really sad. I felt bad for his family and the families of the other people who died in the crash. I kept checking if there was more news, maybe a reason for the crash, and then I caught the stories of visibly grieving people, folks who most likely never met the man but only experienced him as a basketball player. I have to say that my first reaction seeing them was to wonder how they could find themselves so emotional about a person with whom they had no direct connection except maybe through basketball.
Then I remembered my reaction upon hearing of the death of Clarence Clemons back in June, 2011.
Yup, some tears came to my eyes back then, and I remembered him with a Facebook post, “RIP Clarence Clemons. Thank you for your saxophone playing, and for being one of The Three Most Important People in the World.” Some of my friends caught the reference to his roll in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
It was one of the few times I actually acknowledged the passing of someone I didn’t really know.
The odd thing was that in the world of my life Clarence wasn’t that much of an influence, at least I never thought he was, until he died. Up until then he was always just a member of the E-Street band, and I liked him in the few movies he was a part of. For whatever reason, and maybe it just hit me at a time when I didn’t want to think about my own mortality, his death had an emotional effect on me. I grieved, if ever so briefly.
In reflecting back on my experience I re-understood how the people could get emotional over Kobe Bryant, someone they didn’t personally know. For me Kobe was a great basketball player, but to others he was much more. I’ve also realized those people needed their time to grieve, it wasn’t my place to wonder about it, and better they grieve at the moment, for, from The Daily Stoic and a quote from Seneca, “It is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it. For if it has withdrawn, being merely beguiled by pleasures and preoccupations, it starts up again and from its very respite gains force to savage us.”
Me, I’m hoping to try to be less judgmental the next time I see stories of people grieving over a celebrity, because, heck, I have to remember that I did it, too. In the end it is never our place to understand why someone might grieve but to support them, and if that grief begins to, as Seneca put it, “savage” them, our responsibility is to urge them to seek out others who can help them conquer that grief.
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