UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Fans around the world found ways to grieve the loss of NBA icon Kobe Bryant. Monica Stanley of Upper Marlboro created an unofficial funeral program and posted her tribute to Instagram. The post went viral with more than 143,000 views showcasing Stanley’s unique take on funeral programs.

"I have had long talks to God about this," Stanley explained. "The talk God had with me was you’re not focusing on their death, you’re focusing on their life."

Guided by grace and purpose, Stanley tells someone’s life story, after death, in funeral programs like none other. 

"In the black community we celebrate life," she said. "But looking at the program you’re like 'this is not a celebration because it tells me nothing about the person."

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So, the graphic designer decided to add life to her programs using vibrant colors, pops of personality and details specific to a person’s life even if it means creating a program that looks like a record for a former DJ.  

"That’s the only thing people take away from the funeral is the program, so why not let that speak for the person," she said. 

Some speak louder than others, like her tribute to Kobe Bryant. Stanley said she worked on the cover alone for 27 hours straight. It is indeed a labor of love. 

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Whether you're admired by fans worldwide or adored by your family, Stanley pours the same amount of passion into each program, knowing her storytelling is more than a funeral keepsake; it’s the history of a family, the record of lineage and a celebration of life.  

"It is our history," she said, "because a lot of us don’t know our history."

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