Kobe Bryant was a significant part of the community around Mariners. Many of us have our “Kobe story,” like running into him at Starbucks or Coffee Bean, or seeing him just be a “dad” at a local kid’s event. Most of our stories are marked by how kind and approachable he was. He loved and invested in our local community, and the community loved him. Several people on our staff joyfully recount the time they were in our Youth Building when Kobe showed up to play basketball with his daughter. And then there are those of us in our church whose relationship with Kobe and his family go much deeper, as they enjoyed friendship with Kobe and his family.
Grieving the loss of consistency
Regardless of your closeness or proximity to him, most likely the news of Kobe’s death has impacted you in some way. Several have said to me, “I did not think this would impact me so much. I never even met him.” Though many of us never met him, he was still a consistent presence in our lives. He played twenty seasons for the Lakers, a longer tenure than any other major sport’s athlete in Los Angeles history. He gave his all for the team our community grew up watching and cheering for. Twenty years created a sense of consistency and stability for us in a world that is so unstable and inconsistent and that loss is felt deeply, regardless of whether we met him or not.
Grieving the loss of friends, spouses, mothers, fathers, siblings, and coaches
Yes, we grieve the loss of one of the greatest basketball players in history. But we also grieve the loss of eight others whose lives tragically ended in the same accident that took Kobe Bryant’s life. Nine people total. Nine people created in the image of God and nine people who were deeply important to others. So many voids in our community were created in that one fateful crash. A renowned college coach, a high school coach, mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings, and friends suddenly taken from people who daily benefited from their presence. For friends and family members, they lost the “greatest wife, “greatest husband, “greatest mother,” “greatest father,” “greatest friend,” “greatest brother,” “the greatest coach,” or “greatest sister.” And that is bigger and deeper than basketball. This is true for Kobe’s family too.
Grieving the loss of young lives
We lost three young and beloved teenage girls from our local community on Sunday morning and it is heart-breaking. It brings such sadness because so many years and so much potential was suddenly taken. When young lives are lost, we are jolted and reminded of the fragility of our own children. We hold tightly to our own kids while mourning the pain of others and being frustrated with a world where such pain exists.
Grieving and groaning, but with hope
According to the Scripture, we are not the only ones who groan when we experience such tragedy. We are not the only ones frustrated with a world filled with such pain. Since sin entered the world when humanity turned away from God, creation itself has been groaning. Groaning for things to be made right. Groaning for death to die. Groaning for pain and futility to cease. We join creation in groaning. But we groan with hope! The Scripture compares our groaning to labor pains. The labor pains of a mother as she gives birth to a child are intense. But there is life and glory on the other side of her labor pains, and there is life and glory on the other side of our pain as believers (Romans 8:22-24). As Christians, we believe a day is coming when Christ will return and makes everything right, when we will no longer deal with the pain and loss of an imperfect world.
Grieving, but not alone
We grieve with hope because Hope is with us. As Christians, we also believe that our loving Savior is with us in our grieving. He is not distant. He is close to the broken-hearted. The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” The scene is a funeral and Jesus was about to raise the dead man, Lazarus, to life. But He still wept. He wept because He saw the pain and grief in people He loved. There is a day coming when He will reverse the brokenness of this world, but in moments like this, He is with us in our grieving.
And we can support one another in our grief. Today, join me in praying for the families and loved ones of the 9 who lost their lives this past Sunday.
John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli
Kobe and Gianna Bryant
Sarah and Payton Chester
“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” Psalm 147:3