We Forget Our Own Deaths All the Time

A mother of a deceased son reflects on the death of Kobe Byrant

Kate Suddes
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readJan 31, 2020


Kate Suddes, 1983
Photo: Kate Suddes

II don’t want to write about Kobe Bryant. I don’t want to write about Gianna Bryant. I don’t want to write about John, Keri, or Alyssa Altobelli. Not Sarah and Payton Chester. Not Christina Mauser. And not Ara Zobayan either. On Sunday morning, I was sitting on the couch and saw the first alert on my phone. I delivered the news out loud to my husband. I kept thinking, but I didn’t know this 90 seconds ago; I want to go back there. These moments take us up to an edge — a choose-your-adventure pause where you realize a line has just been drawn. And collectively a nation, a planet is going to sit still and bow their heads.

I have a picture of myself at about three years old sitting in a helicopter. My dad flew them in the Marines and had taken a job in Atlanta flying for a traffic reporter. He took me and my mom up for an afternoon ride. What an absurd thing to do. What a miracle that it was a safe flight. But was it any more absurd than handing me pretzels to snack on? Any more absurd than being born to begin with? There a million things we do every day that are ludicrous and incongruent with our lives actually continuing. Get in a car, walk across the street, swim in a pool. Sometimes when I’m home by myself I think, I could choke and die alone. But we have to toss these risks aside to get through each hour of every day. We forget our own deaths all the time.

The day before my son was born, he died in my body at some point in the middle of a Friday night. For a while, I was fixated on the exact moment. Having a murky range of hours felt too imprecise, absolutely unacceptable for my overacting brain that was trying to solve a mystery. If I could focus on the evidence, if I could excavate the metaphorical black box, I would be able to what… bring him back? No. But please don’t make me let go of this assignment. Because what will I have then but this gaping and consuming loss.

But this isn’t right, they’re not asking the right questions, I thought to myself.

I think it’s one of the great tricks we play on ourselves in grief — it’s happening right now in the news and on social media — talking about…