Death has the power to bring us together

Death is a strange thing. At the same time it cleaves hearts in two, it unites people, particularly when there is a celebrity death. This impact is even greater when that celebrity is someone legendary.

Kobe Bryant was a basketball legend, known as one of the best players of all time. It wasn’t just his championship wins that made him loved. It was his perseverance, his hard work and his compassion. To be such a celebrated person, you have to be more than what made you famous in the first place.

The same feeling arose when Robin Williams passed away in 2014. He was beloved by the entire world, it seemed. He never failed to bring smiles to people’s faces.

Famous deaths like these, especially when they are the result of tragic accidents like a helicopter crash or a person taking their own life, impact a significant amount of people in the world. The sorrow experienced seems much greater when it is an unexpected death. When we see those people as immortal and untouchable, thinking they are undeserving of those deaths, dealing with them is more difficult.

It is amazing to me, though, to feel the sudden closeness of strangers when I watch endless videos of Bryant on social media, or when I walked into Lower Commons and heard everyone talking about how awful his death was. We all come together to mourn someone who has become ingrained in our society and our very culture. I think that is a beautiful thing, especially when our country is polarized and divided.

Even as someone who does not actively follow basketball, as someone who only knew Bryant because he was such a well-known person and because I constantly heard his name being praised, his death affected me. I saw how he was with his daughters. I heard people recounting stories of him as a father and a person and I watched other famous people crying over his death. I listened to someone recount how Bryant said he was meant to be a girl dad. Gianna, his daughter, looked up to him in every way, and he knew she would become a great basketball player just like he was. Knowing that talent and kindness is gone from this world is heart-wrenching.

All of these factors affect how we collectively deal with a celebrity’s death. It is the legacy they leave behind, what they did in their life and who they were as a person that drives us together in solidarity to mourn their death and celebrate their life. In the emotional moments that will last for weeks after Bryant’s death, we are united.