BOSTON (CBS) — Anytime a prominent celebrity dies prematurely – especially one as well-known to kids as the late Kobe Bryant – it’s a teachable moment for parents and mentors.
It’s not as profound as the loss of a loved one, but comes as a unique type of shock nonetheless, especially for young fans.
As a teenager in the 1960s, the sudden, violent deaths of cultural icons was a too-regular occurrence: Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix. And the murders of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. hit hard across generational lines; in some ways, we’ve never recovered from those.
So, what do you tell your teenager who might still have that Kobe Bryant poster on their bedroom wall?
Make sure they understand that their first thoughts should be with Kobe’s parents and wife and, especially, their four daughters, ages 16, 13, three and a seven-month-old.
You only get one father, and two of the daughters will grow up without any memories of theirs. That’s a sobering thought for any teenager.
Help them think about what Kobe’s death teaches us about the fragility of life.
All his money and fame ultimately meant nothing; he and his family would surely trade it all for a normal life span.
Love, and time to spend with loved ones, are priceless, a truth we often need to be reminded of.
And tell your young Kobe fans to pay attention to the eulogies, to how he is remembered.
For the titles and records, yes, but what else?
Maybe, in the silence that follows your talk with them, they will reflect on what kind of person they’d like to be remembered as, when their life is through.
Hear Jon Keller read this aloud: