What I Learned from Kobe’s Death

The tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter GiGi, and 7 others has dominated news the last few days and my kids are all old enough that they know about it. We talked about how it was sad and felt bad for the people left behind and I kids of left it at that. Until dinner tonight.

It was a crazy day. I teach classes at the local college on Mondays, we have 1 kid in college who currently has the flu, 1 kid in a high school/college hybrid program who is just getting over the flu, and 1 kid who is homeschooled. Besides that chaos, it was just a crazy day. My husband had to work at church tonight. Dinner was rushed and no one was eating together. When I finally sat down at the table with my omelette, our two youngest kids were there and the discussion turned toward the helicopter crash, how it was tragic, and I answered some questions. My kids know who Kobe Bryant was but they didn’t have any significant attachment to him. So I was kind of surprised of see these two kind of struggle with the news.

Then things took a turn. The kids talked about the family who had mom, dad, and one kid on the helicopter and they asked about if they had other kids. When I said yes, one child broke down crying. Yes, it’s sad, but this kid is not a crier naturally and almost never about things like this. What was going on?!

Then slowly I began to realize my two kids sitting at our dining room table were thinking about what it would be like to be the one left behind. The ones who didn’t die. The ones who lost so much and have to figure out how to go on.

I hugged my kids. And we talked through the plans of what would happen if either their dad or I, or if we both, were to die. Not in a morbid way, but in an informative way. I realized they didn’t know what would happen to them if something happened to us. And I’ve never been so thankful for the person who when we said we were having our first child insisted that we make a will.

We talked about provisions in our wills for who would take care of them, who would take care of the money, how it will change as they become adults and go off to school and/or jobs. I let them know there was a plan in place to take care of them even if something happened to me, to us.

I totally took for granted that my kids would know they would be taken care of. I never talked to them about the specifics because I didn’t want to make them sad. But today I’m glad we got to have the conversation. As kids get older, relationships change. It wasn’t enough to just say they would be taken care of. They needed more information. They needed to know we had a plan. Much like they know what to do if there is a fire or if there is a storm (we live in a hurricane area), they needed to know what to do in this unlikely event.

As we finished the conversation, the kid who was crying let out a sigh of relief and said, “ I hope we never need this information.”  Oh baby, that’s what we hope too. But we all felt a bit better because everyone knows the plan for that bad situation that we hope never comes.

Do I think you should ask your kids if they want to know the plan for if you die? No. Certainly this is a very difficult thing. But I am saying you need to be sensitive to what your kids need, what they are trying to tell you when they don’t know how to say it. Be sure they, at an age and emotionally appropriate level, that you are taking care of them.

Have the hard conversation.

And hug your kids.

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