If a love born in the depths of the despair of crushing losses that blossomed into a happily-ever-after story sounds like a Hallmark card, that’s exactly the point. Shared grief is exactly what brought Michael and Gina Kell Spehn of Rochester together.
Their love story is the topic of a movie premiering Saturday on the Hallmark Movie Channel, The Oakland Press reports. “The Color of Rain,” based on their 2011 New York Times best-selling memoir of the same name, stars Lacy Chabert (“Mean Girls”) as Gina and Warren Christie (“Alphas”) as Michael.
Matt Kell died of cancer on Christmas Day 2005, leaving behind his wife, Gina, and their two young sons. Matt’s childhood friend, Cathy Spehn, suddenly developed a bad headache one day a few weeks later, then died 17 days later of an inoperable form of brain cancer, leaving her survivors – husband Michael and three children – distraught and alone.
But before she died, Cathy told her husband to “call Gina Kell,” according to a synopsis of “The Color of Rain” on Amazon.com, which wrote:
“This remarkable real-life Brady Bunch story explores the differences between despair and grief, denial and joy, bitterness and redemption. Told from alternating points of view, Michael and Gina’s gripping journey of “growing new hearts” inspires readers to not just survive loss but to receive the courage, faith, and identity that God gives in the midst of tragedy – and be transformed forever.”
They faced some resistance from their families as they attempted to blend their families just a few months after losing their spouses.They married in 2007.
“You don’t lose the love of your life and think you’ll be getting remarried so soon,” Gina told The Oakland Press. “Yet we found each other.’
They wrote the book more as a cathartic exercise so their children, who were young at the time their mother and father died, would better understand. They shared it with close friends, who shared it with a literary agent.
Michael said writing the book helped him to know Matt Kell, who he had never met, intimately through his wife’s eyes. “So that was a genuine privilege,” he said.