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How Kobe Bryant Saved My Marriage

Alright so no, Kobe Bryant wasn’t actually a counselor that we sat down with every week. He didn’t make us recount our feelings or work on effective communication techniques. We actually never had the pleasure of meeting the man. I’ll get to that in a minute. His death has now become a “where were you moment” across many generations that loved him as a sports icon, philanthropist, Los Angelean, mentor, coach, husband, father, and everything in between.

By now you have read countless stories, tweets, Facebook posts, read Instagram story after story, from thousands of sources recounting his incredible life. Journalists, other sports icons, celebrities, and everyday people like you and I, have all had something to contribute. Maybe you’re recalling the new #girldad movement, or the 5 year old boy, who was also named Kobe, that Mr. Bryant visited at a local Arizona hospital. They played hoops together in the ICU for an hour. Mr. Bryant offered to cover all of the boy’s medical expenses, as he was too ill for a heart transplant. The boy died a week later. His mom later said that hour with his hero was the highlight of his life, and those were the only pictures from her son’s life she had of him smiling. We know he was a champion for the athletics of future generations, quite notably, women’s sports. My story is a little different.

The last year and a half has been full of growing pains for my husband and I. Much like any couple experiencing difficulty, we’ve hit some incredible rough patches. I will spare you the nitty gritty details as that alone could fill a book. In a nutshell, we had to uproot our entire life and start completely over without the safety net we had come to know and trust.

Couple all of that with the every day challenges of marriage, family, work, kids, school, sports, babies, and life, we have had several moments of “are we going to make it?” Sadly, there have even been a few sit-downs that involved looking up how to proceed with a separation or divorce. We have said things to each other that we cannot take back, slept in separate rooms, gone to our parent’s houses, spent weekends at hotels, fought in front of our kids, canceled family outings. One of the most painful things a parent can do is to look your children in the eye and tell them everything was going to be okay, when you have no clue if it will. It feels like a lie and a punch in the gut.

Let me be very clear. These are not moments we are proud of. But they are real moments and I know I am not alone in sharing them. Marriage is hard work. To be fair, I am not calling marriage a job or comparing it to a career. No, no. This takes a lot more effort, more care, and more love.

Fast forward to the morning of January 26th. It was what had become a typical Sunday morning in our home. We weren’t necessarily fighting, but we also weren’t together in our kitchen, making pancakes and talking about our family plans for the day. We were coexisting, going through the motions, and for my husband and I, it was sweet relief from the more hostile moments as of late.

I had gone to lie down for an early morning nap. My fellow parents out there know how coveted sleep is, especially when your house is on the verge of collapse because of the flu, RSV, possible pneumonia, and strep throat. Two nights before was spent in the hospital with my 1 year old because she was severely dehydrated. I would’ve taken a nap over a lottery win at that point. Per usual, I gave my phone a glance and that is when I saw something on Facebook.

Surely this report wasn’t accurate. Kobe Bryant, dead? WHAT IN THE WORLD? I closed the app and went to Twitter. A few tweets were starting to trickle in with the same sentiment; please let this be an awful, horrific, hoax.

It wasn’t.

In an instant, a heavy sadness filled the room. We learned the gut wrenching news that Kobe was gone and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, was also on board the helicopter that crashed. We would later learn 7 other people, including 2 other young girls, with their lives ahead of them, were also on board. Families were ripped apart. A mother lost the only partner she had ever known, AND her daughter. A brother and sister lost both of their parents AND a sister. A husband lost his wife and mother to his 3 kids. Kids lost their mother AND sister. The news seemed to just keep getting worse.

We sat on our couch for hours that day in silence. We could not tear ourselves away from what we were seeing. We cried. We cried hard. We got angry. Hysterical even. We called our kids into the living room on several occasions to just hold them, just to hug them, just to smell them and look at their faces. As a stay at home mom I often joke that weekends are my days off (like I said, joke!) but suddenly doing their laundry, making sandwiches, changing a diaper or doing whatever mundane task called for my attention, didn’t seem like such a task anymore. When I had to repeat myself two and three times, I spoke with more ease when I normally would’ve been screaming my head off. This particular Sunday wasn’t going to be a day off, and that was perfectly okay.

Hours after the Kobe news broke, the dark cloud that had been over our lives for months (but what felt like a lifetime) seemed to fade. All of a sudden hugs were being exchanged. We kissed and it didn’t feel forced. We shared some laughs in between the tears. We talked about our future, together, for the first time in awhile. We talked about what Vanessa Bryant was going through and how in an instant she was living our nightmare. Grudges didn’t seem important and resentment felt heavy. Neither one of us had to be right. We wanted to be partners, not enemies.

Paraphrasing Charlotte Wilder, writer from Twitter, “When someone like Kobe- who seemed so untouchable, so omnipresent and larger than life is taken away, and in such a tragic way, it has a way of reminding us that nothing is guaranteed and our time here is short and ever so precious”.

Do my husband and I have a lot of work to do? Absolutely. Were all of our problems really gone overnight? No, absolutely not. Should it take a tragedy like this to remind us that what we have built is worth saving? Probably not. It’s going to take a lot of love, time, effort, work, therapy, communication, grace, and patience. But now we understand that for any relationship to be successful, you have to give more than you take. We understand that we truly don’t want to go to bed mad every night, because that just makes it okay for us to do it again, and again. We know that old ways won’t open new doors. Most importantly, we’ve learned that when the day comes that the other is no longer here, we want to say we gave it everything we had. That we fought FOR our marriage. Not against it.

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