“I knew what I was getting into when I married Eric.
A high-school teacher and coach. Young, driven, successful, and passionate; in work and in life. He was a wonderfully thoughtful and caring man. He was full of love, preached family, and it was never about winning; it was about creating men of character and honor, winning was just the by-product.
Marrying Eric meant that I would forever be proud of him, that he would be gone a lot and I’d be expected to hold the fort down at home. But it’s okay. I was strong, independent and willing. I loved and believed in this man and his vision for life. I wanted a part of all of it.
We were married for almost 15-years.
We loved each other hard, and supported and encouraged each other the way most people could only dream about in a relationship. We didn’t have a perfect marriage, but it was pretty damn close.
They say marriages are work. And they are, but ours was mostly fun and easy.
We happened to be in a difficult season at the time though. It was probably the hardest point in our relationship. It was a season when we allowed our priorities to get out of whack; we got sucked into the hustle of life and work. Our daughters were 11 and 8 at the time and they kept us plenty busy when we weren’t overcommitting ourselves in our own work and social schedules.
And yet we loved it.
I felt like we were thriving in it.
But we weren’t.
Our relationship was suffering.
I’m not just blaming Eric. I blame myself, too. I blame us, the both of us. And I know Eric would agree. It was a hard time on our relationship – we weren’t prioritizing ourselves as a couple and we were growing emotionally distant.
I wasn’t worried about us though. I was never worried. We would work it out – I know we would have – we committed ourselves to each other. And our commitment was strong and bonded.
And yet, still… one day I found myself painting a bedroom on a random Sunday. At the time I was emotionally distant and heavily annoyed at Eric who was in the other room. Our kids knew that their dad was available for them, and yet they continued to yell for ‘mommy!’
So, yes, I was aggravated. I was annoyed. And I was frustrated.
I found this thought creeping into my mind…
‘God knows if anything were to happen to Eric, I’d be okay… I do it all now anyway!’
I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t the first time I had those thoughts. I remember thinking to myself about how terrible it was; I knew I was frustrated, but still.
‘The room looks good!,’ Eric peeked through the doorway.
I didn’t smile. I didn’t say thank you. Instead, I was very short with him and scuffed, ‘well, it’s done.’
We looked at each other for awhile. I knew he had a football meeting to get to that evening. I quickly raised my eyebrows just a little and said snarkily, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about us…’
And ever so gently, he half-smiled and replied, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about us, too.’
I remember wanting to cry in frustration. He was such a good man. How did I deserve him? And here I was being short and snarky with him, and all the while his mannerisms and tone of voice were calm and loving.
We were hurting. Maybe it was just me, I dunno.
‘Come over here and give me a kiss,’ he smiled. I had a hard time being mad at him, he knew how to turn on the charm. I approached, but I was still standoffish.
Not the quick little peck you do when you rush off somewhere, but a soft, gentle, and lingering one. It was nice. That kiss let me know we’d be okay. I knew it, but the kiss confirmed it. I needed that kiss. It’s the only kiss that ever mattered between us.
I heard him say goodbye to the girls in the living room. I heard him yell, ‘love you’ and then the garage door slam shut.
A few hours later I was snuggled with the girls watching a movie when I heard my phone.
It was a football coach’s number – not Eric’s. I bet it was Eric calling to tell me he had forgotten his phone again. It happens all the time.
It wasn’t Eric, nor was it the coach the phone belonged to.
‘Eric’s not breathing, hurry quick!’
Losing Eric was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
But the hardest thing I’ve ever done is tell my girls.
Family brought them up to the hospital when we finally knew something. I met them near the garage because there were so many people around the corner down the hospital hallway; coaches, players, parents, colleagues, family, and friends. The girls needed to know what was going on before they saw all these people…
I pulled both of our blonde-headed girls to me. Speaking these words aloud to these precious girls was going to be harder than I thought, I wasn’t sure the words would escape me.
‘What’s going on, mom?’
‘Daddy had a bubble in his brain that nobody knew about…’
‘At daddy’s meeting, the bubble popped and daddy stopped breathing…’
Another deep breath, and in barely a whisper, ‘Daddy’s not gonna make it.’
I will never ever forget their little faces looking up at me as they realized what these words meant. They buried their little faces into me and I just remember hugging them so incredibly tight and just crying. Crying so hard that my throat tightened and pained and yet no sound escaped from me. I remember tears. Lots of tears. My face was wet and stained.
Eric collapsed and died from a massive ruptured brain aneurysm. He will forever be 43.
I share our story because Eric and I had a really great marriage. We really did. All marriages go through rough spots, ours just happened to be when he passed away. And even though we had a great marriage, we still would have done some things differently.
I wasn’t in the moment when Eric was alive. I was too busy catching the next dream, shooting for the next goal. And I think he was too, a little. I don’t think so, I know so.
My life with Eric, my love with Eric, and even Eric’s loss has made me into the woman I am today. And I am a much better woman today. Yes, even in Eric’s absence. I know how messed up that sounds. But eventually you see the gifts that grief has given you.
Gifts of perspective, appreciation, and gratitude. I live a much quieter and slower paced lifestyle now. I prefer it. I am so much more mindful than I was in my previous life. I schedule time to be unbusy. I say ‘no’ more often and don’t feel bad about it. My life and soul is so much more at peace than I was before. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but it feels good.
I wished I lived that way with Eric.
I wish I enjoyed and appreciated him more while I had the chance.
I think of him and miss him every day, every moment.
And still, we move forward.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kari Driskell of Stilwell, Kansas. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more powerful stories like this:
‘You said ‘had,’ I interrupted him. He looked at me and stuttered. He didn’t correct himself.’: Pregnant wife loses high school sweetheart in motorcycle accident, toddler son ‘asks for Da-Da constantly’
‘I can’t believe this is happening again.’ He held our daughter, tears down his cheeks. I knew deep in my soul.’: Wife says ‘It was the honor of my life to be married to him’ after husband dies of cancer
Please SHARE this story on Facebook to encourage others to cherish every moment and love what matters most.