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On this past Sunday after church, my husband and I headed to dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants in Walterboro. Immediately after the waitress took our drink order and left our table, I received a text from our son James in Pennsylvania, “Can’t believe Kobe just passed away!”
The flesh in me immediately plunged me into total shock and disbelief to the point that I dropped my phone on the table before I knew it. It hit me so hard that I couldn’t even think of Kobe’s last name when I was sharing the news with my husband.
Now, I am a woman of God; I should know better than to react this way! However, the flesh in us can sometimes knock the wind out of us at the onset of tragic news, but in the spirit, we can and will come back around and quickly realize that death is inevitable. Further, I am human, but God … Kobe Bryant, NBA legend, culturally sound icon, and philanthropist, who had a stellar 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, along with his oldest daughter Gianna and seven others, tragically perished in a horrific helicopter crash. This news shook the world by storm, and yes, it hurt terribly, but the Psalmist said, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (116:15 ESV). However, this is so easily read than accepted. Consequently, prayer, praise, and experience will get you to that point of acceptance.
In a time such as this, our hearts painfully grieve for those who lost their lives, and we pray for the strength and comfort of the loved ones left behind. We never know when death is going to come, so we must be ready, for the Word declares, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44 ESV). Kobe’s wife is left behind to bury her husband and daughter and to raise three other beautiful little girls, one who is less than one-year-old.
As Christians, we must keep Vanessa Bryant and the family members of all involved lifted in prayer. We don’t have to know people personally to pray for them and their plight. Keep in mind that prayer can always go where we cannot go.
Then what can we learn from this tragedy? As I was reading some of the many reactions on Facebook on Sunday, there is one that stood out, and I found it most profound. It was from my dear friend Gale Peters Owens, with whom I grew up, and still remain very close to this day. Gale shared, “Life is short ... I’ve managed to mend the wounds that I have carried in my life. I have forgiven, asked for forgiveness, and my life is good. Mend those wounds.” What a powerful lesson to learn and share with others concerning such a tragic event!
Kobe, his daughter and the others were on the way to a game where his daughter would be playing. Death, I am sure, was not on their minds. Therefore, for those of us left behind, let’s take my friend’s advice, because we do not know the day or the hour that death will knock on our doors. We don’t want to be left wishing we had set things right with our loved ones and others.
On the day after the tragedy, I took to the news and Facebook again for updates. I came across a posting that was a reaction to this tragedy, by one of my former students, Pastor Randy Joyner, from Ruffin High School. It, too, is a very profound lesson about life itself: “Life is a vapor. Life is also a gift that should be handled carefully and intentionally. Yesterday’s tragedy reminds me of how important it is to love hard, to be kind, and to forgive. Although unimaginable, we can be here today and gone today. I want to urge you to forgive and love hard. Live every day like it could possibly be your last day. Smile more and hug more. Argue less and forgive each other. Make sure you are living right, according to the word of God. Allow the grace of God to lead and guide you into all truths. Let go of foolishness and embrace the time God gives us together.”
Our world is in mourning right now, but God said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV). With that being said, in conclusion, I lift up the families, friends and acquaintances, to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, of the nine souls who perished on Sunday, January 26, 2020: Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli, their daughter Alyssa Altobelli, who was a basketball teammate of Gianna’s, Peyton Chester, also a teammate of Gianna’s, Peyton’s mother Sarah Chester, Coach Christina Mauser who was an assistant coach for the girls’ team, and Ara Zaboyan, Kobe Bryant’s private pilot. May they all rest in peace and their legacy live on in the hearts of many.
In spite of all that we are enduring in every situation, have a wonderfully blessed week, and never leave home without Him!
(Anna Bright is a minister and educator in Walterboro. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)