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Bride’s “gift of life” after groom’s tragic honeymoon death

White rose bridal bouquet on table

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Cerith Gardiner - published on 02/24/24

In a truly inspiring story, a young widow shares her incredible joy and hope for the future, fueled by her faith.

Marriage symbolizes not only the union of two individuals before God, but a promise of a future together. However, for one young couple this future was short-lived after a water-skiing accident took the life of the groom, 23-year-old Nathaniel (Nate) Kuhlman, on the first day of their honeymoon.

In what is an unthinkable tragedy, the 22-year-old bride, Mariana Kuhlman (Mari) shared her full story with National Catholic Register, with her loving in-laws by her side. And her story is not only surprising and inspiring, it also reveals the power of faith to help and heal in the darkest of moments.

The pair met at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, in October 2021, and just two years later on October 28, 2023, they were wed, in what was described as a “prayerful and fun” occasion. (Although if you watch the couple’s wedding video below, you’ll be captivated by the couple’s love a devotion.)

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A post shared by Catholic Wedding Videographer • FLORIDA & SURROUNDING (@thecatholicweddingvideographer)

A honeymoon tragedy

Incredibly, just three days later, Nathaniel died from drowning on the Island of St. Lucia when the proficient water-skier fell and was knocked unconscious as his wife looked on from the shore.

While paramedics tried to revive him for a full hour, Nathaniel didn’t respond. Family members came to the island to be by Mariana’s side, praying for a resurrection similar to that of Lazarus.

While their initial prayers weren’t answered, Mariana and Nathaniel’s family held on firmly to their faith. As the young marketing professional explained to NCR:

I wasn’t angry at God, ever, throughout. Nathaniel is now where he had always wanted to be. But I didn’t think it would be that soon, and I don’t think I’ll ever understand why in this life.”

Mariana further shared that whilst praying the Lazarus Prayer, she pondered: “What if God answers this in another way, that I’m pregnant.” Well, on Thanksgiving Day, just under a month after their wedding, a pregnancy test revealed that Mariana’s prayers had been answered with what she describes as a “gift of life.” As she recounted:

I was so overjoyed that God would give us this gift of new life. I was wishing Nathaniel was here with me, but there is overwhelming joy. I could feel his joy. He already knew, but I was just finding out.”

The new mom shared the joyous news on Instagram. And her excitement is palpable as she pointed out:

Clearly, God had a plan bigger than anything we could have ever imagined. He answered our prayers, and prayers of those around the world, just in a different way than we had expected, but still the GIFT OF LIFE; the miracle we are so overjoyed to finally share with you all.💗

Unwavering faith

In December the baby’s scan revealed that the little miracle is thriving. Mariana has moved in with her in-laws, Heather and Gordon, which has further helped the couple in their grief.

“Having the gift of Mari living with us allows me to see things differently, see things more sweetly. [When Nathaniel died] it felt like part of the loss was the chance to be a grandfather was gone too. That has been restored,” shared Gordon.

Whereas for Heather she finds joy and solace in gaining a daughter:

Because my son loved her, that’s how I gained this beautiful daughter. I’m so grateful for that love: to be able to have a daughter I never had.”

In Heather’s moving eulogy at her son’s funeral on November 18 at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church in Tarpon Springs, Florida, she shared:

There is no denying the pain or the tears. … They come at will, ready or not. But God also has been showing up in so many ways. We have felt his presence, blessings and graces through people like you … so I offer to the Lord all the energy and time spent to put it together so that you too would be able to experience the joy of the Lord … through my offering to the Lord.”

Our prayers to the Kuhlman family as they continue to inspire people with their steadfast faith, and for the safe arrival of Nathaniel and Mariana’s most precious blessing.

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