Skip to main content

A Marriage Explodes for the Better

Share This article

Carol Esham remembers, “September 19th, 1999, we took the boat out onto the river for a cruise. What happened next, it changed our lives forever.”

Bob Esham says, “Carol and I were married on August 24th in 1984. What should have been a day that ushered in marital bliss was instead the beginning of a volatile union.

“We argued about everything,” says Carol. “We argued about nothing.”

“Carol wanted to get married and I didn't,” recalls Bob. “And I figured if I married her, that the arguing would stop and we'd get along a little better. And obviously that didn't work out very well.”

“We’re two different people. We're just total opposites and many people are total opposites. But we don't see eye to eye on anything,” says Carol. “What made matters worse was that I grew up in an Italian family and it seemed like the men gave the women whatever they wanted. And that's what I expected.”

“Our worldviews were so different and we really didn't even live like a married couple. We were more like roommates. I think there was always a spark of love there, but we just didn't like each other,” says Bob.

Carol says, “I think we both wanted to be right and we both couldn't understand why the other person wasn't thinking the same.”

"As Carol became more and more bitter, I escaped through drinking alcohol and staying gone. I was a pilot. I was able to pick up the longest trips I could pick up,” recalls Bob. “I stayed gone as much as I could.”

Carol says, “The more that I tried to change him, the more that he stonewalled, he disengaged, and that's why he didn't even want to come home.”

“Alcohol just seemed to dull the pain. Drinking was a real problem for me,” says Bob.

“If he had one drink, he was going to have ten drinks and then he would just not be fun to be around,” remembers Carol. 

“For the next 15 years, we drifted further and further apart,” says Bob. 

“We sort of settled into what was mediocre or less than mediocre,” Carol says. 

“Everything changed on September 19th, 1999. It started with us attending my friend's wedding,” says Bob. “At the beginning of the wedding, Billy goes down to the front of the chapel and he gave his testimony, just talked about what Jesus had done in his life. I just knew God was speaking to me and God was telling me, 'Bob, it's time to get off the fence. It's time to quit drinking.' It was just probably the clearest I'd ever heard God speak. And I just knew that my life was going to change. Later that day, we took our boat out under the Ohio River for a cruise. I told Carol what I felt. God had spoken to me that day.”

Carol recalls, “I'm thinking, 'Well, that sounds really good. I don't really know that that's going to happen. But one could only hope.' Bob went to start the boat back up, but the engine was dead.”

Bob says, “There was a fuel leak, and I fixed the fuel leak, cleaned everything up and I thought everything was going to be fine.”

“When Bob hit the starter switch, the boat exploded!” recalls Carol. 

“Blew up! Flames everywhere. And here I looked at her, and she was actually flying backwards off of the boat. And I'm guessing probably 20 or 25 feet from the boat. She was just in the air going backwards,” says Bob. 

“Since I wasn't a swimmer, I didn't have a life jacket on. I was pretty sure I would drown,” Carol recalls. “And that's when I cried out to God. And I said, ‘Lord, please don't let it end like this!'”

“I was completely surrounded by flames,” says Bob, “And, and I...I saw Carol come to the surface in the water.”

Carol says, “I can't explain it, but just it was serene, just looking around, looking at a burning boat, not understanding what was really happening at the moment.”

“Nearby boaters saw the accident and called 911. They helped us to shore, and an off duty nurse tended to us,” recalls Bob. “I was remarkably unscathed. Carol, however, suffered first, second, and third degree burns. She spent a week in the hospital recovering, and the near-death experience was a wake up call for both of us. We knew that...that God saved us for purpose. There was just no question about it. Carol and I were in total agreement on that. One of the first times we ever agreed on anything.”

Carol says, “All of a sudden, when you almost lose somebody that you love, even though the marriage wasn't good, we were both immediately on board to find a way to have a good marriage.”

“We just immersed ourselves in God's Word and everything we could do to get closer to Jesus and we began a faith journey that day,” says Bob.

“God was teaching me things that I didn't know about myself. And Bob was doing the same thing. All of a sudden we found ourselves to be on the same page. We were chasing after the same things,” Carol says. 

Bob confirms, “We had done it our own way for way too long. And once we started being obedient to what God was telling us, we fell in love.”

Carol says, “Over the next 15 years, our marriage went from being something that caused us pain to becoming something we cherish to this day. As a result, in 2014, we started a ministry we call, Merci, to help others struggling in their marriage. God has transformed every area of our lives which made it easier for us to do well in marriage.”

Bob says, “When we do this God's way, it's beautiful. We do it our way, not so much.”

Carol says, “Love is totally different when it's unselfish. It's like finding the cure for cancer. You just want to shout it from the rooftops that if God could save our marriage, he could save everybody's marriages. 'We went through fire and water, yet You took us to a place of abundance.' And that's the life we're living now. We're living a life of abundance, following God's ways and sharing it with other people. And we can't have a greater joy than that.”

Find out more about Carol and Bob Esham's marriage ministry, Merci, at

Share Your Story

Share This article