Piecing Together My Life

My Life - Marcy Gregg and husband looking at each other, wedding photo to right
Brittany Cruse
Piecing together my life could only be done with my husband’s help—a husband of whom I had no memory marry

“The patient’s name is Marcy Gregg.”

I awoke to those words in an unfamiliar room. Where am I? Rhythmic beeping in the background signaled that I was in the hospital. When I tried to move my arms, I realized my wrists were strapped down. I struggled to focus my eyes on the wall clock facing my bed, but I was unable to discern the time. 

Exhausted, I drifted back to sleep. The next time I opened my eyes, two nurses in blue scrubs stood at my bedside.

“Marcy, we’re so glad to see you’re doing better.”

Marcy. The name didn’t ring a bell.

Checking my vitals, a nurse announced, “Your husband was here when you first woke up.”


“He’ll be back soon,” the nurse said. 

Before I could speak, a doctor came in to evaluate me. His words sounded absurd: I had apparently just given birth to a healthy baby girl.

A baby? But I’m a virgin.

None of this makes sense.


I was 30 years old when I emerged from a coma in 1990, believing I was still 17 and had just entered college. Stunned, I was confused by everything around me. I’d later learn that during the delivery of my third child, I’d contracted an infection that traveled through my bloodstream to my brain, causing me to slip into a coma. 

After the doctor had left, a young blond man entered my room wearing khakis and a button-down polo. I didn’t recognize him, but he looked as if he hadn’t slept in days. Planting a kiss on my forehead, he reached for my hand, holding it gently. I glimpsed a gold wedding ring on his finger.

He’s married. Is he . . . ?

Noticing my confusion, the man told me that I was his wife. He told me about Callie, our new baby girl. About two more children at home, sons named Casen and Conner. I had no memories of anything the man said, but I could tell that he cared deeply for me.

The man pulled a few photos from his pocket and taped them to the bedrail. I tried to focus my gaze, but my vision was too blurry to see the two blond-haired little boys smiling from ear to ear. He continued to show photos to me, explaining each of the smiling faces. Nothing. I had no recollection but forced a smile. 

Could this be my life?

When my parents and sister visited, looking several years older than how I’d remembered them, the two confirmed that all the man’s stories about my life were true. So although I had no memory of the previous 13 years—the wedding, the births of our two sons and daughter, our friends, our home in a new state—within a few days the man in the khakis, who I learned was named Dev, quickly became my ally and my anchor. And with Dev’s unwitting help, I largely hid the void in my memory from family, friends, neighbors—and even him. I let Dev continue thinking that it was taking time for me to remember, not that there was a black hole in my memory.

Once I was well enough to leave the ICU and settle into a private room, I tried again to focus on the pictures at my bedside, frantically searching my mind for any small memory that I could latch on to before my two boys came to visit. (Callie, still in the nursery, was being cared for by hospital staff.)

Before long, two little boys, the ones pictured, cautiously entered the room. I recognized them from the photos, and while I had no recollection of their births or of rocking them to sleep or reading bedtime stories, I knew in my heart that these darling boys were my sons.

Keeping up appearances

My parents also didn’t know the extent of my memory loss, but I knew I’d need help once home with baby Callie. One day, when I gave my daughter a thick medication from an oral syringe, little Callie began choking. I screamed for help, and my mother scooped the infant into her arms. I ran into my bedroom to call the paramedics, but I didn’t know what to dial.

Terrified, I shouted, “Mom, what’s the number?” 

I had my secrets, but it was obvious that the adjustment to family life was difficult. I knew I wasn’t doing a good job as a mom or as a wife.

A marriage coming into view

I wasn’t the only one struggling during that time. While I was in the coma, Dev was terrified and wondered if I was going to die. We had two kids at home and a newborn at the hospital. He feared that he’d be left to raise them by himself.

After returning to a life I didn’t remember, I continued to learn life skills—like learning how to call 9-1-1 and how to navigate to the nearby grocery store. I also kept up the act of recognizing friends and neighbors. Worn thin by the ruse, and by the hectic life of a young family, I always felt apprehensive. Dev continued to pray for my memories to return, but I eventually stopped asking God for healing.

So when a friend suggested taking the edge off my anxiety with a glass of wine, I reasoned that it couldn’t hurt.


What began as one glass of wine with dinner led to regularly slipping into the kitchen at night after Dev had gone to sleep to open a fresh bottle. In a cruel twist of irony, I drank to forget what I couldn’t remember. Soon a vicious cycle of regrets and resolutions left me feeling convicted and ashamed. 

One cool December evening in our backyard, after seven years of trying to numb the pain, I felt God’s voice speaking gently to my heart, affirming His love and asking me to trust Him.

Opening the Bible I’d gotten from my mom years ago, I read a passage she had underlined and dated: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). When I had left for college, I’d sensed God speaking through those words, inviting me to trust Him with my life. And on that December evening more than two decades later, I knew God was speaking to me again, calling me to place my trust in Him.


It was a different kind of trust this time. I knew that God was asking me to surrender both my hope for recovering lost memories and the alcohol I was using to soothe my aching heart. That night, I began to really trust God again. And He’s given me the strength and resolve to live a life of recovery. Last year, I picked up my 25-year sobriety chip.

I still worked to bring memories to the surface—looking through photo albums, sifting through old boxes of memorabilia in the attic—but the memories never came. It was a struggle, piecing together my life. And even though I grew to love Dev and the kids and settled into a life of marriage and motherhood, I hadn’t admitted to anyone close to me that my memory of those lost years never returned. It wasn’t until I sought to quit drinking that I opened up to Dev about the extent of my memory loss and pain. Throughout my early recovery, and even my drinking, Dev never stopped praying for me. 

In the hospital, when he’d had no sleep, he stayed there. Dev kept coming back and kept coming back. And throughout my drinking, he never gave up and kept loving me.

Stroke of a paintbrush

Eighteen years after the coma, I had an intense urge to paint. Dev said he wasn’t surprised, knowing that I had majored in studio art in college and was often covered in paint during those years. I didn’t know why I’d given it up—another lost memory—but I concluded a busy family life might have been the reason. After taking some art classes, I rediscovered a long-lost passion for oil painting.

Today, I see how God is at work through my art. The abstract style I use requires multiple layers of paint on canvas, and one day I sensed that God was speaking to me as I looked at an unfinished piece. I recognized that He’s the master artist. Every layer matters. Nothing is wasted. God is working every layer of our lives together for good (Romans 8:28).

Dev leans on another Bible passage that means a lot to him.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3).

Dev would never say that our trials were a joyful thing to go through, but he sees that God had real purpose for saving me and our marriage. 

Five years ago, I discovered I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. After six surgeries, the debilitating disease has impacted my work as an oil painter. But Dev and I still cling to these verses when life’s big problems seem insurmountable.

Not alone

As lifelong travel companions, Dev and I have raised children together and are now welcoming grandchildren. We also share life with six other couples who we lovingly refer to as “friends like family.”

When Dev and I consider where we are now, he’s quick to point out that we’d be completely lost without our faith in the Lord and a strong spiritual support system. 

Despite the beautiful trajectory of our story, there are still losses. 

Dev and I lost a common thread that most couples have. We don’t have the shared memory of dating, getting engaged, getting married or having our children. And for me, that is a real loss.

Yet we marvel at God’s faithfulness—hardship and victory blending like paint on canvas—with each layer serving a purpose. And we’re careful to ensure that each layer we’ve endured is not wasted. 

Read Now! Learn more about Marcy Gregg’s journey in her book Blank Canvas: The Amazing Story of a Woman Who Awoke from a Coma to a Life She Couldn’t Remember.

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