CHICAGO – Brynn Randall breaks down, recalling the final days of her late husband Scott's life. She describes him as a selfless man who loved golf and the Kansas City Chiefs, and as a fighter, vowing to beat cancer right up to his December 2018 death at age 33 — weeks before the birth of the couple's first and only child, son Oliver.
Charlie Whitmer has a special understanding of the Randalls' story. It's strikingly similar to his own.
Charlie's wife, Kathryn, died in June 2018, four days after the birth of the couple's triplets following a stroke the week before.
Charlie and Brynn, both 33, met through a mutual friend just over a year ago, bonded over their losses and fell in love. They married last month in a more intimate wedding ceremony than expected, due to the pandemic.
They say they understand each other in ways few others can.
Now they're raising their four 1-year-olds together in a house full of love, but also grief. They say there's room for both.
"You still feel those emotions. It still hurts," Charlie said of missing Kathryn. "But at the same time … I can feel multiple emotions at the same time."
"Love is the most powerful emotion," he added. "The love trumps everything."
In the months after Kathryn died, Charlie would think to himself that he wasn't going to date for a while but hoped he would eventually find a new partner. "I had hoped someone would just drop into my life," he said. "I never intended, never wanted to be alone for the rest of my life."
In February 2019, a mutual friend contacted Charlie, telling him the story of a woman whose husband had died just weeks before their son was born. The friend sent Charlie a link to Brynn's Instagram page.
Charlie, touched by the kindness of others who had helped him after Kathryn's death, reached out to Brynn.
The two began sending each other messages. Brynn said she was desperate to find someone who could relate to losing a spouse so young and raising a baby on her own. "I wanted someone … I could confide in."
After learning more about each other, they were shocked by the similarities. Not only were they widowed in their early 30s with young children, but both also had dealt with lengthy neonatal intensive care unit stays for their kids. Oliver, now 14 months old, spent five weeks in the hospital before he came home. The now 20-month-old Whitmer triplets — daughter Arden and sons Bobby and J.P. (who are also identical twins) — were in the NICU for more than two months.
Another commonality? Brynn is also an identical twin. And both she and Charlie have overcome health obstacles of their own.
Scott died surrounded by Brynn and their families, who then held hands, told stories of Scott and sang "Oh Holy Night." It was four days before Christmas.
"It'll never be OK," she said. "It's so messed up. Someone so young and full of life."
Brynn and Charlie said it's hard for some people, even those close to them, to understand how they could fall in love so soon after their losses. They say their relationship is separate from missing their late spouses, whom they continue to honor.
"We miss them because we still care about them," Charlie said. "But we also feel so lucky and so grateful to have found each other."
While the kids call Brynn and Charlie "Mama and Dada," the couple said they refer to Kathryn and Scott as "Angel Mommy and Angel Daddy."