Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Couple's story of love and faith fills pages of 'eight twenty eight'

by on August 27, 2014 10:59 AM

In a life where every day seems to be a milestone, Thursday stands to be a rock of an event.

Suggest, if you like, that it’s two lives — those of Ian and Larissa Murphy — but it’s the unique, singular life of their unusual marriage that reaches a new cause for celebration.

The Indiana couple, who both startled and delighted people by following through with their plans to marry, even after Ian suffered a severe brain injury in a traffic accident, celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary Thursday.

The Murphys also are marking the day with the publication of a book they’ve written about the choice and commitment, deep-rooted in faith and loyalty, that they’ve made and kept.

Titled “eight twenty eight: when love didn’t give up” — first signifying their wedding date, 8/28 — it’s the Murphys’ account of their embrace of dreams-come-true and their confrontation with the unthinkable. It officially hits bookstore shelves and online inventories tomorrow. It’s in paperback from B&H Publishing Group, of Nashville, Tenn., a nonprofit publisher specializing in Christian works.

The calendar date also was the birthday of Ian’s father, Steve Murphy, who was a model of the faith that Ian and Larissa follow and was a rock for the family following Ian’s devastating injury, until Steve’s death in 2009.

And to Ian and Larissa, 8:28 represents the chapter and verse that has guided them the past eight years: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” — Romans 8:28.

The book gives the deepest account yet of what Ian and Larissa endured following the Sept. 30, 2006, wreck on Route 422 that cost Ian much of the control over his life, from both the brain injury and a leg injury that continues to improve.

They told of the love for each other that grew before Ian’s accident, and their love for God that buoyed them following the wreck, in a 2010 newspaper report when they announced their engagement.

With the help of a Christian film production company, Ian and Larissa told their story in 2012 in a production that spread virally on YouTube.

“We did a video with a ministry, the year after we got married,” Larissa said. “That got a lot of attention, about 6 million views. Then through that we got connected with the publisher. We had three publishers contact us, which led to the book, which then led to an update video last year that within three weeks had over 4 million views. So combined the two videos have had over 10 million views which is absolutely bizarre.”

“It’s crazy!” Ian said.

Now, with the help of B&H Publishing, “eight twenty eight” has caught a wave of media publicity timed with its release.

Next week, Larissa said, they will be guests on the “It’s The Ride Home” show on WORD-FM in Pittsburgh.

Print and online publishers have been spreading their story. The Christian Post interviewed them Monday and published a story Tuesday.

Christianity Today interviewed Ian and Larissa this week for a follow-up to a report published along with their video in 2012.

And there are TV appearances.

“We went to Toronto last weekend to be on ‘100 Huntley Street,’ a Canadian version of ‘The 700 Club,’” Larissa explained.

“Last week, ‘Inside Edition’ came and taped us. That airs Sept. 2. But that’s the only mainstream TV we’ve done,” Larissa said.

They share the byline for the book, a narrative that’s punctuated by quotes from blog and notebook comments by Ian and his father, but Larissa explained that she wrote most of it because it’s memory-based and Ian has little memory of the wreck and his recovery, and today suffers from short-term memory loss.

Ian’s comments, on his anticipation of their wedding, for example, were dictated as he advanced in his recovery and regained his ability to communicate.

“It’s freedom,” Ian explained.

It’s not to say that Ian lost all memory of his life before the accident.

Longtime friends are still familiar and remain a part of Ian’s life. His best friend, David, with whom he planned to start a film production business while they studied at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, frequently visits, Larissa said.

They like to watch old favorite TV shows and movies, but following the plot through a new two-hour film is a big problem.

“Ian’s short-term memory is horrible,” Larissa said. “But there’s so much stuff Ian can quote from old-time movies. That stuff is stuck! So Ian and David can quote lines from Pee-wee Herman like nobody’s business!”

“That’s high-quality cinema, Ian!” Larissa teased.

Ian bellowed a laugh, and talked about what he enjoys watching: “On TV, ‘Rockford Files,’” he said. And films, “‘Star Wars,’ ‘Unbreakable’ — it’s what made me and David want to make movies.”

The book recounts their lives from early 2005, when Ian and Larissa met as classmates at IUP. It traces their relationship from hanging out with mutual friends, to a phase Larissa calls “fake dating,” and through their becoming a couple, being with each other’s families, and her spiritual growth, virtually taught by Ian and his family, who have a strong background in faith.

The story follows their path that they ultimately expected to lead to engagement and marriage — and how it all was turned upside down in the collision of Ian’s traffic accident.

It tells of how Larissa and Ian’s family told doctors not to pull the plug.

It leaves readers with no doubt where the story would go, where it should go.

Larissa frankly evaluates all the options she faced. Many in her position might have chosen to break off a relationship with someone facing life-altering trauma.

She explains the much greater love that kept her in the game, and that anything else just could not be an option.

The story goes on through Ian’s recovery, his rehabilitation, his return home, and regaining his ability to speak, all after Larissa moved in with the Murphy family to help see him through.

It goes on through their engagement, their marriage in Larissa’s home area in rural Sullivan County, and how they embarked on their own life together through early 2013.

Larissa and Ian this week told of happier experiences that followed where the manuscript ended.

“I learned how to walk,” Ian said.

“That’s been huge,” Larissa said. “He works with (physical therapist) Mary Fletcher in Clymer, and she was the one who got him to the point where he was walking with help from one person and using a cane. That made Ian eligible for leg surgery.”

Insurance demanded evidence that there would be improvement, Larissa said. Assured that Ian was on track for more independence, he was authorized for surgery and had his badly injured knee reshaped from improper fusion on May 16.

They now enjoy freedom from being tenants and have become homeowners. Ian and Larissa moved into their own house last month, a one-story home along North 12th Street. The house had a wheelchair ramp and other modifications made for the previous owner who had disabilities, and there’s still some work in progress.

Being homeowners now lets them consider owning a pet.

“We’d love to have a service dog for Ian,” Larissa said. “I hate dogs but I would do it for Ian. What would you want a service dog for, Ian?”

“To get me a beer!” he answered with a grin.

Larissa said she’s found that waiting lists for service dogs are long.

“It’s something that we haven’t really looked into … but just to have the companionship would be super fun,” she said.

And they’ve grown to even better understand God, despite all that resulted from Ian’s traffic wreck.

Ian said his faith has only gotten stronger because he sees God’s understanding.

“Because of my brain injury, God has to wait around for me, in every way,” he said.

Larissa said her faith has grown but she knows there’s a lot more to learn.

“I feel like, with what I knew about God before Ian’s accident, I was like a baby. Now I’m like a toddler in my knowledge,” she said.

Patience and trust have been big lessons for her.

“There’s a difference between asking God questions and charging him with wrong. Like, there’s a difference between asking, ‘Why is this happening, what are we supposed to be learning, or what are your purposes?’ Those are different questions from asking, ‘God, why did this happen?’ or saying that He was wrong. There are two ways to pose questions to God.”

That comes from the trust that “God is working for all things for our good,” she said. “Even though we don’t see it at the time, we have his word, which never fails. Ian looks to that Scripture for hope and assurance of things unseen.”

It’s all laid out, the Murphys say, in the promise of Romans 8:28.

[PHOTO: Husband and wife Ian and Larissa Murphy discussed their new book, “eight twenty eight,” on Monday at their home in Indiana. (Teri Enciso/Gazette photo)]

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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