By Chris Jones

With the closing song fresh off of my lips, I leaned over to collect my Bible and pen from the pew beside me. As I returned upright, my friend Corey, who was in the pew in front of me, stood with her cell phone in hand. “Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash,” she said. The two men talking on either side of me suddenly sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and I went limp as I sat back down in the pew. “Kobe,” I thought. “Dead?”

I could feel tears fighting their way out of my eyes. “I gotta go!” I said, hastily snatching up my belongings. I scurried down the hall and pulled my kids out of their classes and rushed out the front door of the church. “Not Kobe,” I thought again.

I looked at my phone in the car and saw a missed call from my best friend, Charles, and then noticed a few text messages from my wife with article links. “Yes, Kobe,” I concluded.

When I got home, I raced to the bathroom, shut the door and let the emotions fly. Kobe Bryant wasn’t just another celebrity or basketball hero to me; Kobe felt like a friend, mentor and family member. I grew up watching him play. I watched him shine in the 1996 McDonald’s All-American Game in Pittsburgh. I watched him dominate as a Laker. I followed his post-NBA career. I read his book. I watched his movie. But most of all, I saw that closeness he had with Gianna, made most evident in the video where they’re courtside breaking down a game while she took it all in while making his signature face.

And that’s the part I can’t reconcile. That’s why I cried for six days. “Not just Kobe, but Gianna. His Mambacita.”

I’m a dad and, like all fathers, I have interests and life lessons I want to share with and pass down to my kids, too. I have a little girl who shares common interests with me. Olive likes to write things. She loves to draw. We love music and dancing. While I resonated with athlete Kobe and entrepreneur Kobe, it’s dad Kobe that causes me pain. Dad Kobe sent legacy mode knocking on my front door. It made me think about how my family will remember me and whether I’ve left done enough to leave them with a secure future without me. Most of all, each day since, I’ve strived to live differently and love intentionally.

Kobe’s death may not affect you as it did me, but I’m sure there has been a loss outside of your family that hit home. These are good reminders of our mortality and should never be swept under the rug. Feel the emotions, be inspired to change, live with renewed vigor. But isn’t that why we have heroes? They inspire us. They appeal to the dreamer within us. They move us to action. And when we lose them, we’re reminded that we’re all finite. Tomorrow is not promised. Let’s remember to live, love and cement our legacy within our family today.