|Widowed in Their 20s, Couple Finds Love Again|
|By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES (@SusanDJames)||Jul 9, 2013, 10:20 AM|
When Jordan Rice saw Jessica Moreland's wedding photo posted to her blog, "One Day at a Time," he was moved not only by her "raw, wild smile" but the tragedy she had endured.
Jessica's husband Jarronn was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2009, just two and a half months after their wedding.
Jordan, too, had been widowed in his 20s and also blogged. He lost his wife Danielle to a rare heart sarcoma in 2011, a little more than two years after they were married.
Mutual friends suggested Jordan, a lawyer turned New York City pastor, and Jessica, a marketing specialist from Washington, D.C., meet because both had shared overwhelming grief at such a young age.
"Jordan and I talked about this the first time we met -- never feeling like we could be excited about a person again," said Jessica, now 30.
"We knew we would meet someone, but it would never be the same, and nothing could reach the pinnacle that it was before."
But on June 22, they married in a simple ceremony in Baltimore that friends say even included the families of their late spouses and brought all to tears.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the room, even the waiters," said the bride, who is now 30 and Jessica Rice.
"I liken it to being a parent," she told ABCNews.com. "You love a child to death, but when you have a second child, you don't love them less."
The couple left this week for a honeymoon in Italy, but the video of their story, which was shown at their wedding, has gone viral with nearly 18,000 views.
"This story could have been scripted for a Lifetime movie," said Jordan's best friend of 13 years, Justin Jones-Fosu, who is in theological school in Mississippi. "They are handsome, beautiful, intelligent, quirky -- but their relationship is really awesome.
"The fact that God could bring them together is almost too good to be true."
Jessica met her husband Jarronn in 2004 when they both worked at Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey. They married in 2009 and relocated to the Maryland area.
"We were everything I could imagine as soul mates," she said.
But just months after they married, Jarronn went on a short motorcycle ride with friends and ended up in intensive care, fighting for his life.
"His injuries were so serious that the blood had drained out of his body," said Jessica. "There was too much strain on his heart."
She was widowed for three years and dated others.
"One guy was great, but it was always really challenging for him to understand my history, and I think he really struggled with the idea that I could expand to love someone else," Jessica said.
Meanwhile, Jordan, now 31, who grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., met Danielle, a math teacher, and married her in 2009. "For the first six months, it was marital bliss, very much the honeymoon phase," he said.
Soon she began to feel ill, and the couple thought she might be pregnant. An X-ray later revealed Danielle had fluid around her heart that appeared to be a virus.
"She started really getting worse very quickly," said Jordan. "Within four days, she couldn't walk anymore. Her resting heart rate was around 140 beats a minute -- lying down."
Surgeons removed the pressure from around Danielle's heart, but five days later, while sleeping in the hospital waiting room, Jordan was awakened to startling news: Danielle had a rare and deadly form of cancer, primary cardiac angiosarcoma. She died 10 months later.
"I was miserable," he said. "I felt out of place … a 27-year-old doesn't die of cancer. It was very unfair and challenging on every front."
Jordan eventually dated, but said, "I thought I might meet someone cool and nice and sweet, but I don't know if I would be madly in love with this person and feel deeply for them."
In 2012, Jordan's friends were in New York and mentioned a girl, "Jessica," who had also lost her spouse. Like Jordan, they said she was a blogger and had written about her experience.
"Someone had sent me a link to Jessica's blog after my wife died, but I didn't click on it -- I didn't care," he said. But after realizing they had friends in common, he went back home and pored through a "sea of messages" to find the link.
"I loved how candid she was," he said. "She described the raw emotion that I had felt on so many occasions. … I respected her for honoring his life. How much she adored him was something very powerful to me."
Then Jordan, who barely had 25 of his closest friends on Facebook, friended Jessica. He said he was careful not to be "the creepy guy" who stalks someone after they accept the Facebook request.
"That's not my MO," he laughed.
Jessica, too, at first ignored his request -- until she realized they had mutual friends from Morgan State, where Jordan had attended college. "I smiled, but I never responded," she said.
But days later, she had lunch with the same couple who knew Jordan and they sang his praises. So she researched his blog and was moved to reach out to him.
"I was a little further along the path -- I was three years out and he was only at a year and a half -- and I told him you never get over it, but you learn to live with it," said Jessica.
Their email exchanges got longer and deeper and eventually Jordan made an excuse to visit her in September in Washington. DC., where she was working at the time. He was said he was "incredibly nervous … afraid I would screw up."
They sat for hours over lunch talking. "I cried as he was talking, and he got emotional as I was talking," said Jessica. "He invited me to get together the next day."
The second day was more comfortable for Jordan. And that six-hour date was a moment of realization for Jessica.
"I can't really say when or why during that conversation, but there was a period where I was looking at him, and I thought, 'Whoa, what's going on?' I could not believe what was happening," she said. "When he left, I was flabbergasted. I knew my life was about to turn upside down."
Jordan said he felt the same way: "I knew, 100 percent, this was it."
From then on, as Jessica recalled, it was "full speed ahead."
Within weeks, they introduced the other to their families. Almost without words, they knew they would be married, so they arranged for premarital counseling with a therapist Jordan had seen after Danielle's death.
"We wanted to make sure we were thinking clearly," said Jessica, "and not caught in la-la land."
The therapist ordered an assessment test -- about 100 questions on topics from conflict resolution to financial management, and was stunned with the results: "Either you guys are the kind of people who anticipate the other person's answer or you are the most compatible couple I have ever seen."
The rest is history. The couple will make their home in New York City, where Jordan has begun preaching at a non-denominational parish in Harlem. They say they are best friends and lovers and are eager to start a family together.
"We always laugh," said Jordan. "I stare into her eyes and feel so incredibly connected and hope and pray we have a long life together -- though, that is not always promised."
"Who has a man like this? Really, he can't be real. No man is like this, so very loyal and caring, supportive and principled," said Jessica, who was on a separate line in their interview with ABCNews.com.
"I am crying over here on the other end of the phone."