Vows are more than just lip service. These are commitments you made to your spouse that you should live out every single day. Kim and Krickitt Carpenter made the same vow—for better or for worse, till death do us part—not knowing that keeping it will be extremely difficult. I’ve read a lot of love stories but nothing came close to the unwavering commitment that this couple had for each other. This memoir is the story that inspired the movie “The Vow” starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum.
The Love Story
A simple phone inquiry about baseball jackets was Kim’s first encounter with Krickitt. She was the bubbly telephone sales personnel of Jammin Sportswear. Kim, who was a baseball coach for Highland Cowboys, found himself fascinated by Krickitt’s refreshing friendliness. He felt that she was the most helpful person that customers could talk to every day. The usual business chit chats led to longer conversations, to exchanging of phone numbers at home, and to finally meeting each other.
In their getting-to-know process, Kim found out that Krickitt was a Christian. He wasn’t like her, though. Krickitt lived the Christian life—you could see it in her countenance and the way she related to people. They both knew Christ around the same time during their teen years but went off different paths along the way. Krickitt remained strong in her faith while Kim fully committed his life to Christ later on in his adult life. It’s amazing how she prayed for their relationship early on. One of her journal entry reads:
“Lord, I really need your wisdom and Spirit to guide me with Kimmer. Part of me wants to meet him—I think it would be fun. Part of me doesn’t because I don’t want to begin to have feelings for him if this is not of you. If it is, I pray you would show me that. I want to be led by you. I see so many ways on which we relate, but you must be the center.” (Krickitt wrote this before she decided to meet Kim in person.)
That first meeting led to more dates up until May of 1993 when Kim proposed marriage to Krickitt. They got married on September 18, 1993 and exchanged their vows before God, their family, and their friends. They went to Maui for their honeymoon and settled in Las Vegas, New Mexico when they returned. It was a fairy tale story, indeed.
The newlyweds decided to celebrate their first Thanksgiving weekend at Krickitt’s parents in Phoenix. It was a long ride but an easy one, passing different interstate highways. During the long drive, Kim noticed that he was coming down with a cold. Krickitt then offered to drive so he could rest. He didn’t even argue because he really was not feeling well. Around 6:30pm, their car was hit by a pick-up truck on the driver’s side, leaving a wreck that no one could possibly survive. Kim didn’t expect that his two-month marriage would end just like that.
Kim suffered terrible injuries—broken ribs, a broken nose, and lacerations that were too many to count. Krickitt fought a worse battle. She was comatose for almost four months and suffered severe head trauma. The trauma was so debilitating that she had to relearn basic movements such as brushing her teeth, dressing up, and even walking. This also resulted in short-term memory loss that meant all her memories two years prior to the accident were completely erased, including the time she met Kim up to their marriage. Krickitt had no idea who Kim was and when she was asked who her husband was she stated matter-of-factly that she was not married.
The Recovery and Restoration
Krickitt underwent therapy for a long time. Kim acted as her coach, pushing her during rehab sessions. He knew that Krickitt could do better because she was athletic by nature and a gymnast. This pushed her away because she hated how he was being so pushy about her improvement. For Kim, he was just doing his job as a coach, motivating his wife to full recovery. Conflicts intensified with Krickitt’s change in personality and inability to recognize Kim as her husband. Kim, on the other hand, felt broken to pieces each day with his wife’s wild mood swings and hurtful words.
These challenges didn’t stop them from working out their marriage. Krickitt knew that her faith in God was crucial to her recovery and so one day she started to journal again. In one of her entries she wrote:
“Dear Lord…I really want to be back with Kimmer and get our new life going again. I am relying on you to restore all of my feelings for our relationship…Thank you for sparing our lives in the accident, and I ask you would use us for your glory. Please strengthen our marriage and make it even stronger than it was in the beginning. Help us to grow closer together. We give you our trust and thanks…May I become the girl I was and the one you want me to be.”
Both of them went through counselling and sought guidance from their families. Kim fully surrendered to God his control over Krickitt and their marriage. He started to court Krickitt again and built new memories with her. They beat the odds and weathered the storm together. They refused to be part of the statistic that says the odds of divorce for a married person with debilitating head injury are 80-90%. Three years after the accident, Kim and Krickitt decided to get married for the second time. During the ceremony, Kim repeated the same vows he made to her in their first wedding. They went to Maui again for their honeymoon. Eleven years after the accident, they decided to have children. And after 20 years of marriage, their relationship is stronger than ever. They may have made a lot of mistakes but they did one thing right—they kept their vows.
Kim and Krickitt’s story just blew me away. Reading their painful and traumatizing journey in detail was heart wrenching. I learned so many things from them. As a married woman, I know that it’s not every day that you stare dreamily into your husband’s eyes. It’s not every day that you feel blissful in your marriage. And it’s okay. After all, loving someone is a decision. It’s a choice not based on my moods or feelings. I love what Krickitt said in the book,
“When I lost my memory, I lost my feelings for Kim. I had to re-discover what it was about Kim I had fallen in love with before. I can’t remember what it was like the first time, but I’m guessing that this time my love has grown in a different way—not that ‘fluffy’ romantic love, but more of a conscious choice. The fact was, I was married to this man. The feelings came later, and by God’s grace I’ve grown to love him again.”
I also appreciated the effort that Kim put into their marriage. When he stopped looking for the old Krickitt or expecting her to return that’s when things started to change for them. He decided to pursue and love the new Krickitt and build new memories with her. It’s tough to have your spouse and lose her at the same time. It’s one of the cruelest ironies I’ve heard of. This didn’t faze Kim Carpenter. He remained by her side regardless if she wanted him there or not. Krickitt stayed with him even if she didn’t know him nor felt any connection to him. With God being the center of their marriage, Kim and Krickitt held on to their vows more than life itself. As they continue inspiring people all over the world, I realized that stories like these should be a great reminder to all of us that marriage is worth fighting for and it always deserves a second chance.