I was sitting on the couch at Mom’s watching an old Western two Sundays ago when my mom told me to switch the TV over to Fox News.
“What’s going on?” I asked, not really wanting to change the channel because the movie was just getting to the good part.
“Kobe Bryant has died,” she answered in an “I can’t believe it” tone.
There’s no way, I told myself. This has got to be a hoax.
But it wasn’t. Multiple media outlets were reporting it, and cable news networks were showing live footage from the helicopter crash scene.
We’d find out later that not only did the 41-year-old Los Angeles Lakers basketball legend die in the crash in Calabasas, California, but his 13-year-old daughter Gianna did also, along with John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Even for people who don’t watch NBA games or who otherwise aren’t much into sports reeled from the news. The oldest person on the plane was 56. The youngest two were 13. All too young, way too young to die.
Every time you read stories about senseless tragedies like these, you are reminded about the fragility and preciousness of life and how important it is to live every day to the fullest.
This sentiment was expressed tearfully by Bryant’s former teammate Shaquille O’Neal in an emotional interview he gave just two days after the crash.
While discussing Bryant and his legacy, O’Neal also talked about how Bryant was like family to him, calling him his “little brother.” O’Neal also talked about how he lost his sister Ayesha Harrison-Jex, 40, to cancer last October. Both of their deaths were a wake-up call to him, he said in so many words.
“We up here, we work a lot and I think a lot of times we take stuff for granted,” O’Neal said to the panel of former NBA players and commentators. “Like, I don’t talk to you guys as much as I need to.
“I just really now have to take time and call and say I love you. … I’m gonna try to do a better job of just reaching out and just talking to other people rather than always procrastinating because you never know,” he vowed.
In addition to slowing down and giving yourself time to connect with family, friends and other loved ones more often, another important thing to remember after tragedies like these happen is to stop sweating the small stuff.
Like traffic jams. Or when your burger comes loaded with those onions you asked them to leave off. Or when your cable and/or internet goes out (yes, I know that can test a person’s patience!). Or when you’re running late for work and realize you really have to stop and get gas.
To be sure, those are annoyances. But in the scheme of things? They’re no big deal. They’re really not worth worrying over. They give you headaches sometimes, sure, but it’s more because they are things happening that you really can’t control.
Next time you find yourself in one of those inconvenient situations, instead of getting angry make a promise to yourself to call a loved one when you get a free minute just to say hello. Or if someone you love is with you in those situations, ask them about how their day is going and how they’re doing.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your annoyance with whatever situation you found yourself in goes away.
As the old saying goes, life really is too short to take for granted. So enjoy it. Show and tell your family and friends how much you love and care about them — and often.
Stacey Matthews is a veteran blogger who has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to Red State and Legal Insurrection.