Vanessa Bryant tearfully shared memories of late husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna at the public memorial for the duo at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Monday, February 24, nearly a month after they lost their lives in a helicopter wreck in Calabasas, California.
The model, 37, began her 20-minute eulogy with remembrances of Gianna. “She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me,” she said of the 13-year-old. “She was so thoughtful to remember to kiss me every day. She was Daddy’s girl, but I know she loved her mama, and she would always show me and tell me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends.”
Vanessa also listed some of Gianna’s passions and accomplishments: She loved to bake, she was her school’s spirit president and the assistant director of her school play and she even offered to give pointers to the boys’ basketball coaches.
“Gianna had a sweet grace about her,” Vanessa added. “Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face, like mine. Kobe always said she was me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm, but she was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine. … Gianna made us all proud, and she still does.”
She went on: “I miss her sweet kisses, I miss her cleverness, I miss her sarcasm, her wit and that adorable sly side smile followed with a grin and a burst of laughter. We shared the same ‘cat that ate the canary’ grin. Gigi was sunshine. She brightened my day every day.”
In her eulogy, Vanessa mourned some of the opportunities she would miss without Gianna in her life. “We will not be able to able to see Gigi go to high school with Natalia and ask her how her day went. We didn’t get the chance to teach her how to drive a car. I won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I’ll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, dance on the dance floor with me or have babies of her own. … I cannot imagine life without her.”
She then spoke on behalf of Kobe and their three surviving daughters. “Mommy, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and Daddy love you so much, Gigi. I will miss your sweet handmade cards, your sweet kisses and your gorgeous smile. I miss you, all of you, every day. I love you.”
After honoring Gianna, Vanessa segued to a tribute to “soulmate,” the former Los Angeles Lakers star. “Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court, the greatest of all time, a writer, an Oscar winner and the Black Mamba; but to me, he was KoKo, my boo-boo … my papi chulo,” she said of Kobe, who was 41 at the time of the tragedy. “He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children. He was my everything. Kobe and I have been together since I was 17-and-a-half years old. I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant and his protector.”
She continued: “He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. He was the early bird, and I was the night owl. He was fire, and I was ice, or vice versa at times. We balanced each other out. He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man who loved and wanted me more than Kobe.”
Vanessa spoke of the similarities between father and daughter. “They were so easy to love. They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life. They were so full of joy and adventure. God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi. … We love and miss you, booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy.”
The California native first spoke out about her grief on January 29, thanking the “millions of people” who had shown love and support to her family. “I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way,” she wrote via Instagram at the time. “Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality.”
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