Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, especially when it happens in the unbearably tragic way that it happened to Vanessa Bryant. The mother of four lost both her second-oldest daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, and her husband, basketball great Kobe Bryant, in the January 26, 2020 helicopter crash that took nine lives. During the year that has followed the horrific accident, Bryant has worked to keep the legacy of her husband and daughter alive by continuing to build on the great works the NBA champion had already started.
Bryant isn’t the only one looking back at everything the inseparable pair accomplished as the anniversary of their death approached this week. Gigi’s childhood friend Aubrey “Aubz” Callaghan recently sent a letter to Bryant detailing all the ways that her daughter’s memory lives on. And in those memories, we see a testament to what an amazing mother Vanessa Bryant has always been. Grab your tissues, because you’re going to need them.
“My mind constantly thinks of your beautiful daughter,” the letter begins. “You have probably heard this, but if I ever become a mom, I hope my daughter turns out exactly as yours did.”
Already, we’re weeping over perhaps the biggest compliment you can give a mom. Callaghan’s letter then goes on to detail how “kind, caring, and endlessly polite” her friend was, mentioning a specific memory of her from elementary school.
“I remember sitting with her at lunch in second grade as she taught us to not eat while we talked,” she says. “Yet this was not a snotty teaching, she was not correcting us, but helping us to be better versions of ourselves.”
What mom, when reading those words, doesn’t immediately flash back to sitting around the table with her own kids while painstakingly trying to teach them table manners? And to know that those lessons followed your child out into the world (and that they were kind! and polite! about it) — isn’t that just the type of parent we all strive to be?
It’s clear from the words Callaghan shared about her lost friend that she both looked up to and respected her. “Gianna was fiery and stubborn, she knew what she wanted and she fought to get it,” she says.
She also speaks lovingly of their relationship on the basketball court. “Our heads-up battles would get very intense,” she wrote. “I was usually horse and exhausted after every game.” She attributes those losses to both Gigi’s skill, and the fact that the love of the game ran in her blood. Even though Gianna handily beat her, Callaghan doesn’t speak of her gloating, she talks about the fun they had.
As Bryant wakes up this morning, on the one-year anniversary of the tragic helicopter crash that forever changed the course of her family’s lives, as well as the families of the other victims of the crash, we hope the mother of four is comforted by the way her daughter’s memory lives on in others.