You can make plans and expect great things, but life never consults you. Yet love lives on…

Love Lives On – Our Love Story

I said, “I do,” on February 2, 2006, and I can still vividly picture my wedding day. My 6’7” husband wore a tan linen suit, and I wore a peach linen dress. We looked amazing standing in front of the Justice of the Peace. After we exchanged vows, we quickly boarded a plane to escape to our honeymoon. There was something very mysterious about Chicago, which reminded us of Gotham City. We joked about Batman jumping out from behind a building. My husband and I would later embark on a mysterious journey, so Chicago was probably the perfect place to begin.

My Journey To Our Love

As a single mother of two for eighteen years, I always wanted marriage but never thought I would attain it. My mother told me, “No one will ever want to marry you with two children.” I believed her. However, that thought disappeared when I met my husband. 

Some nights we talked until the sun came up. He loved my quirkiness, enjoyed my company, and always supported what my two older children were involved in. 

We both had two children from previous relationships. 

A year and a half after becoming husband and wife, we welcomed our baby girl, and my husband was ecstatic. He had finally got the little girl that he had hoped for. He spoiled her rotten and took her everywhere he went. She even motivated him to start exercising and eating healthier. He wanted to live long enough to walk her down the aisle one day. 

Love Lives On. Jill Tillman's story on finding, love, loss and motherhood after.In Sickness, Love Lives On

Three years after our daughter was born, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. He assured me the prognosis wasn’t bad and would do everything he could to beat it. Despite his promise, I was afraid. My father was a diabetic, and his health declined over time. My father ultimately died from heart disease and kidney failure due to the complications associated with diabetes. I needed my husband to live so we could see our sons go to college, watch our three-year-old grow up, and welcome grandchildren to our family. As time passed, we lived life by celebrating diplomas, degrees, and grandbabies. We lived in love through sickness, but what we didn’t expect to happen was the loss of a child.  

Losing Our Son 

On February 6, 2011, my stepson was killed just a few days after we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. After his death, nothing was ever the same, and I didn’t expect it to be. I believe that my husband’s grief took a significant toll on his health. We addressed this by purchasing bikes and occasionally riding as a family. After losing a child, things were as normal as possible because my husband’s faith never wavered. He was dedicated to our church and enjoyed sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I loved watching him preach. He was always so animated and passionate. He would encourage others who had lost children and tell them to trust God to carry them through. I was the only person who knew how hard he cried at night. He was heartbroken and internalized a lot of his pain. He became sicker. His diabetes worsened, and his blood pressure rose. I don’t know if we were both in denial about his health or if we were hoping that everything would work itself out. We worked, cared for the kids, and ensured he took his medicine. We continued to live through sickness and death. Love lives on.  

And Then I Lost My Husband 

Despite the hospital stays, in my eyes, we were still young and had all the time in the world to plan our lives together. But that wasn’t our reality. After spending two weeks in the hospital, my husband passed away one week after our tenth anniversary. I remember telling the doctor it wasn’t possible because he was still young, and we had an eight-year-old daughter. Not once, even after his diagnosis and frequent hospital stays, did I ever think becoming a widow would be the outcome. 

I planned his funeral alone. I wrote his obituary alone. I packed up our apartment alone. Now, I’m raising our daughter alone.  

Jill Tillman's daughter says "my mom is Joyful."Our Daughter & Motherhood In The In Between

Our daughter is my forever gift from him. Through her, our love lives on. We keep his memory alive by talking about him often. He had countless jokes and nicknames for people, allowing us to laugh a lot when we remember him. That’s the part I hold close. I still cry some days and wonder if something else could have been done to prevent his death.  

I’ve had a hard time connecting to others in my situation. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. In between the widows with adult-aged children and the moms that co-parent. My daughter and I spend a lot of time together because of this. We learned to lean on each other. There have been many emotional and financial highs and lows. Still, through it all, I’m grateful that we have someone watching over us who loved God more than anything and loved us more than himself.  

We’re going to be alright.