Kobe Bryant and eight others are dead. How can that be? How can it be that someone as talented, acclaimed, powerful, fearless, and strong as Kobe Bryant is dead? We watched him for 20 years as he came out of high school and competed against older men. We offered him accolades, shouting MVP! MVP! And we cheered when he made shot after seemingly impossible shot. We admired his strength and commitment, willing himself and others to wins and championships, striving against other great players and bringing us along with him to glory.

It seems impossible that he is dead. Gone so quickly and unexpectedly. It’s shocking, leaving us speechless except for the wordless language of a tear or a guttural exclamation.

Inside there is an emptiness that seems to stretch forever. We are compelled to go to Staples Center and leave mementos. We gather with others to light a candle, say a prayer, shake our head. We call someone to talk about the memories. 81 points against Toronto, 60 in his final game, jump shot fade aways, the dunks. That great big smile.

All these give us something to do to respond to the immense devouring void resting inside us.

Whatever we do, remember that it is coming from a place deep inside. That place is connected to Kobe the basketball player, Kobe the entrepreneur, Kobe the husband and father, Kobe the human being. We mourn his death, suddenly aware a bit more of our own mortality. We  mourn what has been lost and mourn because it’s the only thing, and the best thing, we can do.

Photo: Tim Carey and Judson Studios, Kobe, 2017, Fused Glass, 40” x 40”, courtesy of Judson Studios. This artwork will appear in the upcoming exhibition, Judson Studios: Stained Glass from Gothic to Street Style, which runs from April 23-September 6, 2020, at Forest Lawn Museum