I didn’t know who Kobe Bryant was.
I’m sorry. I haven’t really paid attention to sports or celebrities since the ’80s, but multiple people I love were pained greatly by his death, so I’m learning.
I found myself choked up reading about all those lost in the helicopter crash and seeing pictures of Bryant with his arm around his daughter. My heart broke for all those who lost loved ones and all those who lost a hero.
And then my mind wandered to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death in a helicopter. It was years ago, but I had just seen him in concert and he was so alive and amazing and pulling his life together that it seemed unfair for him to be snatched in the prime of his life.
That’s when I remembered some wise words an imam once told me: Death is inconvenient. We were on a tour of the mosque in Dearborn, in the embalming room next to the nursery, and the imam was describing how a body needed to be buried within 24 hours. I asked about family that couldn’t get there in time and he said, “Death is inconvenient.”
So I’ve been practicing being inconvenienced and uncomfortable hoping I’ll be a bit more prepared. I’m not sure there is any way to be prepared for death pulling the rug out of the life you imagined, but it never hurts to practice.
I hike on Mondays as part of my day off and today it was definitely inconvenient and uncomfortable. It took a long time for me to get motivated to leave my cup of coffee and head out into the sideways precipitation and slush. The great gift of ritual is that I always hike on Monday whether I feel like it or not and the dog knows it. We headed out expecting to be miserable, but then surprise! The sun popped out, the temperature dropped a little so the slush was ice, and an eagle posed so we could get a good look at how beautiful it was.
It’s good practice to do the hard and inconvenient thing with some dread trusting that life and joy surprise us. I’ve had enough experiences like that to help me keep going when I’d rather curl up. Then we turned a corner and the sleet and wind scoured my face. It was tempting to turn around, but we kept pushing because I knew around the next corner there could be a totally different experience. (It was different — we went from wind to post-holing in deep snow). I’m not going to say it was particularly fun, but it was a good reminder that sometimes you have to put your head down and keep pushing until you round the next bend.
I know none of that is helpful when people are in the throes of grief, but doing uncomfortable and inconvenient things might be good practice if you aren’t.
• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.