Most Lakers’ fans will recall Robert Horry as I do. They watched him from afar and observed him to be the consummate role player and teammate. He was the cog that always seemed to fit, a player who was rarely flashy or dominant but always saved his best performances for when the team needed him most. In crunch time he was, cliche as it sounds, never afraid of the moment. Yet this fearlessness was not born so much from some innate sense of self as it was the experiences of his life. Specifically, the birth of his daughter Ashlyn.
In 2002 ESPN’s Ric Bucher did a piece on Horry that described how Ashlyn, her entry into the world and her medical travails, changed the way Robert Horry felt about his life and his career. It gave him a perspective that he didn’t have before and made some of the worries he might otherwise have hung on to seem small in comparison to what was truly important in his life. To quote Horry, “From the moment my daughter almost didn’t even make it, I realized you can’t control what life hands you. I used to get nervous before that. Excited nervous, like gimmetheball-gimmetheball-gimmetheball. Hey, I love what I do, and it’s important in a sense, but not compared to my family. It’s just a game.” What’s the significance of a game clinching three in the face of your daughter’s health? Not much, I suppose.
The truth is as good as her father was in crunch time, Ashlyn Horry needed to be at her best every moment of her life. The condition that afflicted her, a rare genetic disorder called 1p36 deletion syndrome, can stunt physical and cognitive development, cause cardiac and respiratory issues, as well as vision and hearing impairment. For Ashlyn it also meant that the slightest cold could be a life threatening illness, the slightest symptom a cause for alarm. Throughout the course of her life Ashlyn suffered through multiple surgeries and near death experiences, yet she kept battling. The word that comes to mind is fighter.
Because of her courage Ashlyn is an inspiration in my book. To make it as long as she did, to fight and survive despite the fact that doctors didn’t even have a name for the ailment that she had at the time of her birth, to me it is remarkable. And if her life inspires, her death reminds. It reminds us that we should all strive to keep the same perspective that Horry did during his playing career. Personally, it also reminds me of some of the people who have entered my life only to be taken away in all too short a time.
I think of the teenage brother of my friend Michael who was killed after being struck by a train in London. I think of baby Gavin, the son of a family friend who entered this world with a defective heart and left it all too soon. Most of all I think of my father. I think of of my grandparents having to watch him die in the prime of his life and what that must have felt like, not for me but for them.
I suppose there is nothing more unnatural in this world than a parent having to suffer through the loss of a child. No matter how sudden or drawn out, how expected or surprising, no matter how much they might have thought they could have prepared themselves, the reaction must always be the same. It is one of pain and shock and utter devastation. Because of this my deepest sympathies go out to Robert Horry and his family right now.
I think I speak for all of Lakers Nation when I say that you have our most sincere prayers and most heartfelt thoughts. Robert, you gave us so many wonderful moments over the years, so many memories that we will cherish always. I’m not sure if our collective condolences will assuage the grief you feel even in the slightest, but just know that we care and we are there for you. And we always will be.