Two college sweethearts, who learned the meaning of unconditional love after one of them suffered a brain injury, which left him subsequently mentally and physically disabled, are set to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary this week in conjunction with the release of their book, Eight Twenty Eight, which chronicles the journey of their special marriage.
Ian and Larissa Murphy have experienced life's lowest lows since the day Ian got into a car accident in 2006 on his way to work. He had been saving up for an engagement ring after having dated Larissa for 10 months when that tragic accident occurred. Larissa could have moved on with her life, but instead she moved in with his family to help care for him during a time when he could not walk, talk or eat.
Now eight years later, Larissa tells The Christian Post that Ian has improved on many fronts, and their marriage is going strong.
"Ian has done a lot better. He wasn't really walking at all at our wedding and was very dependent on his wheelchair," Larissa said. "The first year of marriage isn't easy at all but relationally, each year has become more fun."
Instead of spending her days in the waiting room or ICU of a Pittsburg hospital anxiously to hear about Ian's brain test results or medical procedures – which she did in 2006 – Larissa says these days she manages to balance her career and marriage the best she can; Larissa works full-time in marketing.
A major recent development for the couple is that the pair moved into their first home earlier this summer as they had been living with relatives since the time of his accident, she shares.
"There definitely were times where I thought there is probably something that is easier, emotionally. Even after we got married, there were times where I'd think, 'this is too hard, I can't do this.' But at the end of the day, I didn't want to not be with Ian," Larissa says.
She adds, "This probably sounds really cheesy but I just love him and he's my best friend. It goes without saying that we have a belief in God that is bigger than us. I know we're fine because God is holding us."
As if Ian's accident was not difficult enough, tragedy struck when his father, Steve, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer a few years later. Although the Murphys have experienced it all, Larissa says there are moments when she feels she cannot get through life's obstacles.
After the accident, we thought we wouldn't have to go through anything that hard because living through it was crazy enough but when we found out his dad had brain cancer, in some ways, it almost wasn't that surprising because at that point we knew the Lord gives and takes away … I feel like I can handle the big things but it's the small things, that's where I doubt and I don't apply the lessons that we've learned and I don't even know why that is," she says.
Throughout the years, she has witnessed Ian eat and talk again, though his speech is still very limited. And earlier this summer, Ian underwent leg surgery to improve his walking. Each milestone calls for a celebration and has made the pair closer.
However those happy days come with a price.
"On my really hard days, I'm just so tired of the brain injury and I just want it gone but there is nothing Ian or I can do within ourselves to make that happen," she admits. "On those days, I sometimes get so angry and I'll get frustrated even though I know there's nothing he can do."
Despite his limitations, Ian is normal in many ways as he likes to paint, laugh with Larissa and spend quality time with her.
"One of the greatest gifts that he gives me as a husband is that he always wants to be with me. We could just be sitting on the couch together and he's just the happiest person in the world. He also always requests sweet bread, so if I make him sweet bread, he's always happier. He's so pleasant to be with. It's harder for him to initiate so he talks less but when he does, it's golden," Larissa shares.
While Larissa's role as a wife is anything but normal, she says she finds time to have a moment to herself or to be surrounded by family as her "fun" outlets.
"Nothing makes me happier than being with our nieces and nephews, spending time with them is just so fun. But sometimes I'll tell Ian that I just want an hour to either read. But honestly, cleaning is an outlet too because its gives me something to put back in order, it's a very controllable thing," she says.
She notes that she and Ian would like to have children someday though she does not know how many they would be able to manage, but they want at least one.
Since 2006, much has changed for better or worst in their lives but when she thinks about it, Larissa says she can barely imagine what life would be like if Ian had not been injured.
"I think he would be a film maker at the company that he and his best friend had started (before the accident) and we probably wouldn't be living where we are. I would probably have a lot more energy!" she exclaims.
Now that their love story, which garnered international attention in 2012 when John Piper's Desiring God website featured a video of their lives, is in print, Larissa says her hope for the future is simply to help others.
"It's crazy how God puts impressions in our hearts. I've always journaled but when I started writing the book and I would look back at some of my entries, I'd write 'I feel like my life is going to be very public,'" she says. "I always wanted to write a book but I never knew what my story was."
She adds, "We would love our story to help people in similar situations and help people love God more by seeing Him through Ian's story. We want to keep making sacrifices, we don't want to have a comfortable life; we want to do God's work, whatever the cost."
Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn't Give Up will be released on Aug. 28, which marks the Murphy's wedding anniversary and the anniversary of Steve's birthday.
For more information on the couple's story, visit their blog IanandLarissa.com