Raise My Kids And Marry My Husband, Dying Woman Asks Sister

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My sister and I are super tight – like, ridiculously tight – and so I get the whole idea of counting on your sister when things get rough. But I’m still astounded by one woman’s request to have her little sister marry her husband and raise her three school-age children when she’s no longer around.

When Jackie DeVita was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in 2005, she thought first and foremost of her family. She eventually handed her wedding ring to her sister, Colleen Leary, and asked her to marry her husband of 13 years and raise their children when she’s no longer around. It all sounds rather Biblical – or at least Shakespearean – but that’s exactly what went down. (Colleen said yes, by the way.)[tagbox tag=”siblings”]

Jackie passed away in 2008. Three months after her funeral, Leary married Richard DeVita and assumed her honorary role as mom to Jackie’s three children.

An added element of surprise is the fact that Jackie and Colleen, born just one year apart in 1963  and 1964, look almost identical. “People would mistake us for twins,” Colleen told The Associated Press.

When Jackie was alive and healthy, she and Colleen – who was single – spent lots of time together; Collen was always very close with her two nephews and niece (now ages 16, 14 and 12). The sisters even took the kids on vacation together when Richard was stuck at work, like the time they went to Disney World. And when Jackie and Richard would take vacations together without the kids, it was always Colleen who babysat. “I wasn’t a stranger to these children. They knew me like they knew their mother,” Colleen said.

When Jackie was first diagnosed with cancer, Colleen and Richard grew closer than ever in their combined struggle to fight Jackie’s illness (though Richard did say of his one-time sister-in-law in those early years, “I never really liked her. She was always a pain in the ass”).

When Colleen and Richard shared their plan to marry with friends and family, there were many who disapproved. Even Colleen’s own mom struggled (though she eventually came around). As for the kids, Richard took them to church and asked for their permission. “The kids were excited. They weren’t in shock or anything,” he said.

Many people would question if this couple is truly in love given the odd circumstances of their marriage. But, as Colleen explained, “I am happy. I loved this man as a boss [Colleen once worked for him], a brother-in-law, and now as a husband. I always say to people, ‘Was I in love with him? No. Do I love him now? Yes.’ He’s a good man.”

It’s a unique situation, to be sure, though it’s not all that uncommon in other societies. Regardless, the whole story certainly stirs up a range of emotions. What do you think? Heartwarming tale or just plain bizarre?