Conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong, but when it comes to mourning, it’s correct. Everyone mourns differently, some inwardly and quietly, others with much more feeling. Some mourn briefly, others for extended lengths of time. There is no right way to mourn, the key is to respect everyone’s individual approach.
At the same time, the recent passing of Kobe Bryant, the other eight victims of the helicopter crash, and also Leila Janah, have me thinking more about death.
Intense grieving for the likes of Kobe and Leila makes perfect sense given their relative youth, 41 and 37 years old respectively. In that same spirit, one of the most sad passings I’ve ever observed was that of a friend’s 7 year-old son. We are understandably most saddened by people who do not get to experience the full arc of life.
And yet, Kobe, Leila, and my friend’s son left the world a better place. Leila, for example, founded a company that . . .
“. . . employs more than 2,900 people in Kenya, Uganda and India, creating data for companies around the world that need to test numerous artificial intelligence products, including self-driving cars and smart hardware. The company has helped more than 50,000 people lift themselves out of poverty and has become one of the largest employers in East Africa. . . .”
And as we’re learning, Kobe’s imprint was also large, most significantly off the court through his parenting, writing, and support for technology startups, young athletes, and women’s professional sports.
My friend’s son’s legacy was less public, but still profound, a lasting impact on his family, classmates, and community. Until cancer appeared in his blood, he was pure joy, a natural peacemaker.
To me, the saddest deaths are those of people who do not leave even some small sliver of the world better off. People whose words and actions didn’t console, inspire kindness, or help others be more humane. Those are the passings we should grieve the most.