What We Suffer Now: An ex-NFL Wife’s Perspective

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Unless you’re a longtime Seattle Seahawks fan of a certain age, you’ve never heard of my late husband, Grant Feasel.

Grant was the starting center and long snapper for the Seahawks from 1987 to 1992 after starting his pro football career with the old Baltimore Colts in 1983. While playing 117 games in the National Football League, Grant was just another anonymous offensive lineman who toiled in the trenches, banging up his battered body with every snap of the ball. Those jarring collisions with powerful nose guards took their toll on Grant in physical, mental, and spiritual ways, which I share in my new book, After the Cheering Stops.

You see, after he retired from the NFL, Grant started drinking to dull the pain that began in his brain — a brain muddled by a history of repetitive trauma and symptomatic concussions. Neither of us knew at the time that he was slowly drinking himself to death — a lingering process that took nearly twenty years.

I can assure you that there was collateral damage: our marriage was destroyed, our three children were greatly impacted, and I was left financially reeling. All because my husband played a violent game that entertains tens of millions of football fans every Sunday.

In the midst of a rocky, unsettled period in my life, my therapist suggested that I start journaling. At the time, Grant was constantly drinking and barely hanging on to his job. His addiction to alcohol brought unbelievable stresses on our marriage and produced deep anxiety among our three children who ranged in age from their early twenties to high school.

During these darkest days of my life, I wrote this in my journal:

I feel like I’m drowning and I’m scared.

I feel out of control of my life. It’s over. God help me. I need You. I want this pain to end. I can’t stand it. Please, help me, God. I’m afraid and lonely. The darkness is closing in on Grant and me. One of us will die, or both of us will die. I feel lightheaded and weak. Free-falling. God help me, and please help Grant too. I can’t keep watching him die.

Right around this time, Grant’s father died, sending my husband into a deep emotional tailspin. I knew Grant felt guilty because he had interacted with his family less as alcohol took control of his life.

A touching and emotional memorial service for DeWayne Feasel took place on a beautiful day in Grant’s hometown — the high desert city of Barstow, California, a hundred miles east of Los Angeles in the middle of the arid Mojave Desert.

Inside the chapel at Mead Mortuary, the words of old hymns like “I Come to the Garden Alone” and “The Old Rugged Cross” caused me to cry as I squeezed Grant’s hand. Then my oldest son, Sean, read the 23rd Psalm with its haunting line:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

Throughout the service, Grant was frail and shaky; his skinny hand felt small as I grasped tightly and sobbed.

Grant and our two sons, Sean and Spencer, were pallbearers and wore white gloves. I silently prayed Grant would hold up. During the internment ceremony at Mt. View Memorial Park, with the beautiful desert mountains shimmering like a perfectly painted backdrop, I stood and sobbed uncontrollably… and noticeably. I wasn’t crying for my seventy-eight-year-old father-in-law, who’d been given a long life. Instead, I couldn’t help but think that Grant would be next.

Even though Grant had always been a “closet drinker” — someone who did best to hide his drinking — he was only fooling himself. As much as he tried to conceal his affair with alcohol from me and the kids, the physical toll couldn’t be missed: Grant’s footing wasn’t sure, he stammered and stuttered, his hands trembled, and his eyes remained glassy 24/7.

The only people I could talk to about what was happening in my life were my parents. My father, David Davy, shared two passages of Scripture that comforted me. The first is from Psalm 139:1-3 (NLT):

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.

The others were from Romans 8:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. — Romans 8:1, NLT

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. — Romans 8:18, NLT

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. — Romans 8:38, NLT

I wrote down these verses on an index card and carried them in my purse to look at every time I got anxious. That happened often.

Life did not end well for Grant. He died at the age of fifty-two in 2012 — much too young. I watched the man of my dreams die every day in front of my eyes.

By the world’s standards, I face a bleak future with deep emotional scars. But I refuse to give up. I’m excited about tomorrow because I have the greatest possession anyone can have: the hope for eternal life with Jesus Christ.

I’m also thankful that Grant is with the Great Physician and is healed now. Although he missed his real gifts and destiny in this world, I believe he’d be cheering me on to share his story as a precautionary tale of what can happen when you play a sport you love but has inherit risks that wreak tremendous physical damage.

So Grant, I know where you are — in Heaven with our Everlasting Father. You’re whole now and living in peace.

That’s the Grant I can’t wait to see again.

Watch the Video for After the Cheering Stops

Original post by Cyndy Feasel for Devotionals Daily.

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Your Turn

All of us suffer in this world. Also, we experience the pain of living alongside others who are suffering and sometimes losing those we love to destructive habits, self-sabotage, depression, illness, etc. But, we don’t suffer without hope! Heaven is ahead for those who put their hope in Him. Who is struggling in your life whom you are praying for today? Come share on our blog. We would love to hear from you about the hope we have in Jesus even during the hardest of times. ~ Devotionals Daily

Cyndy Feasel

Cyndy Feasel was married for twenty-nine years to NFL lineman Grant Feasel, who was discovered after his death to have developed CTE—a progressive degenerative brain disease—from the concussions he received playing football. An art teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, Cyndy is committed to raising awareness of CTE and the dangers of repetitive head injury.

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