LOS ANGELES -- Matt Mauser is a musician and songwriter based in Southern California. In January 2020, he lost his wife, Christina, in the same helicopter crash that took the lives of NBA icon Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Mauser continues to perform while raising his three children, Penny, 13, Tom, 11, and Ivy, 5, and he has launched The Christina Mauser Foundation, which supports single mothers, women and girls in sports through scholarships and other financial aid. Here, he reflects on his relationship with Christina and how he has coped with the devastating loss. This was originally published on Jan. 26, 2021, on abcnews.com.
It only took one date to realize Christina was special and someone I wanted in my life forever.
It was after a Sunday early evening bar performance at a Huntington Beach watering hole when Christina walked up to me as I was breaking down speaker cables and sipping down the last swallows of a Coors Light.
"Are you going to sing an original song?" she asked.
Stunned that a woman as beautiful as she would ask to hear a song that I had penned, I asked her how she even knew we had original songs. With a cracked smile that exposed her brilliantly white teeth, which contrasted with her beautiful olive skin, she replied, "We've talked a few times, and you sold me a CD last time. I love your song 'Still,' and you should play it."
Well, there it was. She supported my music, the most important thing to me at that point in my life. Little did I know that at that particular moment, the wheels were set in motion for a friendship and a love affair filled with encouragement and support in pursuing each other's dreams.
I told her I was done and invited her to grab a bite. She explained that she was with friends and said if her plans changed she would call.
Well, she called.
We drove through a Del Taco and parked in front of her house, where I played an old CD of original songs I had written (a technique I had found quite effective when courting). We later stumbled upon one of my favorite songs by the dynamic '80s duo Hall & Oates. A song called "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)." I explained to her that Michael Jackson had stolen the bass line from that song for his smash hit "Billie Jean." I then started to beat box the song and dance in my seat.
Christina must've thought I was ridiculous, and she started laughing uncontrollably. It was the first time I'd heard her laugh. It was the sweetest, most sincere, honest display of joy I had ever experienced. It was a symphony. I fell in love with her at that moment.
In November 2004, I asked Christina to marry me. We had only been dating for four months, but after having met my mom for lunch just a week before, I received some good advice that only a mother could impart.
"Matt, if you let this one go, you're just stupid. She's special!"
I didn't want to be seen as stupid in my mom's eyes, so I proposed when we walked into a Zales store and told her to pick one.
She looked me in the eye and said, "Are you asking me to marry you?"
"Yes," I said.
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Her eyes began to tear, and then she looked at me with complete clarity and said, "Well, I'll marry you, but we are not getting my wedding ring at Zales."
"Fair enough," I responded. We were married on May 6, 2005, one of the happiest days of my life. Christina was breathtaking, stunning ... no words can describe how beautiful she was. I was the luckiest man on the planet.
We welcomed three beautiful children, built our business, traveled when we could, remodeled our home, participated in the kids' school and sports, coached basketball at the school where we both worked, hosted family get-togethers, financed and paid off car loans, delivered meals to neighbors in need, lost family and friends to cancer, read books on what to expect when you're expecting, stayed up late watching horrible reality TV shows, shared a beer or two after a hard day and talked about the future. All the things you do with your partner, the one person in the world you love. We did all of that together. We were a family. We were best friends.
In the year since Christina's death, I've experienced the darkest days of my life. The fog that played a part in her death lifted later that day, but the fog of losing my soulmate remained in my heart.
I've learned to maneuver through the fog.
Like driving on a mountain road, I can see the white line of the highway below me. I follow that line with the hope of someday climbing high enough to rise above the cloud cover. I follow that line with the hope of watching the sunrise over the horizon and looking down to see the road below. A road riddled with potholes, hazards and hairpin turns.
Nonetheless, it's the road I have traveled, the road that got me through the fog.
And when I get through it, I will pull off, take a deep breath as I take a sip of coffee, look to the sky and talk to my wife. I hope she is proud of me. I think she will be.
Editor's note: This was originally published on Jan. 26, 2021.