Breaking her silence for the first time since the death of her husband, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Vanessa Bryant, in a tribute to the departed, said: "It is impossible to imagine life without them."
Kobe Bryant and Gianna along with seven others were flying to Thousand Oaks in a helicopter to participate in a youth basketball tournament when their chopper crashed in the rugged terrain of Calabasas.
Vanessa changes her Instagram profile picture
Before posting her tribute on her Instagram page, Vanessa changed her profile picture to one showing Kobe and Gianna sharing a loving moment as Kobe holds on to his daughter with both hands while balancing a basketball with his elbow.
The picture was taken during the final match of the NBA All-Star Game on February 14, 2016. Kobe can be seen wearing an NBA All-Star warmup outfit in the picture. Vanessa had changed the settings of her page to private following the fatal crash. It was made public again with the page crossing 4.8 million followers.
In a heart-wrenching post, Vanessa described Kobe and Gianna as lighting the way for them. The post was accompanied by a picture showing the beautiful family of six smiling while posing for the camera.
In the tribute, Vanessa thanked fans for their support during the tragedy. "My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who've shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately."
Terming her husband and their second daughter as "beautiful blessings taken away too soon", she said: "There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon."
'Impossible to imagine life without them'
Vanessa, who wished to hug and bless Kobe and Gigi one more time, said: "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. 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."
Towards the end, the grieving widow requested privacy in these difficult times. "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. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. Vanessa ended the post with hashtags #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️
Vanessa sets up a fund to help families affected by the tragedy
To help the family members of those who died in the crash along with Kobe and Gianna, Vanessa said a fund has been set up for donations. "To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy."
"To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna's legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org," she wrote at the end of the post.
Kobe was a proud 'girl dad'
Vanessa married Kobe Bryant 2001, three years after they met for the first time in 1999. They shared four daughters: Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months old.
On Wednesday, the hashtag #GirlDad trended on social media after ESPN's Elle Duncan shared her story with Kobe. Duncan said: "I would have five more girls if I could. I'm a girl dad."