The tragic death of Kobe Bryant is a hard pill to swallow for many people and not just his fans or sports fans. I could go on and talk about all of his great accomplishments on and off the basketball court, but that’s not what this post is about.
One of the reasons his death is so shocking is because he was a relatively young person who had overcome the odds and created so much success in his life. He was one of the best basketball players of all time, a multimillionaire, a philanthropist and devoted father. He was just getting started on the second act of his life which looked just as promising as his first. He appeared to have everything and more to come. And then he was suddenly gone along with his daughter and several other precious lives.
The reason the world seems to take a collective pause when we lose our celebrities and heroes unexpectedly is because it reminds us of our own mortality. It reminds us that at any moment, we too could be snatched off of the face of the Earth without warning.
Many people become anxious and depressed at this thought. They have what many professionals call death anxiety. Instead of becoming anxious or depressed at this reality, we should embrace it and use it to remember to live each day to its fullest. To stop being afraid of life and to live it while we still can. To let go of grudges and move on. To appreciate our families, spouses and friends. To love and not hate. To not put off things until tomorrow because tomorrow is not promised. To let go of the past and live fully in the moment.
In her book, The Top Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bonnie Ware writes about the insights many people who are dying have had. The beautiful part about this is that we don’t have to be terminally ill or on our death beds to learn from these individuals clarity about life. Ware reports that the top five regrets of people who are dying are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
As we celebrate the life of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and the seven other people killed in this tragic accident, let’s also vow to live a more fully, intentional life with less regrets.