The world is reeling from the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. It amazes us that everywhere we turn, the discussion is whether or not the Bryant party should have flown in such dense fog, the great loss to the world of sports or why a celebrity of his stature chose to travel everywhere by helicopter. Yet what really should be the topic on most people’s minds when such a tragedy strikes is the fragility of life. Here today, gone tomorrow. We are not talking about the elderly or the infirm. We are directing our thoughts to a person in the prime of his life, healthy, on his way to his daughter’s game, never imagining that this particular day would be the last of his life. Did he kiss his wife and children goodbye? What happened in the Kobe Bryant tragedy could happen to any one of us on any day.
Just a few weeks ago, two outstanding men crossing the street outside of Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck were victims in a great tragedy of which we all know the results. Immediately there was a chorus of pleas for people to wear sashes and reflective tape while walking on these dark streets. Just several weeks later on motzei Shabbat, a woman who was driving past men not wearing any reflective clothing made a similar plea. They were disregarding the initiatives taken by every shul rabbi to remind their congregants to wear sashes, and she once again asked, “Why are people not listening? Do people think that they are immune to tragedy?”
We bet that Kobe thought similarly. Although the police in the area where his helicopter crashed had grounded their helicopters due to the density of the fog, both he and his pilot clearly felt it was safe to fly. Perhaps they, too, felt immune from tragedy. Sadly, we have learned that no one is immune, not even our heroes.
This serves as yet another reminder that there are no guarantees in life. We need to notice and acknowledge those around us, spend as much time as we can with those we love, not take anyone for granted and realize that what happens to us is not in our hands.
Go to sleep each night with as few regrets as possible. Never allow yourself to go to sleep angry at your partner. Continually tell your family members how much you love them and remember that actions speak much louder than words. Let Kobe’s death be a reminder, not only of the amazing power he had on the basketball court or his generosity with arranging for street kids to have the opportunity to play basketball, but also that life is not in our control and the onus is on us to make each day count.
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick