There's this weird thing about celebrities. Because they live their lives under constant public awareness, we feel like we know them.  It's akin to being... Well, a kin!  Many of us see some celebrities as distant relatives.  Some are role models, some are those uncles and aunts we don't really want to claim, and others are like the distant cousin we always enjoy when we're together but we don't see often.

Kobe Bryant was the latter. He had a special place in the hearts of those around ages 35-45.

When Kevin Garnett went straight from high school to the NBA draft in 1995, Kobe Bryant was among the second class of athletes to do so, becoming the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft.

Just the previous month, he made national headlines for having the singer Brandy (Norwood) as his date for his senior prom.  Brandy said she wasn't able to attend her own prom.  So, being his date was a honor, although she didn't really know who he was when he asked her.

Those of us in the same age range remember all of this with great detail.  Thanks to the media following their every move and reporting it, we saw that these people were going through the same phases of life that we were. We watched their careers flourish.  We saw them fall in love and start families around the same time many of us did.  We saw them go through growing pains in the public eye. Though they had no idea who we were, we knew their lives in detail.

So, hearing of the death of "one of us" has an effect that is almost as great as losing someone we know in real life... Because we felt like we knew Kobe in real life.

Add to that the fact that his wife has not only lost her husband but also her child and that his daughters lost their father and a sister.  Almost ANYONE can be empathetic and mourn if not for their own loss, definitely for theirs.

The news Sunday was a sobering moment.  A hush fell over the nation, similar to the night Michael Jackson died.  There was a feeling of disbelief similar to how it felt when you learned that someone you "just saw" or talked to had passed. It isn't that we felt they were invincible-- after all, they were human. We were just reminded that financial status has no bearing on accidents and that lives can end at any moment.

We mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the seven others killed in the helicopter crash just as we pull to the side of the road for funeral processions.  We may or may not know the deceased, but we all know the feeling of losing a loved one. So, we pay our respects to the family while we make amends in our own and hold our children a little tighter.

No man knows the day or the hour.

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