The loss of basketball great Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others this week brought millions of folks up short, including me.

Tragedies like this often take me back to November 1981 when actress Natalie Wood died in a boating accident. The tribute in The Washington Post began: “What is sadder than a beautiful woman dying young?” 

I’m not sure why those words stuck with me. The death of someone so talented and young (Natalie Wood was 43) is sad indeed. And yet, sad things happen every day.

What makes one thing sadder than another? Does our sadness depend on the fame, looks, character, age, or even the impact of the one who was lost?

I remember President Reagan comforting the nation as the remains of service members killed in a terrorist attack were brought home. No one knew the names of those young men except for their families, but they gave their lives for people they would never know. That was sad. 

Nothing had prepared me for how sad I felt then my Dad passed away, just a few weeks before Natalie Wood. Does our sadness depend on how much someone loved us? The death of some people, like a parent, leaves a hole in our lives that is not easily filled.

Is sadness related to a sense of unfulfilled promise, like the loss of Kobe’s Bryant’s daughter and the others on that helicopter?

Sadness is personal. We all experience loss differently, and every loss reminds us that we will all pass from this life to the next.

Yet in our sadness today, there’s hope. I just read that Kobe Bryant took his Catholic faith seriously. It helped him and his family get through a tough time and led him to fund programs for youth and the down and out.

There was one death that mysteriously takes all other deaths up into itself. It was the saddest death of all, but it would have been infinitely worse if it had never happened. 

Only in Jesus Christ can sadness become joy that will grow every day for eternity.

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