“You know there were other people that died. Why is everyone so focused on Kobe?”

That’s the comment I saw repeated online a few days after Kobe Bryant’s tragic death. It got me thinking: why do we mourn when a celebrity passes away?

I never met Kobe, but I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who he was. His gameplay graced our television for years, and I knew exactly what people were talking about when they yelled “Kobe!” while throwing away a piece of paper.

When I heard the news that he passed, it made me sad. Why? Why did someone that I had no direct connection to make me feel that weight of loss?

If you’ve ever felt confused by those sad feelings when a celebrity passes, here are three reasons why I think it’s ok to feel moved by a famous death.

1. It reminds us life is short

Tragically, Kobe was only 41 when he left his wife and 3 daughters behind. Some of the other passengers on the helicopter were much younger.

Even though life expectancy in the United States is around 79 years, we really never know when our time will be up. When we face an unexpected death, it gives us a new appreciation of every breath, every opportunity, and every person we have. We’re reminded to hug our loved ones a bit tighter and cling to what really matters when someone whose name we recognize goes too soon.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. -Psalm 90:12

2. It shows us how to empathize better

Tragedy is one of those weird things that you don’t quite understand until you’ve walked through it. Some of us have been blessed with little loss in our lives. We may have faced it with an elderly grandparent or a friend of a friend, but it hasn’t hit very close to home.

When someone famous dies, we often have a personal connection. We remember their inauguration. We grew up listening to their music. They were on our television every Friday night. We may not know them personally, but they’ve been a part of our lives. We feel the loss.

Feeling that loss allows us to be a better friend when someone we know personally loses a loved one. While we may not fully understand the scale of their pain, we have a tiny glimpse into what mourning feels like which allows us to give them the comfort and love that they need.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. -2 Corinthians 1:4

3. It points toward good

Kobe Bryant was not a perfect man. Some of his choices caused pain for others, and his repentance “status” in those matters was 100% between him and God. I hurt for those he hurt.

But even out of an imperfect life, we’re seeing good.

After a sports reporter told a touching story about how much Kobe loved being a dad to his daughters, the hashtag #girldad started trending, encouraging men to share the love that they have for their daughters.

And Kobe’s widow Vanessa set up a fund to provide for the families who lost loved ones in the crash. We now know more about Gianna, the Altobelli family, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, and Sarah and Payton Chester. No amount of money will heal the hurt their loved ones are just beginning to face. But because of the attention to the tragedy, we can at least ensure that the grieving process does not come with a financial burden.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2

So, the next time someone famous dies, and you’re not sure how to feel know this: it’s an opportunity to love your family better and care for others in tangible ways as you mourn the loss of someone you’ve never even met.

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