Like many people, my heart broke Sunday afternoon upon hearing of the tragic helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan.

It wasn’t as though I have been a long-time Lakers fan or even kept up with the sport at all, but there it was again —something so sudden and tragic that took our breath away; another stark reminder of the brevity of life, how quickly things can change, to never take life or people for granted, and that every moment with someone you love is precious, precious, precious. All of these thoughts came flooding back in waves that only seem possible when there is so much pain and sorrow.

We are all acquainted with death, though it remains one of the great mysteries—at least to me. Death is an equalizer that none of us will escape. As you might imagine, I have spent countless hours over the years walking with people through “the valley of the shadow of death” in one way or another, including my own family and friends. It hurts.

Here are a few lessons that I have learned along the way:

  • There is no absolute formula, way, or time to grieve.
  • It is often the “neverness” that is most painful; never to sit at table, never to laugh, talk, cry, or embrace again.
  • One of the best ways of offering support is to simply show up, be present, listen; talk less.
  • Love is all that matters at the end of the day. It is the only thing that will never die.
  • If we feel deep pains of loss, it is because we have felt deep joys of love.

It might be worth spending some time reflecting on those deep joys of love that you have known. May they bring you comfort and inspiration, and also remind you that these are the good gifts worth passing on, sharing, embodying.

So, here is the charge: Worry less about the when, where or how of death and more about embracing every moment, living fully, and making sure that those you love know it completely. Don’t hold back. Love lavishly and deeply. Love never ends.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Cathy