“You know there were other people that died. Why is everyone so focused on Kobe?”
That’s the comment I saw repeated online a few days after Kobe Bryant’s tragic death. It got me thinking, Why do we mourn when a celebrity passes away?
I never met Kobe, but I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who he was. His gameplay graced our television for years, and I knew exactly what people were talking about when they yelled “Kobe!” while tossing a piece of paper into the garbage from across the room.
When I heard the news he had passed, it made me sad. Why? Why did a tragedy involving someone who I had no direct connection with make me feel the heaviness of loss?
If you’ve ever felt confused by those sad feelings when a celebrity passes, here are three reasons why I think it’s ok to feel moved by a famous death.
It reminds us life is short.
Tragically, Kobe was only 41 when he left his wife and 3 daughters behind. Some of the other passengers on the helicopter were much younger.
Even though life expectancy in the United States is around 79 years, we never really know when our time expire. When we face an unexpected death, it gives us a new appreciation for every breath, every opportunity, and every person we have in our lives. We’re reminded to hug our loved ones a bit tighter and cling to what really matters a bit more when someone whose name we recognize passes on too soon.
Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. -Psalm 90:12 (NLT)
It shows us how to empathize better.
Tragedy is one of those weird things we can’t quite understand until we’ve walked through it. Some of us have been blessed with not experiencing a lot of loss in our lives. We may have faced it with an elderly grandparent or a friend of a friend, but it hasn’t hit very close to home yet.
When someone famous dies, we often have a uniquely personal connection. We remember his Presidential Inauguration. We grew up listening to her music. He appeared on our television every Friday night. We may not know them personally, but he or she played a role in our lives. We feel the loss.
Feeling loss is sad and uncomfortable, but it allows us to be a better friend when someone we know loses a loved one. While we may not fully understand the scale of our friend’s pain, we have gained tiny glimpses into how mourning feels. And those glimpses allow us to give our friends some comfort and love when they need it most.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. -2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)
It points toward good.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t a perfect man. But his repentance “status” in those matters was 100% between him and God. Some of his choices caused pain for others, and I hurt for those he hurt.
But even out of an imperfect life, we’re seeing good.
After a sports reporter told a touching story about how much Kobe loved being a dad to his daughters, #girldad started trending, encouraging men to share how much they love their daughters.
And Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, set up a fund to provide for the families who lost loved ones in the crash. We now know more about Gianna, the Altobelli family, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, and Sarah and Payton Chester. No amount of money will heal the hurt their loved ones are just beginning to face. But because of the attention to the tragedy, we can at least ensure that the grieving process does not come with a financial burden.
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2
The next time someone famous dies, and you’re not sure how to feel, know this: As you mourn the loss of someone you’ve never even met, you’ve been given an opportunity to love your family more intentionally and empathize more with those who have experienced tragedy in tangible ways.The next time someone famous dies, and you’re not sure how to feel, know this: As you mourn the loss of someone you’ve never even met, you've been given an opportunity to love your family more intentionally and empathize more with those who have… Click To Tweet