Jill Aline Thorson was born on June 27, 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona, the 3rd of 3 daughters. Her older sisters Debbie and Kim were 2-1/2 and 1-1/2 – so we all grew up very close in age. Jill was a cute and cuddly kid who had a knack for causing trouble and making sure her sisters got blamed for her indiscretions. I remember one dinnertime (when no adults were looking) watching her knock over an entire carton of milk. Her screams then brought my mom running. Jill put up quite a fuss blaming Kim and I for this incident. Cute and cuddly won out when my mom wouldn’t believe that little Jill could have possibly knocked over that carton by herself. So Kim and I were punished.
We attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help grade school in Scottsdale, Arizona. My mother spent a lot of time making sure all of us looked tidy and well put together in our school uniforms. Usually by the time Jill got to school she looked like she had been through several hurricanes and a dust storm. There were frequent notes sent home from the teachers complaining about Jill’s appearance. She didn’t really have to do anything to get messy, it just sort of happened. Thankfully she outgrew this.
In 1966, the family moved from Scottsdale to Seattle. We moved into a house by the airport on Jill’s 7th birthday. In the midst of unpacking boxes and moving furniture we somehow managed to have a nice party for her. Jill finished up grade school at St. Francis Catholic School and Sunnydale Elementary. Junior High was at Sunset. After enduring years of being known as Debbie and Kim’s sister in school, Jill made the choice to attend Glacier High School rather than Highline. This turned out to be a good move for her – no one knew her sisters and she ended up being the valedictorian for the class of 1977.
A few little known facts about Jill. She played Trumpet and French Horn in band through Jr. High and High School. She was also a outstanding classical guitarist and even taught guitar for awhile. Jill demonstrated a great sense of humor and talent for writing at an early age. She was brilliant at changing song lyrics – like “Strangers in the Night sneak up behind you…” and “While Shepherds washed their socks…”. This was Kim’s favorite (sung to the tune of Fascination) “It was Rinsey Soap I know that made my body so dirt wouldn’t show. It was Rinsey Soap that made him propose…” (Kim adds: I think we were pre-teens when we made up the Rinsey Soap song.)
In the early 1980′s I received a phone call from Jill. She said “Are you sitting down?” So I sat. She told me she had accepted Christ as her personal Savior. That was one of the best and most special conversations I ever had with her. Later in the 1980′s Jill met the love of her life Hank Byington. Here’s how. (These are Jill’s words from an article printed in Guidepost’s magazine in February 1993.)
ROOM FOR ONE MORE
Games and heartbreak. That’s what dating seemed like to me and I wasn’t playing along anymore. I give up Lord, I prayed one night. If you want me to marry someone you’re going to have to drop him in my lap.
Six months later on a church trip to give a presentation, I squeezed into a small car with several other members of the congregation. “The band’s bus broke”, the pastor informed us at the last minute. “We’re going to have to fit more people in the cars.”
Not in this one, I thought. We were already packed in like sardines. There was a knock on my window. It was Hank the drummer smiling uncertainly into the back seat. I rolled down the window. “There’s no room in here ”, I said, “unless you want to sit on my lap.”
Hank grinned. “Let’s switch”, he suggested. “You sit on my lap instead.”
And Hank and I got married one year after that trip.
Jill and Hank married on April 16, 1988. At that time both of them were working for Boeing as technical writers. Jill completed college and got her degree in Technical Writing from the University of Washington in 1990. She also began to do a lot of freelance writing. In 1994, Jill and Hank were excited to find out that they were expecting, and on Oktober 27th of that year Daniel was born. Jill quit working to become a full time mom. (The following is excerpted from an article Jill wrote for a Mom’s magazine, published in 1996. The article is titled Nobody Told Me.)
Ever since I gave birth to my son my brain has undergone a drastic change.
That’s the first thing nobody told me about motherhood; that from the instant I gave birth I would be eternally preoccupied. The direct effect of this change is that I will never again be able to find my car keys unless of course they are in my son’s mouth. This loss of concentration comes at an unfortunate time -I need a fully functioning brain now more than ever.
That’s another thing nobody told me; that staying at home to raise my son would be the most mentally challenging thing I have ever done. After years of work in high-tech industries I was accustomed to the relentless grinding predictablity of most technical jobs. In contrast, being a mother is always surprising. Every child is a new gift to the world capable of changing by the moment; as unpredictable as a summer storm. The little boy who spits up on my shoulder has a brain far more complex than any super-computer. He has more value than all the accrued technical advances of the centuries. He is an awesome responsibility and I hold him in my hands.
Shortly after Daniel’s birth, Jill discovered cyberspace. She joined an on-line mom’s group called FAMs – Forum Addicted Mothers. She kept in contact with these women from all over the world for 15 years. Most of them she never met. (Thanks ladies for the 11 pages of tribute to Jill!)
Jill decided to go back to work full time and started working for the FAA sometime in the early part of this century (I’m not sure of the exact date). Guess what- Jill was a technical writer and editor of the FAA’s on-line newsletter. (Jill’s boss told us on the day of the memorial that the next edition of the newsletter will be dedicated to Jill.)
Jill’s first cancer diagnosis - triple negative breast cancer - came in the summer of 2004. At that time she went through 6 months of chemotherapy and her cancer went away.
After this first bout of cancer, Jill went back to work for the FAA and in 2006 began teaching writing for “Scholars On-Line” a Christian home-schooling site. She taught for 3 years. She loved teaching, she loved her students, and they loved her.
Jill’s cancer came back with a vengeance in July of 2009 almost 5 years to the day after her first diagnosis. This time the breast cancer spread to her lungs, bone and brain. After being encouraged by many friends, she decided to start a blog so JillsBlahBlahBlog was born. Since the first entry on August 9, 2009 there have been 37,309 visitors from 84 different countries. We all got a perspective on cancer and its treatment from this blog. It was real and honest; it also made us laugh and cry. We learned that Jill hated pink, and Breast Cancer awareness month (October) just annoyed her. Jill also hated being called brave. In fact she said in her blog, “My latest pet peeve is the people who keep calling me ‘brave.” Ha! Brave would be stepping out in front of a car to rescue someone. Brave is when you have a choice. My only choice is to go through crappy treatments or jump off a building. How is that brave?”
Jill won many battles with her cancer but on December 8, 2010, cancer ultimately won the war. The good news – Jill is enjoying a cancer free existence in heaven and we all have the opportunity to see her again. Maybe Jill wasn’t brave but it does take courage to share feelings and issues as openly as she did.
I end by suggesting you read one of Jill’s blog entries from May 2010: The Transient Beauty of Everyday Life http://jillsblahblahblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/the-transient-beauty-of-everyday-life/. I think this says more about the way Jill chose to live her life more than anything she has written.
By Jill's sister Debbie (on behalf of Jill’s mom (Gail) and sister Kim and brothers Mark & Scott)