Today, we are happy to share Pastor David and Shannon Carroll’s blog about their recent experiences with amnesia and how the loss of his memory affected their lives. We hope that their story resonates with you and helps you in identifying your boundaries and the communities that may surround you in your widow travels. In our next post, we will talk about building a community of support while maintaining healthy boundaries.
Peace & Blessings,
Jeni & Teresa
Hello! We are so honored to be guest bloggers today here at Torn in Half. We applaud Teresa and Jeni for so powerfully sharing their stories and offering hope and resources and a friend along your unexpected journey through widowhood. As we are sure you’ve discovered, we don’t always have control over the direction of our story…. But thankfully, God places the right people in the right places at the right time to walk with us.
David and I walked an unexpected path in the spring of 2019 when he suddenly developed amnesia. Who plans for amnesia to take over?! Not us, that’s for sure! David is a full time pastor at our church, and we were living the busy-stressed-full-crazy “normal” American life. Our dreams and drive were super big, but in the midst of pursuing our dreams, we didn’t take care of ourselves. That’s a lesson for another day…
One Sunday after church, David collapsed and I thought he was having a heart attack. When he came to at the hospital and they started to run tests, his heart checked out perfectly normal. After the dust and excitement settled, we realized he could not remember the last 8-13 years of our life. Amnesia. The professionals said it was most likely caused by years of cumulative stress. They had no answers or magic cure; they just said, “Go home. Live your life. Your memories may or may not come back.”
Imagine walking into your home but it looks like a place where you’ve never been. You don’t recognize your kids or your dog. You don’t know where your clothes are or how much money you have in the bank. You don’t know what you do for a living or the friends you’ve made in the last 10 years. This is just a small snippet of what David experienced every day with amnesia. (Check out our book, “One Thing Remains” to see more of what daily life with amnesia was like. It’s wild!)
We were on a crazy, bizarre, overwhelming and difficult roller-coaster for 26 days. Praise God – David’s memories all returned in an instant while we were vacationing in Florida! It was truly the miracle we had been praying for. Amnesia was finally over! But the lessons we were learning through this trial were just beginning. Our life turned upside-down because of amnesia. What started as a nightmare, turned into the biggest gift we could have ever received.
We learned five life-changing lessons during our amnesia season. These lessons so deeply shook and changed us that we decided to write a book so we could share these powerful truths with others. Our hope is that you can experience these life-changes as well, without having to lose your mind in the process. 😉
One of the major lessons we learned is that community is a gift from God. We’re sure you’ve said, “I don’t know how I got through that without my friends and family surrounding me.” Truly, we were made to live in community and one of the primary reasons is because we absolutely need each other when we are going through challenging times.
David didn’t remember that he was a pastor. He didn’t recognize his Bible or church office. When he “met” church members, it was as if he was meeting a stranger for the first time. Talk about bizarre! Yet, what he learned about this group of believers in our community was that they loved well. They showed their fierce and sacrificial love in so many ways. In fact, his “first impression” of our community was that they cared deeply for our family and were people of prayer and action.
Upon hearing about our trial, our community sprung into action – fixing meals for our family, sending us gift cards, praying on our front lawn, writing introduction notes to David, providing for a family vacation. They texted, sent encouraging Scriptures and thoughtful songs to lift our spirits.
They carried us.
And they taught us the extreme importance of community.
As we’ve all navigated 2020 and the enforced lockdowns, we’ve all seen again the value of community. Isolation breeds depression, anxiety, worry, loneliness…. And each of those feelings make us vulnerable to the deceptive attacks and lies of the enemy. We find an exhortation in Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) to care for each other and never stop meeting together.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Being surrounded by a safe community, even 1, 2 or 3 close friends, provides us with
encouragement, accountability and a place to vent and gain perspective. In other words,
community equals love. And love is a powerful healer.
Many times when we are struggling, our natural inclination is to push others away and not let them into our pain. There are times for quiet and self-reflection. But those times should not endure. Allowing others in, even letting them see us vulnerable and weak, can be the balm our soul needs to continue and heal.
Community can look like family or friends, co-workers, neighbors or your church. Not everyone on the friends list gets a place at your inner circle, and that’s ok. Boundaries are healthy. But they can each play some role – big or small – in our story and our healing journey.
From our experience with amnesia, we have learned to elevate the priority of community in our lives. And we’ve also learned how to step it up when those in our circle are hurting. It’s our opportunity to share the love of Christ and be His hands and feet for those we love. Galatians 6:10 (ESV) says,
“So then as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith.”
If you don’t have a safe, thriving community, we suggest you pray that God provide you with a circle that can truly surround you – and that you can bless by serving and loving as well.
Pastor David and Shannon Caroll