In the wake of the appalling deaths of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, the television and internet were filled with heart-wrenching images of the pair taken throughout their time together in this world. 

The images portray the kind of bond that every human longs for but that modern culture seems to have seriously underappreciated. They have stirred something in our consciences.

And so the hashtag #GirlDad was born: an outpouring of posts paying tribute to fathers with daughters accompanied with moving photos and anecdotes that make the case for the inestimable value of a father’s love for his daughter. 

In these tributes, we see a good man and his daughter connected by a bond that, in its purity, awakens in fathers noble and sublime things. The joyful pictures, in turn, remind us that girls, impressionable and vulnerable as they are, see their true worth reflected back to them in the shining tenderness of their fathers’ eyes.  

A makeshift memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in the L.A. Live plaza across from Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. (Tom Hoffarth)

My own daughter is getting married later this year, and every day finds me working on one detail or another of the event. When I think of the nuptial Mass, the image that clutches at my heart is that of her father walking proudly joyful by her side, down the long aisle toward the altar.  

My husband cries watching sad commercials, so I’m sure he will be overcome with emotion, like I will, at the symbolism of the act. The little one who has evoked in him the strongest feelings of protectiveness, devotion, and solicitude in his life will be taking her last steps in his special care. And another good man will be claiming the honor of cherishing her as she has been accustomed to being cherished.    

Our daughter is young, only 23, but she is quite mature and navigates a complicated professional life with womanly panache. That’s on the outside. As her parents, we see what’s on the inside, and we know that she is still very much a girl. 

She has all the softness and delicacy of girls who have grown up in steady, affectionate families, and haven’t yet had to grow calluses over the inevitable wounds of adult life.  

She has, God be thanked, chosen well. Her father and I have complete confidence that her betrothed will be everything a husband ought to be. 

He will shelter her from the storms of life and be steadfast in tenderness when a woman most needs it. He will be faithful and constant in an uncertain, treacherous world. And he will welcome their children into existence with the confidence of one who knows how to be perseveringly industrious, and is prepared, if need be, to be heroic in meeting the needs of his family.  

Although we are grateful, we can’t say we’re surprised by her choice. She has had a father who has taught her what she is worth. A good father sees the infinite value of the person he has been blessed to parent with perfect clarity. 

Her appearance, her abilities, her material success or lack thereof, even her errors of judgment — none of these things matter next to her shining perfect self. A good father communicates that value judgment back to her, through a love that forgets itself in care for the beloved. The daughter learns her worth and knowing it, looks, instinctively but surely, for a husband who also knows it.

In the images of Kobe and his daughter, and in the images posted under #GirlDad, the bond between fathers and daughters is vividly evident. We’re seeing fathers elevated in their affection for their daughters, their protectiveness and sheltering strength brought forth to grace not just the girls but everyone around them. And their daughters are taught to know themselves as they truly are — aristocratic purities — and not the base metal the world proposes as their worth.