Fr. Vasken Kouzouian offers some prayerful thoughts on the terrible helicopter crash that took the lives of a sports champion and eight others this week.
* * *
Like so many of you, last Sunday I was heading home from church, uplifted and inspired to face the coming week, when my daughter Alina shared with me the tragic news coming out of southern California that a world-class athlete had died.
For the next several hours that’s pretty much all we heard. And our world spoke of little else. We were shocked. Kobe Bryant had died? Could it be?
As the hours passed, details began emerging that others in that helicopter died as well. Three children, three mothers, a father, and the pilot—nine people in all.
We became one in our sorrow. We shared in the shock that Kobe Bryant was dead. We shared in the grief of those families left behind, who now had to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives; families we don’t know personally, but who come from homes very much like our own. We became one neighborhood in our shared grief.
These last several days, the media has been plastered with photos showing the nine innocent victims: people who could very well have been our neighbors. One of them, the pilot, turned out to be a fellow Armenian. All of them were fellow parents or children; and as a father myself, I can imagine Kobe holding his daughter in his arms, loving her and comforting her in those final moments.
Thinking about those last, turbulent minutes makes my heart ache.
The brightest light
As the shock began to subside and information began to emerge, I read one story about the faith of Kobe Bryant.
He rose to the highest level of his sport. Fame, fortune, and honor were his. But, as happens all too often in the world of professional sports, he fell into the temptations that surround his fame. But how he found his way out of that dark hole, to me, shines more brightly than all his championship rings and gold medals. Faith is the brightest light of all.
On the morning of the helicopter accident, Kobe and his family went to their church to receive Holy Communion, as they did most every week. I found great comfort in knowing this about their final moments. For they were not alone. They had invited their Lord Jesus Christ into their hearts. And as a father embraced his daughter, their God embraced them.
They were never alone. We are never alone.
May God hold the nine victims of this tragedy, as well as all victims of tragic events everywhere, in His comforting and loving hands. May God rest their souls in peace, and bring comfort to their families back home.
Fr. Vasken Kouzouian is the pastor of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston (Cambridge, MA).