When One of the Best Is Gone Too Soon

Loss demonstrates none of us is invincible. So let's live every day to our very best.

I didn't know Kobe Bryant personally. But I feel sadness at his sudden death. As a parent. A husband. A fan of his play and an admirer of all he did for others off the basketball court.

Kobe Bryant with After-School All-Stars in HawaiiLakers Community Twitter

For me the tragedy that claimed Bryant's life and the lives of eight others Sunday made me think of the passing of another former basketball player whose talents were admired by many – another who passed way too soon.

Duane Glenn was my former classmate and one of the best players in the history of my Alma mater. He died this week at the young age of 47 of complications from Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Duane grew up on Pittsburgh's North Side, graduated from Shady Side Academy and loved playing basketball. He didn't become a hall-of-fame NBA superstar. At roughly 5'10", he was built more to blend in with the crowd than hover above it. And yet he was a 3-year starter and 2-year captain, leading our prestigious high school to league championships in all 3 of his years on the varsity team.

Duane "Man" Glenn in his Shady Side Academy glory days.

"Man" (his nickname) made his mark with his silky style on the court, determination to improve, and focus on winning. I admired that. He would not quit. Even the thing I did better on the court (i.e., dunking a basketball) he wouldn't just "let me have". He pushed hard in the weight room and on the court until he could "rock the rim" too.

Duane set records at Shady Side and during his collegiate career. He held an NAIA basketball record with 13 steals in one game – a number that stood for over 20 years. And yet – like Kobe and many others – Duane Glenn and the talent he was on this earth is gone… taken much sooner than expected.

My friend and former teammate lost his brave battle with leukemia.

Beyond our loss and grief, what exactly bothers us when tragedies like this happen? The more I think about Duane and Kobe I understand that what we fear most is being reminded that, like them, we're not invincible. Just like them, we can be cut down before we have time to harvest the best laid plans of our lives.

That realization can be an awesome gift to us even in the shadow of sadness.

  • Isn't the ability to watch greatness – and perhaps see if fade right before your eyes – a gift that makes us reach for greatness within us that we can still grasp?
  • Isn't the regret at unfulfilled dreams a motivator to live our best lives each day, each hour, and each moment?
  • Isn't the legacy of those who pass too soon an inspiration to make sure we're working daily to leave a world that's better than we found it?

At times like these, I absolutely feel sad and vulnerable. But I also feel inspired to live my life a little better.

Like Kobe, I hope I have a few more slam dunks to accomplish. And like Duane, I hope I've got some more "steals" left to turn around my game and get me headed in the right direction. Maybe you do too.

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