Mortality has hit me like a ton of bricks in the past few weeks.
Last week, I watched as my ex-wife and her family laid her grandmother to rest.
And, this past Sunday, I was caught flat footed -- like most everyone else -- when news began to break that famed basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in California.
Beyond those stark reminders of just how precious life can be, as I take more and more trips around the sun -- 46 so far -- I get reminded more and more at just how finite life is as the aches and pains associated with age begin to creep up.
But, I've found that if you pay attention to the signals that life and death provide, mortality doesn't have to hit you -- It can massage a bruised body and soul.
My ex-wife's grandmother, Olga Velasquez Mejias, by all objective accounts, was short in stature.
But, she was feisty, had a big spirit and didn't take any junk.
As a grandson said of her, she would feed you through the front door and she could kick you out the back.
She was born in tiny Puerto Rico, but when she died at the age of 91, she had left behind a village of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren.
More than anything, she was about family and putting them first.
She was known to welcome all into her home.
She could give you a hug. She could throw a slipper at you. She could fix you a plate to eat. And, she could put you in your place, as only Olga could do.
If you were smart, and if you paid attention, you'd realize she did all those things out of love.
While her loss hurts and leaves a big void, what I learned from her life and death is that family is important, share what you know, hug your loved ones and -- sometimes -- tough love is the best kind of love.
While not knowing Bryant -- his fame probably made it seem like we did -- his death struck me.
After a while, I realized why.
While no one will ever mistake me for the 20-year NBA veteran, whose will, determination and drive were legendary, there were things about him for which I certainly could relate.
He has four children, all daughters. I have four kids -- three girls.
I remember about five years ago when I learned that my youngest was going to play basketball for her middle school team.
Your children are not always going to share your interests, but when I found out she wanted to play -- from no prodding by me, mind you -- I got warm feelings.
It was great to go to her games and watch her run around, have fun and compete.
Those were great times as a dad. In those moments, I could truly say I was just like Kobe.
So, learning that he and one of his kids were on the helicopter that crashed, I could see myself in him.
I can imagine the fear they both had. I can imagine his true fear, being her father and probably knowing death was coming for them and -- as all dads want to be heroes for their children -- realizing there was nothing he could do to save his baby girl.
And, just like that, he's gone. His daughter is gone. And seven other people on that craft are gone ... in a snap.
What that has taught me is that life is always too short. Life is precious.
So, hold a bit closer the people who matter to you.
Reach out to someone you haven't touched base with in a while.
Mend fences if you can.
The last thing I suspect any of us wants to do is shuffle off this mortal coil with regrets.