On January 26, Vanessa Bryant took to Instagram to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the tragic deaths of her husband Kobe Bryant and their teenage daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant by sharing a moving letter she received from one of Gianna’s best friends, Aubrey Callaghan. The 38-year-old — who’s also mom to daughters Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri (20 mos.) — penned an emotional caption alongside her post:
“Today I received this sweet letter from one of Gianna’s best friends, Aubrey. I love you Aubz (as my Gigi would call you),” Vanessa began in her caption. “Thank you so much for beautifully sharing some of your memories of my Gigi with me and allowing me to share them here on my ig.”
She continued, “My Gigi is INCREDIBLE and I truly appreciate your thoughtful letter. She loves you so much. I miss my baby girl and Kob-Kob so much, too. I will never understand why/how this tragedy could’ve happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn’t seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!” Vanessa completed her post using the hashtags “#PlayGigisWay,” “#Mambacita,” “#Mamba,” “#DaddysGirl” and “#GirlDad.”
In the letter, Callaghan wrote about her friendship with Gianna, and credited the late young athlete for “[pushing her] to be better.” She went on to praise Vanessa as a mother, and said she hopes her future daughters turn out “exactly as [Vanessa’s] did.”
Later on in the letter, Callaghan wrote, “There are times I get into a pit of despair thinking about her and what she could’ve accomplished had she had a couple more years. But recently I have been thinking about the mark she did leave on this earth. Her fights for equality in sports made the world reconsider there [sic] opinions, she along with Mr. Bryant, set the wheels in motion,” she continued. “But on a lower level, on behalf of every person who came across her, I can say that she changed our lives.”
At the end of the letter, Callaghan told Vanessa that she “did it right” when it came to raising Gianna. “I am so, so blessed I got to have time with your angel of a daughter, and thank you for giving me that chance,” she said, adding, “I love you and am thinking of you as we remember an honor her life.”
On the morning of January 26, 2020, Kobe, Gianna and seven others — including Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli — died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA while on their way to a youth basketball game. The pilot, Ara Zobayan also died in the crash.
In the days leading up to the one-year anniversary of Kobe and Gianna’s deaths, Vanessa took to Instagram to share emotional details about her personal experience with grief over the last year. “Let me be real — grief is a messed up cluster of emotions,” she wrote in a note on Instagram Stories on January 15.
“One day, you’re in the moment laughing and the next day you don’t feel like being alive. I want to say this for people struggling with grief and heartbreaking loss. Find your reason to live,” Vanessa urged, admitting, “I know it’s hard. I look at my daughters and I try to push through that feeling for them. Death is guaranteed but living the rest of the day isn’t. Find your reason.”
This year, Kobe would’ve turned 43 in August, and Gigi would’ve celebrated her 15th birthday in May. Our thoughts are with the Bryant family and the families who lost loved ones in the fatal crash.