It was November 24, 1993.
Newlyweds Kim and Krickett Carpenter headed west from their home in Las Vegas, New Mexico, toward Phoenix, Arizona. They planned to spend their first Thanksgiving as a married couple with Krickett’s parents.
But they never made it to the house that night.
There was an accident. Their white Ford escort collided with two trucks. Kim walked away with extensive injuries — a broken hand, a severed nose, a torn ear, a concussion, two broken ribs, and glass from the car’s sunroof wedged into his back.
Krickett’s condition was far worse, though. She suffered a massive head injury that left her in coma for weeks. And when she woke, relief turned to confusion. Krickett had no memory of Kim — the man she’d married only ten weeks earlier.
In their book, The Vow: The True Events that Inspired the Movie, the Carpenters share the difficult journey this car accident sent them on; a journey of love lost and love rechosen. It’s a book that gripped me. So much so, that after reading a review of the film it inspired, I determined not to head to the theater. I feared its fictional retelling would pale when compared with the real events.
Yes, sometimes the true story is just that good.
I recently chatted with Kim and Krickett. Their warmth, love for God and each other, and their passion to see marriages thrive were evident even across phone lines.
Kim, how did you feel when you discovered that Krickett didn’t remember you?
Kim: I felt the same way I felt when I didn’t know she was alive. It definitely was one of the sickest feelings I ever had in my entire life.
I can’t even imagine. Krickett, it must have been a shock to discover that you were married, yet had no memory of a husband. How did you even begin to process this news?
Krickett: It was very, very confusing. The car accident was in November and I got out of the rehab in April. My parents sent me home to live with this man they said was my husband and I had wedding pictures, a wedding video, and a wedding ring. I kind of just accepted that I was married to him, but it wasn’t for quite some time that we actually discovered that I lost all the memories of meeting, dating, and marrying him.
Prior to that, I kind of just played house in a sense. You have to realize that the severity of my head injury, I acted like an eight or ten-year-old child when I first moved home to him. Once we discovered the memory was gone, that’s really where we got to start again with our relationship. I had to learn how to love him again. I had made a vow before God in good times and bad, in sickness and health. This was my husband. This was who I was married to. This was what my life was. I had to move forward and get to know this man that I had obviously loved and adored prior to our car accident.
What motivated both of you to stay true to your vows?
Krickett: For me, I made a vow before God and that is a promise to keep. If you can’t keep your vows or keep your words, then you shouldn’t say it or commit to something. I made that promise and I could either live miserably in this new situation or I could choose to make it good and make it right. So we just got to know each other again.
The second time around was a choice. I chose to love Kim based on obedience to God, not on feelings that I had because all of my feelings had been wiped out. We dated again and we got to know each other again. I had fun with him, and I began to recover more and more from my head injury. So I was no longer the 10-year-old girl, maybe the 16-year-old girl at that point. It was a daily process of perseverance and endurance. I fixed my eyes above and I fixed my eyes ahead. I just walked forward with the Lord’s strength to go through this new trial I was given.
Kim: For me, I think of in various facets. One, both of our parents, if you combine their marriages, have been happily married for over 100 years and have celebrated over 100 anniversaries. That in itself is a great example of commitment.
Two more things are obviously very important to us — the Lord and the role He’s played in our lives. The world today has tried to make me to be a hero for staying, when my wife showed courage that most people would not when they step out on their faith and that’s all they have. It says so much about how strong her relationship is with the Lord.
I look at it from the aspect of our children. Our children are a daily reminder of the fact that they are the true blessing of a vow. Had we not stayed together it would have been a situation where they wouldn’t have had a chance at life. I look at it with a real sense of accountability because they are our treasures.
Unfortunately, divorce is a reality in our culture. Our desire at Ungrind is to see marriages restored. What would you say to couples who may be contemplating divorce? How would you encourage them to try to work through their struggles and their difficulties?
Kim: I think the first thing is understanding what brought them together. What are the common bonds that they had and have they gotten away from that? The other thing is that people change. We all change and evolve into a new being as the years pass. It is interesting because marriage is not about possession, it’s about growth. As your relationship evolves, you need to adapt to find new loves and new things about your soul mate.
Your story inspired the 2012 film, The Vow. But you actually sold the movie rights to it 14 years ago. Is that right?
Kim: Actually, it’s about 15 and a half years in the making. It was a long process, but we had faith that it would get done. I think God has a timing in all of this. A Japanese television producer told me back in 1998 that the world needs this story and he hoped that we can give it to them.
The experience of the movie making business was very good. Channing and Rachel studied us pretty thoroughly. They visited with us when we were on the set. We were directly involved not only with the editing of scripts, but with some of the shooting as well. Even though there were some things that resulted that weren’t true about us, such as the divorce in the movie, we understand too that Hollywood sometimes has to portray things that are conducive to people wanting to learn more. I think they nailed it with that. There were many things that were dead on and there were some things that were way off. But that’s why our heart is in the book. We rewrote the book five months ago. It has ten more years in it from the first time we released it. It updates. It has our children and some new perspectives on life and where we are today.
What is the most important thing you hope people walk away with after hearing your story?
Kim: This is a challenging story. It challenges those who have divorced. It challenges those who are considering it. It even challenges those who aren’t even thinking about marriage. Our biggest hope is that it brings inspiration to people who are on the verge of divorce to rethink it or seek counseling or come back together when they’ve been miserable for years.
One of our security detail at our event here in Farmington told me that he saw the movie earlier in the day and he wanted to thank me. He told me he has made a commitment to work things out with his wife. He wants to start fresh and remember what they fell in love with the first time. He was very touched and very emotional. That’s the real crux of what we’re hoping the world gets from this.
To learn more about the Carpenters and their book, The Vow, visit them on Facebook.