Kobe Bryant and Me: Thoughts on Life and Death

I never knew Kobe Bryant even though we each lived in Pennsylvania at some point in our lives, less than 30 minutes and years apart –me for 60 years and Kobe for 18 years when, upon graduation, he went to his only team, the Los Angeles Lakers where he had a 20-year career. He was scouted as #1 in the country and played in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Among his many accomplishments, as a shooting guard, he won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, and got to be the best shooter ever after Wilt Chamberlain.

Unless you’ve been sequestered with jury duty or living under a rock, Kobe died Sunday along with his daughter and 7 others in a foggy and then fiery helicopter crash which killed them all.

I watched the news reports Sunday and, after a while, stopped watching because the reporters occasionally brought up that incident where in 2003, Bryant was accused of sexual assault by a 19-year-old hotel employee. Shortly after, Bryant issued a public apology, with his wife by his side, but that action resulted in several endorsements which were cut off immediately including McDonalds and Nutella.

Then the devil sat on one shoulder and said, “Was that really necessary to bring that up considering all the good things he did, like the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation whose goals were helping young people in need of support, encouraging the development of physical, emotional, and social skills through sports, and assisting the homeless? Didn’t the good things eventually overpower the bad? Can’t we just move on?”

But the angel who sat on the opposite shoulder said, “Can you really get over sexual assault?” The angel won.

It was 1 in the morning now on Monday. But I was really into it–the thinking, I mean. I sat on my comfortable sofa, for 3 hours, just hammering out what had happened. The Grammys were on Sunday as well in the Staples Center where the Lakers played. I started feeling overwhelmed.

I said to myself, if Kobe was so famous, and people tend to forget even the famous over time, little by little, what chance do I, a regular person, have to be remembered? I fell asleep somewhere in the middle but didn’t lose direction one bit, returning to the internal discussion at hand.

Then around 2 on Monday, I thought of my father who was killed in his North Philadelphia store in 1971, and I didn’t even think of him every day after awhile, except right around the holidays which were important to him because, other than working seven days a week to support his family, he liked fun.

It was about 3:30 on Monday. The only thing was the country by Randy Travis called Three Wooden Crosses that pulled me out of whatever had taken over my mind. The song is  about four people–a farmer, a teacher, a preacher, and a hooker–going down to Mexico in search of various things. He was awarded the Academy of Country Music Award for Song of the Year. Listen to it for a moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT1sNrgnJZc

It’s the refrain.
I guess it’s not what you take when the you leave this world behind you.

 

It’s what you leave behind you when you go. 

And then I also knew. My father left his incredible work ethic, Kobe left his iconic basketball fame, and I guess people will remember me, too, albeit I don’t know for what.

I asked one of my sons the next day, “Will you miss me when I’m gone?”

He took a long time to answer and then he said, “You have your moments.”

That’s good enough for me, wiseass.

Patient Education: Making Sleep a Health Priority

Get the best out of your sleep

Good sleep is a necessity for the healthy functioning of the mind and body.  It is also one of the things that we can forcibly deprive ourselves.  Ideally, we spend one-third of our lives asleep.  Improving your sleep quality can be the first step toward stress resilience and  healthy decisions.

Could you imagine sleeping for 4 hours, then waking up to go to the gym to exercise, then going to work, and taking an extra cup of coffee to stay up?! If this happens to you, wouldn’t you skip the gym and maybe skip preparing a healthy meal? Without sleep, the brain has a lower threshold to develop stress, anger and impatience.  Driving a car after not sleeping well the night before is equivalent to driving under the influence of alcohol.  The system doesn’t just recalibrate the sleep deficit by sleeping in on a Saturday morning.

Sleep affects more than just the neurologic system.  Many first-time parents probably remember getting up at night because of a crying baby.  Most people recognize that sleep reduces memory and concentration and impairs judgement, but sleep also reduces the immune system, leads to weight gain and increases the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.  The endocrine, immunologic and vascular systems are regulated by sleep.

Here is a list of tips to ensure ideal sleep:

  1. Tone down technology: Silence your cellphones and other technology and put them in a different room at a set time each evening, preferably at least 2 hours before bedtime.  The screen lights can inhibit the production of melatonin, which would otherwise prepare you for sleep.
  2. Preparation: Provide yourself a 30-60 minute of winding down before lights out. Limit reading time to 20-30 minutes.
  3. Make sleep a routine: Go to bed and wake up at consistent times.  Most of the time, you will sleep for 6-8 hours naturally.  With a natural routine, you will very likely not need an alarm clock.  If you do use it, stop it and get up – don’t hit snooze 5 times.
  4. Your bed, the slumber throne. Limit activities to sex and sleep.  Watching TV, eating, working on the computer may affect your body’s ability to rest in bed.
  5. Avoid medicating to sleep: Medications to sleep should be avoided or limited to a low dose of melatonin (2-4mg nightly).  Although the medications may sometimes “work”, they come with side effects and, moreover, are not addressing the source of the problem.  The last thing you want to do is develop dependence on alcohol, benzodiazepines or ambien, etc.  and then can’t sleep without it.  As for the other side of things, avoid any intake of caffeine after noon hours.  Avoid any stimulant medications, e.g. albuterol inhalers, immediately prior to sleeping.  One interesting association of sleep apnea is the patient who drinks high levels of caffeine during the day and then takes a sleeping medication at night.
  6. Environment: Keep sleeping area dimly lit or dark.  Ambient noise should be at a minute, though white noise is acceptable.  Temperature should be on the lower side, between 60-67 degrees F.
  7. Trouble-shoot for the future: If you are having problems sleeping at night and find yourself tossing and turning, thinking too much or waiting until that magic click to start, limit time in bed to about 15-20 minutes. There is usually a reason that this has happened and it is up to you to brainstorm it.  You can sit in your chair to begin to rest, meditate and then return to your bed to sleep.  The next day, think why this happened:  It could have been that maybe you exercised too close to bedtime, took too warm of a shower before sleeping, saw a stimulating program on TV, or tried to squeeze some work on the computer too close to bedtime.

If you still have trouble sleeping after following this checklist, you should consider being evaluated for sleep apnea or other conditions (parasomnias) associated with sleeping, such as restless legs, etc.

sleep man on desk

sleep man on desk