How Kobe’s crash and #girldads can impact all of us

I didn’t write a blog last week.

Kobe Bryant’s crash and the #girldads Twitter explosion impacted me a little, pushing me into somber mindfulness and back out again.

I’m not a basketball fan, but I was jarred by Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash. I’m jarred by any story of a parent dying.

As you likely know, on Sunday, Jan. 26, en route to a youth basketball game, a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others crashed in a dense California fog. The accident killed him and his 13-year-old daughter Gigi, along with two of her teammates, three other parents, his assistant coach for his daughter’s basketball team, and the pilot.

Shock, trauma, and unspeakable grief surrounds those who knew them or who follow Kobe as his fans. For the rest of us, who are personally unattached, the accident is another tragic news story. But it still impacts us. Or at least, I think it should.

This crash pushed me backwards and forwards a bit. Backwards, because I remember hiking my own dad’s crash site in Southern California eight years ago. Forwards, because every February, I pause to remember and honor my own dad’s untimely death. On February 11, 1969, my father crashed with 6 other crewmen in a naval aircraft, in Southern California terrain and conditions somewhat similar to Kobe’s helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

As I scroll through the postings from a #girldads week, I feel deeply for all those little girls smiling into cameras with their daddies. I hope they grow up feeling precious, adored, and protected, as the pictures suggest. I pray they are spared the grief of having a father who works too much or moves out or stops asking questions.

I hope their dads live until they are old men and these girls and their fathers share a lifetime of memories.

Girls need fathers. No matter how old they are. Forever and always they need their fathers.

I won’t lie—I can’t look at too many #girldads tweets at one time. I struggle a bit not to envy the #girldads experience. I feel a loss of connection, security, and grounding because I grew up without a dad. But I also truly enjoy the photos and what they represent.

Loss is an inevitable part of life. It always reminds me be joyful, thankful, and present today. It recalibrates my naturally-limited perspective about what’s important and what I deserve or expect. It propels me to look forward, on threat of remaining entrenched in regret or bitterness. It reminds me that grief can become less overwhelming with time and care.

Whenever we witness something tragic (like an accident) or anecdotal (like #girldads) during our everyday lives, we have an opportunity to celebrate the present, to pray into the grief–to slow down, savor, and live intentionally.

Life is too short for most people.

My #girldads picture. Taken in late 1968 or early 1969.
It is probably the last photo of me and my dad.

“Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by… Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking… and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”

—Emily, in Our Town by Thornton Wilder

(Please feel free to post your own thoughts about grief, healing, thankfulness, and #girldads.)

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