I was born in Australia. I started playing sports when I was about three—basketball was always my favorite. I just really enjoyed it, and I was pretty good at it.
I lost my mother when I was four. After that, it was just me, my sister, and my father. That was it. We called ourselves “the triangle.” We became a team—and we’re still a team.
I love my mother. To this day, it is still hard to be without her. When I fill out forms, I include my father’s name, his cell phone number, and emergency contact. Right next to that are fields for “mother”. Those have been blank since I was four. It still gets me every time, just seeing that I can’t fill it out. Even though I lost her at a young age, it still hits me. But the love in your heart has to grow bigger. The love for my father and my sister grew stronger because we went through it together.
Our loss was most noticeable when we moved to Newark, New Jersey. Not many people had lost parents in that community. They had two parents picking them up from school. It seemed like everybody else had the perfect family. So I never really brought it up, ever. I just always kept it to myself.
And when I was feeling that way, usually I would go out the house, pick up a basketball, and just do what I love to do.
Often times, I would be in my room and just sit on my bed, staring at the wall and thinking about her. I knew that because my mother wasn’t there, I would never know her life lessons or even if I would get along with her—I would just sit there with all these thoughts running through my mind. And when I was feeling that way, usually I would go out the house, pick up a basketball, and just do what I love to do.
I had to really learn how to open up, especially to my father. I watched my father play basketball so much—my father was my idol. Even though I’m in the NBA and he never was able to make it to the NBA, he’s still my hero and the greatest person I know in basketball.
The advice I would give to kids who are dealing with the loss of a parent is two-fold. One, know you’re not alone. And two, understand the parent that you still have is grieving just as much as you are. They’re going through the same thing, so you have to go through it together. That’s why I formed “the triangle” with my father and my sister. We understood that my mother was gone, but she’s always going to be in our memory. She’s always going to be in our hearts.
Just remember: you’re going to get through it. You’re going to be okay. I got through it—I’m twenty years old and I’ve achieved my ultimate dream.
There’s nothing stopping you. There’s nobody that can stop you.
This story was first published by The Shared Grief Project. The Shared Grief Project is a nonprofit organization focused on sharing stories of individuals who experienced loss at an early age and have gone on to live healthy, happy, and successful lives.