Jessica’s husband of 10 years, Jason Crisman, took his final breath after battling an aggressive brain tumor for 10 years in Grand Rapids, Michigan leaving behind his wife and four children under the age of seven.
At the same time, hundreds of miles away in Guymon, Oklahoma, Ryan Ronne also watched as his wife Kaci, 30, passed away from a highly aggressive astrocytoma brain tumor.
Ryan was the father of three young children with his wife: Tate, then aged seven, Mya, then five and Jada, then aged eight months.
In an effort to ease their pain, both Jessica and Ryan started blogging while their spouses were fighting for their lives.
In an incredible twist of fate, their blogs brought them together. The widow and widower met each other for the first time four months after their spouses’ deaths, and then were married within the next four months. They have been happily married since 2011 living in Tennessee, and now have a child of their own, two-year-old Annabelle, making them parents of eight.
‘We met each other at a time when all we could offer was a lot of support because we had both lived through the exact same situations,’ Jessica, 40, told DailyMail.com of Ryan, who is also 40.
‘Neither of us were completely expecting to find such a deep love again – we had both been married to our childhood sweethearts who we had thought we would grow old with, until the unthinkable happened and they both passed away.
‘Now we are a family with eight children. We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs and with no so many kids we will probably always have them, but we are a blended family and we make it work together.’
Prior to his death, Jessica started blogging about her then-husband, Jason Crisman, and his illness. She kept up writing about her family even after he passed away as a form to express herself. Pictured above in 2010 front left to right: Caleb, Mabel, Lucas and baby Joshua. Rear left to right: Jason and Jessica
Ryan also started blogging about his then-wife Kaci and her battle with cancer. Just like Jessica, after Kaci passed away he kept writing on the blog to express his heartbreak. Pictured above in 2010 from left to right: Ryan, Tate, Mya, Kaci and baby Jada
By chance, a woman who had been reading Jessica’s blog messaged her to say she should connect with Ryan. She reached out to the widower and they began emailing, which turned into phone calls and soon enough they decided to meet
Jessica’s story starts in August 2007 while she was married and living in Grand Rapids, Michigan with Jason and their children.
Jason was never sick, so when he complained of the occasional bad headache and unexplained weight loss, the couple put it down to stress.
Not long after she had given birth to their daughter Mabel, Jason called her to tell her to call 911.
‘He told me that he thought he’d had some sort of seizure at home,’ Jessica recalled. ‘I was at my dad’s house, so I rushed home to find Jason holding his head and screaming in pain.’
Jason was rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors found a stage 2 brain tumor, an oligodendroglioma. Surgeons were confident that they could operate.
‘Jason had the surgery and high dosage chemotherapy to stop it coming back and we were so confident he had beaten it. We were so upbeat and positive because he felt so well,’ Jessica said.
While Jessica was six months pregnant in the summer of 2009 with their fourth child Joshua, Jason went in for a routine check-up and doctors found that the tumor had returned as a baseball-sized glioblastoma.
He went under the knife for a second time. Doctors removed the tumor and Jason had chemotherapy and radiation treatment again.
‘Looking back I still don’t know how we coped,’ Jessica said. ‘We had a lot of support from friends and family who would bring us meals and help with our four kids.
‘I felt in a fog a lot of the time, trying to keep it together for everyone. I tried so hard to be positive – we both did – but the clock was ticking. Jason grew weaker and in June 2010, he became ill again.’
The chemotherapy wasn’t working and in August, he went to bed and never got out again.
He had wanted to die at home and on August 24, he passed away and at the age of just 33, leaving her a widow with four children – Caleb, Lucas, Mabel and Joshua.
‘Losing Jason was the most heart-breaking experience of my life,’ Jessica said of her husband of 10 years. ‘But at the same time it was a relief that the cancer was gone, he wasn’t suffering anymore and he was at peace in a better place.’
While Jason was sick, Jessica kept a blog where she expressed her feelings and provided updates about his progress. On the site she also talked about her great loss after he passed away.
She had a lot of support from readers who gave her encouragement in her extreme loneliness and a couple of months after Jason passed, a Tennessee woman left her a message that would change her life on Halloween in 2010.
‘This lady had been reading my blog and she asked if I could send a letter of encouragement to a young father who also had a blog. This father was a widower with three children having lost his wife to a brain tumor,’ Jessica explained.
‘His wife had died just a couple of days after Jason so I really wanted to help him. I read his blog and it was touching. I could relate to so much of what he was saying, so I decided to send him a message offering my support.’
Ryan and Jessica eventually moved to Bath Springs, Tennessee where they purchased a home ‘with plenty of room for all those kids to run around’, she said. Pictured above in 2017
After giving birth to Annabelle (left with her father Ryan in 2017), Jessica (right) says they don’t plan on having any more children together. She works as a teacher while Ryan buys homes to renovate before selling them to earn a profit
On November 2, 2010, Jessica wrote: ‘Hi, you don’t know me but someone suggested on my site that I check out your story. My husband passed away from brain cancer on Aug 24. I said the same words at his passing, ‘He gives and takes away, Lord Blessed be your name.’ I have four children under the age of 7. Blessings, Jessica.’
That same evening, Ryan wrote back: ‘My name is Ryan Ronne and I lost my wife to a brain tumor on Aug 28. I have read some of your story and am terribly sorry you have to go through this but I sympathize. Maybe we can help each other. By the way your children are beautiful, they help so much with grieving!’
She recalled how Ryan, who was still living in Oklahoma and had been married for 11 years to Kaci, seemed to be in the same dark place that she was after he told her about how he lost his wife and was struggling to come to terms with it.
Soon enough, the pair started emailing each other to offer ‘support and perspective’. That quickly turned into frequent phone conversations.
‘It was such a help to be talking to someone who could truly relate to my experiences,’ Jessica said.
‘I looked forward to our conversations and before long, we realized that we were flirting with each other! This realization was just so weird – we were grieving widows on one hand yet on the other hand this flirting was so natural. It actually felt right and neither of us fought against it.’
They decided to meet alone in Savannah, Georgia in December 2010 – a neutral place with no distractions where they could talk, be themselves and get to know each other a bit better.
The meeting went so well that they realized that they were already in love, much to their surprise.
‘From the moment I met Ryan I knew that this love was completely real,’ Jessica shared. ‘And he felt the same. I didn’t feel that we were rushing into anything because being with him was natural. We had a lot of fun and we could speak freely to each other.
‘And honestly, I did not feel guilty about being attracted to Ryan and flirting with him. When Jason was sick, deep down I had prepared myself for his passing and even though I still loved him so much, he couldn’t love me back.
Of their deceased spouses, Jessica said: ‘We never ever tried to take the other spouse’s place and we encouraged everyone to talk about Jason and Kaci whenever they wanted to’. Pictured above in 2017
‘With Ryan, we both knew that we had to live in the moment or we would never move on and after our few days together, we knew we wanted to be together. I know it sounds quick but it’s true.
‘I remember one night not long after, Ryan was staying at my house and he told me he loved me. I had a photograph of me and Jason and one of me and Ryan on my bedside table. After Ryan told me he loved me, I removed Jason’s photograph. Symbolically, I had to do that. It didn’t mean that I loved Jason any less or would forget him, it meant that I was moving on with another man.’
In February 2011, the pair got engaged. Jessica’s family and friends were supportive, but Ryan’s were concerned that it was way too fast and he was rushing into a relationship he would regret.
Undeterred by the critics, the couple got married at a Michigan courthouse in April 2011 without telling anyone. The next month they had a big wedding with all of their children to celebrate.
Jessica said that their children ‘meshed from day one’ and were desperate to have two parents again after undergoing grief counselling.
The mother-of-eight said: ‘No-one could ever tell me that’s not a good thing. I will never forget Jason and Ryan won’t forget Kaci but we have a great – if sometimes very chaotic life together that we wouldn’t change for the world!’. Above together in 2013
In addition, to help create the huge blended family, they both adopted each other’s kids so that everyone felt equal.
‘Suddenly having seven children was a big undertaking,’ Jessica recalled. ‘Of course there were issues at first but nothing ever serious. My kids fell in love with Ryan as their daddy and his children took to me immediately.
Jessica has written a book about their fascinating lives called Sunlight Burning at Midnight where she talks about the highs and lows they’ve experienced. CLICK HERE for ordering information.
‘We never ever tried to take the other spouse’s place and we encouraged everyone to talk about Jason and Kaci whenever they wanted to.’
Jessica said that helped them to become closer as a family and a couple. They eventually moved to Bath Springs, Tennessee where they purchased a home ‘with plenty of room for all those kids to run around’.
In June 2015, their blended family welcomed a new addition when Jessica gave birth to a baby girl named, Annabelle.
Jessica says they don’t plan on having any more children at the moment and that the Ronne brood is complete with Caleb, 15, Tate, 14, Lucas, 13, Mya, 12, Mabel, 10, Joshua and Jada, eight and Annabelle, two.
She works as a teacher while Ryan buys homes to renovate before selling them to earn a profit. The now-mother-of-eight has written a book about their lives called Sunlight Burning at Midnight where she talks about the highs and lows they’ve experienced.
‘I know some people might not be able to understand how we could have got together so quickly after losing our spouses,’ Jessica said. ‘To be honest it was a shock to us too that we could have been so lucky to have fallen so deeply in love with each other.
‘What I have learned is that you can choose to stay miserable and lonely or you can yourself up, be positive and make a new, different kind of happiness.
‘No-one could ever tell me that’s not a good thing. I will never forget Jason and Ryan won’t forget Kaci but we have a great – if sometimes very chaotic life together that we wouldn’t change for the world!
‘I know that’s what Jason would have ultimately have wanted for me – a new life with someone who loves me and our kids as much as he did. After suffering such a loss, there is always light shining brightly, you just have to go find it and that’s exactly what I did.’
By SHARON KEEBLE and REGINA F. GRAHAM for The Daily Mail