Dying Woman Asks Sister To Raise Her Kids, Marry Her Husband

Three years ago, Jackie DeVita died of cancer, and within a few months her sister Colleen Leary had moved into her home, started caring for her three children, and married her husband. The story sounds a bit Shakespearean, but thankfully no one in the family shares Hamlets feelings on women marrying their brother-in-law shortly after a funeral. Yet, it's still a bizarre tale, and not just because we've grown to frown upon romance among in-laws.

The Associated Press reports that Colleen taking care of her sister's family was actually something Jackie came up with before she passed. The two women were "Irish twins" and had always been extremely close. Colleen had never married, and two years after Jackie discovered that her frequent headaches were the result of a orange-sized brain tumor, Jackie made an incredible request. She removed her wedding ring and gave it to Colleen, saying, "I want to know that this is the three of us," meaning Colleen, Jackie and her husband, Richard. "Don't ever leave my kids."

Colleen refused the ring at the time, but promised not to abandon Jackie's family. A year later, Jackie died and just three months after the funeral, Colleen slipped the ring on her finger when she married Richard. He says that when Colleen was his employee years ago, "I never really liked her," and but they eventually came together when Jackie was ill. 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.

Today in the U.S., marriages like the DeVitas are uncommon, though in other societies, people have been urged or even required to marry their dead spouse's sibling. What's most odd about the way their story is reported is the AP's focus on Richard and Jackie's luxurious home. The articles goes into unnecessary detail about the 1,000-square-foot kitchen, "furnishings that might have impressed John Ringling," and $13.5 million price tag. The DeVitas wealth isn't relevant to the story and emphasizing it almost gives the impression that Colleen's done something deceitful by assuming her sister's lavish lifestyle. Most people probably wouldn't be interested in marrying their late sister's husband, but Colleen hasn't done anything wrong. It seems the DeVitas' relationship has helped them grieve for woman they loved very much and find happiness in a tragic situation.

A Sister's Dying Wish: Take My Place [AP]