Celebrity deaths and the grief that accompanies them prompt the collective question about the purpose of life. We start to think, “What is a life well lived? What imprint are we leaving on the world? What do we fear most about our own death? How will we be remembered? What is our legacy?” Untimely deaths like that of basketball legend Kobe Bryant remind us that all of us will die someday. Neither fame not wealth nor talent will shield us from that inevitability, but how we live our lives and how we do everything with love, in love and for love is the thread of permanence that runs through everything from the beginning of time.
The power of athletes, or musicians, artists, actors, comedians, and celebrities is that they do have an impact on a large group of people and within that, the impact becomes personal. Most of us feel connected to them whether it is through their champion athletics, the music or entertainment factors, their art or their skills as influencers. We follow them on social media, we latch onto their thoughts, we share their tweets, and watch them on the courts, studying their every move regardless of whether we are Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennial or Gen Z. I can remember exactly where my college self was when I heard Elvis Presley, the king of Rock ‘n’ Roll, had died. I remember distinctly the moment of disbelief and collective grief on the street at the news of princess Diana’s accident and death, or the moment of shared sorrow at a Starbucks, when I heard Robin Williams had died. Celebrities, though we may not personally know them, we DO know them. They are a regular part of our lives, in shows, movies, and arenas, creating music or scenes or shots that define moments that make memories in our lives. If their music touched us, or if their champion good hearts inspired us, or if they became an unforgettable part of our youth, we feel their connection. We mourn their loss and weigh in on the grief with candlelight vigils. We share posts on social media and celebrate the cultural benchmarks that define and identify us through our generations. The connection is not just about how much we love, appreciate, respect and admire them, but oftentimes it’s because they bring us to a realization of finiteness. Ideally, that realization of finiteness will help us to pursue mindful living and appreciate the love that is exchanged to sustain us in the now, and in the hereafter. Goodness, creativity, passion and a mindful sharing of the richness of our lives through love are the thread of our permanence…the legacy we leave.
The idea of leaving a legacy is the need or desire to be remembered for what we have contributed to the world. In some cases, as in the late Kobe Bryant, that contribution can be so special that peoples’ lives are unalterably changed. Kobe grew and transformed his life, made changes where he needed, found his truth, inspired others, became a leader and spent time and money influencing youth. Touching lives and exemplifying a truthful path is paramount to a life of purpose. His legacy will live on.
However, for most mere mortals like me walking this earth, I hope to leave a more modest legacy that doesn’t necessarily change the world but does leave a valuable thread of permanence or lasting footprint that will be remembered by those whose lives I’ve touched. That valuable thread is love. It is my hope that family, friends, associates and community, will remember me not for what I accomplished, but instead, for what I helped them in their lives to accomplish. They will remember how I cared for them and loved them.
Vanessa Bryant, wife of Kobe and mother of daughter Gigi, wrote on Instagram, “there aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved.” Ultimately, for those whose lives we’ve touched, the love we take with us and the love we leave behind in their hearts is all that matters and all we have to live by. (May all our untimely departed rest in peace and be remembered with fond love.)
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” — Shannon L. Alder