Eric Hickson said he has had two great people in his life who have served as father figures. The first is his dad, Eric Hickson Sr., and the second is his grandfather, Charles Sebo, who died in 2016.
“One of the things I will never forget was one of our last moments together,”Hickson said. “He had many strokes, and it was clear that this was his last bout. He hadn’t talked for awhile — his speech suffered due to the strokes — but I remember going in, driving from Benton to Fort Smith to say goodbye.
“I knew why I was going, but in my last moment with him — I consider this an act of God — he was able to speak to me so clearly in a way that I hadn’t heard him speak since I was a kid.”
After that, Hickson said, watching Pat, his grandmother, during his grandfather’s last moments of his life, “it was just so pure.”
“I can remember going home. I could have felt upset, and I had those feelings, but I also had a sense of awe,” Hickson said. “The love that these two had for each other after 50-plus years of marriage — it really has a lasting impact.”
Hickson said his grandfather had a strong faith in God and “knew he was going to be in heaven with his parents and loved ones and hold their hands again.”
“I had to take that and apply that to my life,” Hickson said, “and make sure I had that same certainty — that no matter the outcome, things were going to be OK because we had that assurance of salvation. Because no matter how much [my wife] suffers and if she passes, she’s going to join those and be in God’s presence.”
Amy Hickson, Eric’s wife, was diagnosed with an aneurysm at the end of November of last year. Eric said it happened all of sudden, and it was beyond a migraine or a headache.
“She felt like something was wrong,” Hickson said. “She thought death was a possibility, and that is not something she says lightly.”
Hickson said he took her to the emergency room, and by that morning, she was having brain surgery. He said she was diagnosed with having two aneurysms, and one of them burst.
“It is hard to say what caused it,” Hickson said. “We know the steps we need to take moving forward, but it is nothing that we expected at all.”
Amy’s brain surgery lasted six hours, and after that, she was in the hospital for weeks. Eric said that when she finally got home, it was still a lengthy process of recovery.
“We are just so blessed that she made it through the process with no lasting effects that we have come to notice,” Hickson said. “Dr. Ali Krisht [at St. Vincent] is a wonderful doctor, and he is very confident in his skills.
“I have to give him credit, after talking to him, that he definitely had the demeanor and a good bedside manner. He made you feel like you were the only patient in the world.”
Hickson said that when you see the percentage of those who survive an aneurysm and the percentage of those who survive with no lasting effects, he feels as though they are a minority inside a minority.
“Blessed is really the word,” Hickson said.
Hickson and his family have lived in Benton for the past 12 years. The couple have two kids, Parker, 8, and Caleigh, 3, and just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary. They have been members of First United Methodist Church in Benton for two years.
“In the last year, I have watched Eric consistently live into his covenant vows of marriage for his wife and his children,” FUMC senior pastor Ben Crismon said.
“In the aftermath of his wife’s surgery, Eric was a consummate caregiver for her, all the while continuing to care for their children and maintain his career. I have witnessed his incredible faith, and his devotion to keeping his family rooted in God’s love. Time and time again, he has blown me away with his spiritual strength and willingness to serve God and others,” Crismon said.
“One of the things that made me feel great, and Amy as well, was just the love we got from the congregation and our senior pastor,” Hickson said. “Ben was always checking up on us and seeing what he could do, and it was genuine.
“I thank God all the time for this church.”
Hickson said that during his wife’s recovery process, it was tough because on top of managing the household and being there for his wife, he also had to be there for his family and, most importantly, the kids.
“It was stressful, but I didn’t have a choice. It was time to be a father. I take pride in being a husband and a father, and behind being a disciple of God, that is the most important role in my life,” Hickson said.
“Above everything else, it is being a father to my children and being the husband to my wife. They deserve the best out of me, and I do everything I can to give it to them,” he said.
“I often think what makes a father good is how he models the love of God,” Crismon said. “Eric does this beautifully. He lives a life of compassion and service for his family and community.
“He is an excellent man, and I think the world of him.”
Hickson said he was also really thankful for Amy’s co-workers at USAble Life in Little Rock, where she has worked for more than 10 years.
“They were beyond helpful, and we didn’t have to worry about anything at all, as far as her being replaced,” Hickson said.
“I saw the amount of love that her co-workers gave. They took donations to help with expenses, medical bills and the overall things that go with going through something like this. What they gave us was a solid peace of mind,” he said.
“My mom was wonderful and helped us so much in keeping up with the house and getting the kids taken where they needed to be,” Amy said. “My work family took donations and bought Christmas gifts for our children. I can never express how grateful I am for the help we received from friends and family — meals and donations to help with bills and help with our kids.”
Hickson said he was also really thankful for his family and his in-laws in making sure things were covered at home while Amy was at the hospital.
“But most importantly, it was leaning on God. I have to give him all the credit,” Hickson said. “What I was able to do, I know if I hadn’t had him on my side, I would have folded, no doubt.
“He gave me the patience, strength and the discipline. He got me through the sleepless nights. In the early times, we didn’t know what the outcome would be. I would take comfort in knowing that I was walking through this with God.”
Hickson is originally from Spiro, Oklahoma, but has lived in Arkansas since he was about 17 years old. He and Amy met after one of his close friends moved to the Saline County area.
“I would come up routinely to hang out, and just by being in certain circles, I noticed her,” he said. “One night, we had a very long talk, and we found we shared a lot of the same values and that we got along and enjoyed each other’s company.
“That led to a date and more trips to the Benton-Bryant area, and after a time, we ended up married.”
Hickson was living in Greenwood at the time but said making the trip was worth it because Amy was “a special lady.”
“My husband is my best friend,” Amy said. “He is patient, kind, caring and loving. He is there for me no matter what we are going through, and I cherish every moment we have together.
“He is a wonderful father to our kids and teaches them so much. He guides our son in so many ways, from helping others and being a gentleman, to protecting his litter sister. We were very young when we got married, and together, we have grown over the years, and I can’t imagine life without him.”
Hickson said there was a period in his life when he did lose his faith in God, but it was the birth of his son that brought him back.
“He changed my life,” Hickson said. “I remember the moment he was born — it was a miracle. It was one of those moments when I saw a glimpse of heaven. I wasn’t looking for it, but it found me in the birth of my son.
“I knew that the life I had before was over, never to return. This little guy, he changed my life. I found purpose in our first child, and it made me a better man.”
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or email@example.com.