The alerts started going off on smartphones and comparable watches on Sunday, Jan. 26. Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. His second daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, along with the pilot and six other passengers lost their lives on a mountainside that morning.

Initially, the reaction was jarring -- even though I hadn’t really followed his career, celebrity associations, and, most of all, the devotion he had as a husband and father.

As a West Virginia native, we immediately think of Jerry West (from Cabin Creek and a WVU basketball legend) if you mention the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with on the basketball court.

West was general manager of the Lakers when he went to see the teen work his magic. The rest became sports history.

Loss is difficult to comprehend sometimes and even harder to accept. A sudden death stirs emotions we may not even know reside within us.

My dad’s death was unexpected, and, even though my sister had been ill for years, when she took that last breath the end was crippling for us.

My thoughts and prayers have been with the Bryant family, as well as the survivors of the other victims. The father left with three children to raise was devastated as he talked to the media about those precious -- now motherless -- kids.

As fans stood vigil outside the Staples Center, “The House That Kobe Built,” it was impossible not to feel the pain of those teary-eyed faithful fans. Many shared their personal feelings for Bryant. He was loved, respected, revered.

Most importantly, Bryant was a religious man, a practicing Roman Catholic. He knew those who believe adhere to God’s plan.

While a nation mourns, remember the families in your prayers. This is a deep grief for many.

Life can be fleeting -- and fragile. Take every opportunity to say “I love you”.

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