If you knew you were dying, who would you want to watch your children? If you're married, could your husband do it alone? Would you want him to remarry? Would you want your kids to live with someone else? These are tough questions that are nearly impossible for most of us to answer, but Jackie DeVita, a 42-year-old Florida mom terminally ill with cancer, knew exactly what she wanted. She asked her sister Colleen, who was younger than her by only 11 months and extremely close to her, to marry her husband and raise her children, completely taking her place in this life, reports the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
In 2005, Jackie was living in Venice, Florida with her husband Richard, and their three children. Colleen, who was unmarried and lived nearby, had become an active member in the family, accompanying Jackie and Richard on outings and watching the kids when their parents went away. It was then that Jackie found out she had a tumor the size of an orange on her brain. Her husband whisked her off to Duke University's medical center in Durham, N.C. for some of the best care money can buy. But Jackie wasn't getting better.
Around 2007, Jackie cornered her sister and pressed her wedding ring into her hand. "I want to know that this is the three of us," she said, referring to herself, Colleen, and Richard. "Don't ever leave my kids." Colleen refused the marriage proposal at the time, but promised to be there for her sister's family.
After two years of treatment and a massive, final surgery in Houston, Jackie was unable to walk and because so much of her brain had been removed, she was a ghost of her former self. On June 3, 2008 at age 44, she died. Three months after the funeral, Colleen and Richard married.
This clearly isn't a typical boy-meets-girl story. Richard admits that when he met Colleen years ago, he never really liked her. ("She was always a pain in the ass," he recounts.) But they eventually grew close dealing with Jackie's illness together. Colleen says:
"I am happy. I loved this man as a boss, 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."