A Somber but Perhaps Well-Needed Reminder of an Important Life Lesson
Anthony F. Sos, Esq.
The Briefs, March 2020 / Vol. 88 No. 3
The inspiration of this message follows two tragic events: the unexpected passing of my father on Christmas Eve, and the helicopter crash that took the life of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others. I wasn’t planning to write about my father’s death in this column. But I was moved to do so when I heard Shaquille O’Neal’s tearful tribute to Kobe Bryant. It reminded me of the importance of that obvious but quickly forgotten lesson we are taught each time we witness or endure unexpected tragedy.
Once you read this, it will have been about a month and a half after the incident that took the lives of not only Kobe and Gianna Bryant, but the seven other individuals on board. The deaths of those fathers, daughters, mothers, and coaches have left many in California and across the globe heartbroken. In the following days and weeks, many contemporaries have strived to pay proper tribute to the legend and person who was Kobe Bryant. I watched the tears that streamed down the face of 7’1”, larger-than- life basketball superstar O’Neal as he confessed this life lesson:
We up here, we work a lot. And a lot of times we take stuff for
granted. Like, I don’t talk to you guys as much as I need to.
. . . It definitely changes me. Because I work a lot, you guys
know what I do. I work more than the average guy but I really
have to take time to call and say “I love you.” … So I’m going
to try to do a better job of reaching out and talking to people.
Because you never know.
My take away from O’Neal’s tribute: A reminder that it doesn’t matter how busy we are or how hard we work, we should make the time to connect with the people we love and care most about. Losing my father unexpectedly on Christmas Eve was tough. I know many of my friends and colleagues have endured similar losses. It’s never easy. And as many of you appreciate, life doesn’t have a hold button. The demands of work remain even as we try to sort affairs, comfort family members, and manage our own grief. I have taken particular solace, though, in one of the final, beautiful moments I was blessed to share with my dad. Of course, I didn’t know then that he would pass away less than six hours later. I have a large family, and we try to spend a lot of time together. Many occasions are boisterous, loud, and happy. Consequently, although I reached out to my dad often, there weren’t many opportunities where just the two of us had a lot of one-on-one time. But the night before his passing, I stopped by with the intention of only staying for a brief 15-minute visit. He asked me to sit out on the patio for a while with him to spend some time together. That brief visit ended up turning into a much longer one than expected. We had a real heart-to-heart talk, and I felt more connected with him than I ever had. When I left, he told me he loved me. This was not something my dad said lightly or often. Indeed, although I always felt his love, he rarely expressed it in this way. I had noticed, though, that he had been saying it with more frequency of late. I responded in kind, and we hugged. I enjoyed our time together so much that I actually told my family once I got home what a great night I had with my dad.
Hours later, I would get that unexpected call. As hard as the experience was, I did have a measure of peace because our last visit was so meaningful.
You may not be the type of person who is comfortable saying “I love you.” That’s okay. There are other ways to “reach out” as O’Neal put it. Perhaps a heartwarming, poetic example of this was one of Kobe’s last acts on earth, when he himself reached out to a young person whom Kobe suspected could perhaps benefit from a random act of kindness. That person was none other than O’Neal’s son, Shareef. Shareef had recently announced his intention to leave the UCLA Basketball program. Anticipating that Shareef may have been struggling with that life change or the publicity surrounding it, Kobe sent a text to Shareef just to make sure he was okay. Despite the time demands placed on someone with his fame, Kobe nevertheless made the time to reach out to Shareef – a small gesture made only hours before the helicopter crash that took his life. This extension undoubtedly meant a great deal to both O’Neal and his son.
Your own “reach out” does not have to coincide with someone else’s life-changing event. The time and attention we give is what matters. It might be that you genuinely want to see how someone is doing, or that you want to spend time with them for no specific reason at all.
I am not suggesting every time we talk to someone we have to approach it as if it might be the last. I’m simply observing that grief is hard enough without the regrets that so often closely follow. I have often commented on how busy our lives are and how much we juggle. Lawyers are not alone in this. To varying degrees, everyone struggles under worldly demands. But in the midst of the crazy hustle and bustle, my hope is that we all do better in staying connected with the people we care most about.
In many “President Messages” I have tried to share uplifting and inspiring stories. What does this message have to do with the law and our profession? Perhaps not squarely on point, but we are human and we share these raw emotions of life together. This bar is like a family. We’ve celebrated together; we’ve mourned together. Let’s also, from time to time, remind each other of what truly matters.
Anthony F. Sos, Esq., is a partner at Dellecker, Wilson, King, McKenna, Ruffier & Sos, LLP. He has been a member of the OCBA since 2005.