Matt Mauser: His wife died with Kobe Bryant. Two years on, he shares grief of 7 overlooked deaths

Matt Mauser was asleep when his wife Christina spoke to him for the last time. She was up early to go to a girls’ basketball tournament, where she was coaching with her friend, NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Mr Mauser, the frontman for a California rock band, had been up late the night before, and Ella Christina did not want to wake him. So she just told him she loved him and left.

“She kissed me on the cheek and I didn’t wake up,” Mr Mauser told The Independent.

Later, as he was brushing his teeth, the musician learned the news at the same time as the rest of the world: the helicopter carrying Christina, Bryant, and seven other people had crashed, killing everyone on board.

Two years later, Mr Mauser wishes he’d gotten out of bed.

“I regret not saying I love you back,” he said with pain in his voice.

Since that day, 26 January 2020, the news media has mostly focused on the deaths of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna – and, more recently, on the lawsuits by Bryant’s widow, Vanessa. But Mr Mauser wants people to also remember the names of the less famous victims – including Sarah Chester, her 13-year-old daughter Payton, the college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife de él, Keri, and their 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa.

“I want people to know that Christina and the other people on board were amazing people – as amazing as Kobe in a lot of ways,” the widower said. “I don’t want people to forget them.”

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Above all, Mr Mauser wants the world to remember the woman he calls “the love of my life.” Christina Mauser (originally Patterson) was born in 1981, and quickly became an athletic prodigy – according to one bio, she was skiing at just two years old. In high school, she was an award-winning basketball player. As an adult, she taught physical education at Harbor Day School in Orange County, where Matt also taught – but that’s not how they met.

“She was a fan of my band,” recalled Mr Mauser, the singer-songwriter of the Tijuana Dogs.

At the end of one concert, Matt asked Christina to dance. She demurred at first, but after a lot of persuasion from her friends de ella and the rock singer, they danced until the end of the night.

“I said, ‘Come back some time,’” Mr Mauser recalled. “About a year went by and she came back… And that was it.”

Three months later, they were married. They remained together for 15 years, and had three children: Penny, 13; Thomas, 11; and Ivy, 5. (Penny had originally been scheduled to join her mother on the helicopter, but at the last minute, she and her dad made a plan to perform a song they’d written together instead. Mr Mauser credits the song with saving her life of her.)

Meanwhile, Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, attended Harbor Day School, and the NBA star got to know the Mausers. Learning their different talents from him, I have recruited Matt to write the music for his podcast from him, and Christina to coach at his youth basketball league, Mamba Sports Academy.

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“Kobe saw what an amazing mind Christina had for basketball, and how good she was with the kids,” Mr Mauser has written. “He brought her on as the assistant coach… to teach the kids defense, and they called her the ‘Mother of Defense.’”

Bryant, Gianna, and Christina were on their way to a game at Mamba when their helicopter crashed. Christina was just 38 years old.

“She was my biggest fan, as I was hers,” Mr Mauser reflected.

In an especially cruel twist of fate, Christina died just before the pandemic arrived in the US, cutting the Mausers off from their community just when they needed it most.

“We needed help, we needed socialization, we needed community, and we got stuck with nothing,” Mr Mauser recalled. “I had three mourning children, and they shut the schools down and they locked us in, and it’s just been really hard.”

But the Mausers “aren’t quitters,” he said, and they learned to become a one-parent family even amid the lockdowns and social distancing. The newly single dad says he works hard to bring his children joy even as they struggle with grief. On the second anniversary of Christina’s death, he knew they’d be bombarded with reminders of the tragedy from the news and social media – so he took the kids out of school for a family go-kart race.

“I think it’s really important to just keep living and show ’em that you gotta continue,” the father explained.

Meanwhile, Mr Mauser has built a charity in his wife’s honor. The Christina Mauser Foundation provides college scholarships to female students who show a talent for sports – much like Christina in her youth.

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“The last two years of her life were dedicated to helping young women become better people and better basketball players,” Mr Mauser said. “So I decided to start a scholarship in her name de ella about promoting women in sports and helping young women reach their potential.”

These days, the musician says living through grief is like driving through a thick fog. It’s hard to see, but if you just focus on the lines on the road, they can carry you out of the mist. The analogy is poignant, because fog is believed to be part of the reason Christina’s helicopter crashed. But it’s also apt.

“She died on a foggy day and since she passed we’ve been in a fog,” Mr Mauser said, “but hopefully we’ll just keep going and eventually we’ll rise above it.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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