Widow Brittany Price and Widower Daniel Brooker were married on July 16, 2017, blending their kids, ages 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2, into one big, wild, growing, grieving, laughing, stretching, healing family. Meet the Brooker Bunch. You won’t be the same after you do.
BY ELIZABETH COSSICK
Photos by Matt Druin
On September 29, 2015, Brittany Price became a widow when her husband, Patrick, passed away suddenly from heart failure, leaving behind his 25-year-old wife and three young sons, Peyton, Evan and Nathan. A month and a day earlier, Lindsie Brooker had lost her battle to ovarian cancer, leaving behind her husband, Daniel, and children Ethan and Aubrey.
“The first night after Patrick passed away, I was crying out to God that this pain is too much; it’s too painful to be wasted. I said, ‘Would you use it to awaken us to what really matters?’” shares Brittany. “So, he showed me how to use our story. I started reaching out to anybody I heard about with grief or pain in their lives – even from divorce or relationship loss or addiction. I would say, ‘I have no answers, but I know what it’s like to be in pain, and I’m so sorry. Scripture talks about how God is the God of all comfort, and you will not always be in this same spot. God will get you through it.’”
One family that Brittany ended up helping was also being counseled by a widower – Daniel Brooker. Brittany and Daniel started communicating about this family, emailing back and forth. “Daniel understood walking through life alone, and he got my heart for using every breath to live for eternity,” Brittany says. “God started building this amazing relationship.” When they finally talked on the phone, the call was five hours long. “On our first date, we both knew. On our second date, Daniel told me, ‘I’m going to marry you.’ I just smiled, but I knew, too,” she says.
Daniel was living in Augusta, and Brittany was in Woodstock, so they planned a play date so the kids could meet. “We didn’t want them to be forced to like each other, so we just met casually at a park,” says Brittany. “We didn’t hold hands or discuss anything about our relationship. But our kids just attached themselves to each other and cried when they left!” Their children continued asking about each other every day. “Only the Lord could do this because kids don’t just attach to one another like this,” she says. “My boys attached to Daniel immediately, too.”
One night as Brittany was tucking in her oldest, Peyton, who was 4, he asked, “You can get married again, right, Mommy? Daddy is in heaven with Jesus, but you can get married again?” “I answered, ‘Yes, but it would have to be a unique situation because it’s not just about me. It’s about someone who could be a good daddy to you guys, too,’” Brittany shares. “And then Peyton said, ‘Mommy, I think I know someone! Mr. Daniel Brooker!’”
It wasn’t only the children who felt drawn together, either. Brittany and Daniel had a shared pain and a path that they wholly understood. “I could cry to Daniel about Patrick,” she says. “He saw all my brokenness, and he said, ‘It’s okay. We are going to heal together.’ How much security does a man have to possess to fall in love with a woman who’s still grieving another man? And vice versa – our relationship has always had another man and another woman in it. We both had crazy awesome love stories, and now we have this amazing love story together that only God could write.”
Daniel and Brittany were married on July 16. They opted for an intimate wedding, but broadcasted the ceremony live on Facebook and Instagram. It was the number one Instagram Live of the day. “Our wedding was the craziest ever. It was crazy but precious with live worship music, and our kids were hanging on us the whole time,” says Brittany. “We did a water ceremony with the kids. Everyone had different colored water, but when we poured them together, they blended into the same color, showing how we’re individuals coming together as one family.”
After the wedding, their “one family” moved into Brittany’s 1200-square-foot home … and that’s when the real adventure began. “It’s a circus and a zoo!” laughs Brittany. “Let’s just say we’re learning selflessness all the time in here.” It’s also emotionally stretching, as Brittany and Daniel continue to guide their children through grief. “I have no idea how to blend families or how to walk kids through grief,” confesses Brittany. “I’m on my face before God all the time: How do I do this? Then, I’m on the phone with counselors: How do I do this? Together, we are pushing towards healing.”
The children are helping each other heal, too. Brittany recalls one of the sweetest moments when Daniel, Ethan and Aubrey first moved in. She had long ago made her boys each a “Daddy book,” filled with photographs of them with Patrick. As a welcome gift, Brittany made Ethan and Aubrey “Mommy books,” too, with photos of them and Lindsie. “I gave the kids their Mommy books about their Mommy in heaven, and my boys ran and grabbed their Daddy books. They all five got on the couch together with their books, and they started telling stories about their parents and giggling and laughing,” recalls Brittany. “Their siblings understood the exact same feelings! They had all gone through this immense pain that made them feel odd, but now they had these siblings who got it. Daniel and I were standing there trying to hide our tears. It was beautiful.”
And then, of course, there are times when the grief is still overwhelming. “We wake up at all hours of the night with our kids crying because of fears of us dying, and we tell them, ‘We can’t promise what will happen tomorrow, but we know God will be here, and we trust Jesus as a family and allow our fears to move into faith,’” says Brittany. “There’s a lot of stretching and grief and growing, but we are also thankful that we get to teach them perspective about what really matters in life – and that God is worthy of our praise and trust, even in the darkest moments of the night.”
A dark moment came for Brittany this past September 29, the two-year anniversary of Patrick’s death. “It’s still really hard. I cried and told Daniel, ‘I’m so sorry, baby. I don’t think I’ll always be like this. It won’t always be so tender. I won’t always be here crying.’ And he said, ‘Well, I will always be here. I will always be here at your side, and your tears don’t have to fall on your pillow anymore. They can fall on my shoulder.’”
Traditions New & Old
BD | RW: So, what will the holidays look like as a family of seven this year?
BRITTANY: My boys and I have a tradition of making cookies while we decorate the tree, so we’re going to do that together this year. And, this isn’t just during the holidays, but the kids have started a really fun weekly tradition called “Friday Night Sleepover.” All five of them sleep in the same room every Friday night. No matter how tired we are, we let them do it. And they giggle and laugh, and Daniel and I listen by the door and giggle, too. It’s precious.
BD | RW: You have a gift for finding beautiful meaning in life, so we want to know how you make Christmas meaningful for your family.
BRITTANY: Growing up, my family had a tradition that we’ve continued. At Thanksgiving, our parents would say, “Is there anybody you see whom we can help this holiday?” Three weeks later, we would have a family meeting and share – “I know somebody who lost a job,” or “I know somebody whose car broke down.” And then we would pray about it as a family and meet that need. We would sacrificially save up and give as much money as we could, and then we would go with our parents to buy a new roof or fix their brakes. It was the highlight of our whole year! I did it even when I was a widow, finding whatever ways we could to help others. Daniel and I are going to continue the tradition with our kids, too.
SOURCE | Follow Brittany @brittanypricebrooker and Daniel @danielobrooker on IG feeds for a peek into life with their “Brooker bunch.”