Saying goodbye to one's baby who has passed away is something no parent should face. But, one dad began to receive letters from a strange woman who claimed she was his daughter. Was this a scam artist, or is it possible his beloved child had come back from the dead?
The countdown to the start of 1969 was just around the corner. Tom Taylor took advantage of the special night as he got down on one knee – his future wife, Barb, said yes.
But, a twist was waiting and ready to shatter their picture-perfect love story. Two months after the proposal, Barb told Taylor she was pregnant -- something which could have turned her into a social outcast.
[Left] Cheryl Stillman when she was a baby; [Right] Cheryl Stillman and Tom Taylor hugging.│Source: twitter.com/WFLA youtube.com/WHO13
Her pregnancy would be generally accepted in today's society. But, during the time period in which they were engaged, she would be shamed for conceiving before marriage.
Even her own family and friends may have turned their noses up at her. Possibly concerned about what would happen if anyone found out, the pair decided to keep it a secret. Taylor and Barb thought the best decision was to give the bundle of joy up for adoption.
Tom Taylor as a young man. │Source: youtube.com/WHO13
THE DEEPEST GRIEF
This was a heart-shattering experience for the biological parents as they prepared to hand their little girl over so that she could find the right home.
Barb as a young woman. │Source: youtube.com/WHO13
If that didn't hurt enough, Taylor and Barb were informed that the little girl had passed away on the day of her birth. Taylor remembered:
"It was terrible. Not only did we have this secret that she was pregnant and had this baby, but now we've lost it, and we couldn't tell anybody… It was terribly hard."
Throughout the years, this couple carried the heavy burden of their skeleton in the closet. But, would someone finally find the cupboard door, brush away the cobwebs and bring this untold story to light?
Tom Taylor. │ Source: youtube.com/WHO13
I DON'T BELIEVE IN GHOSTS
Although the pain kept throbbing within, the duo moved on with their lives. They had more children who had no idea of their tiny sibling that passed away.
But, this secret began to come to light when Taylor started to receive messages from a stranger named Cheryl Stillman.
Jennifer Freking. │Source: youtube.com/WHO13
Stillman claimed to be his daughter, who, at this point, Taylor believed to be a ghost. The father and husband was convinced this was a scam, expressing:
“I thought, ‘Who the heck is Cheryl Stillman?’ I thought someone was really messing with me.”
His two kids, Scott Taylor and sister Jennifer Freking were also on the defense. The idea that they may have another sibling led them to feel a sense of disbelief too.
Cheryl Stillman. │Source: youtube.com/WHO13
So, Taylor's skepticism caused him to ignore the messages sent to him by this person he had never met before – and had no intention of meeting.
But, a stubborn Stillman was not ready to give up. She was sure that Taylor and his wife, who had since died, were her biological parents.
Barb’s grave. │Source: youtube.com/WHO13
Stillman was adopted by Peggy Jacobson, who had suffered through multiple miscarriages and was looking to adopt as a result. Speaking about the adoption, Jacobson exclaimed:
“My husband said they called and they have a baby for us, and I said, ‘What?!’”
Her adoptive parents went out of their way to ensure that Stillman knew she was adopted from a very young age.
Cheryl Stillman when she was a baby. │Source: youtube.com/WHO13
As she grew older, armed with this knowledge, the only missing information was to find out who exactly her parents were.
It was only in May 2021 that she began searching. Stillman could access her original birth certificate, which led her to her biological mother's obituary.
Tom Taylor with his children Jennifer Freking and Scott Taylor. │Source: youtube.com/WHO13
A MASSIVE REALIZATION
All of this helped her get in contact with who she thought was her long-lost dad, who continuously refused to speak to her. That is until one message confirmed that Stillman was his biological child. Speaking about the message, he stated:
“It was a picture of [his wife’s] grave with flowers on it. And she says in the message, ‘I found mom’s grave. I’m here talking to mom and praying with her and asked God to give you a nudge to accept me.’ And that’s what did it.”
While the siblings had come to terms with the fact that they had a new sister, the father was still in shock. But, once he felt better, arrangements were made for a beautiful reunion.
Emotions were at an all-time high as all secrets and anxieties instantly disappeared. Freking ran down the driveway to greet her long-lost sister with a huge hug. Taylor expressed:
“I cried and cried and cried. To have that physical person in front of me was amazing. I saw my wife in her.”
If the mother had been there, we are sure that she would have sobbed with joy and lovingly embraced the daughter she said goodbye to all those years ago.
While Stillman could find her father, hold him, and spend time with him, not all daughters are so lucky.
When she was a teenager, Joanna found out that her mom had been hiding who her real biological dad was from her and that he didn't know she existed either.
Joanna. │Source: Youtube.com/TLC
Neither knew anything about one another. That is until a customer came into a record store she was working at during college, asking Joanna about her Italian heritage. She explained that she had no Italian roots, to which he said:
"Have you looked in the mirror lately?"
Irked by this statement, she asked her mom about her Italian bloodline. Shocked, her mom explained that her biological dad was a man she once dated in Seattle.
Joanna. │Source: Youtube.com/TLC
Once they separated, she found out she was pregnant with his child – she chose not to tell anyone. Speaking about the pain she feels concerning her mom keeping this secret, Joanna expressed:
"Like the family secret thing I'm not okay with. They said, 'We didn’t want to affect your relationship with your [adoptive] father.'"
But Joanna claimed it wouldn't. She also spoke about how she feels sorry for her blood-related father and that he is completely in the dark about having a daughter.
A NEVERENDING HUNT
So, for nearly three decades at that point, Joanna had searched for her biological father to no avail. But, she said it took a while for her to choose to look for him. She said:
"You know, for so many years, I thought about it but was too afraid to search because I guess the fear of rejection is pretty huge, and I didn’t find out myself until I was late teens, and that was a huge shock to me."
Let's hope that this determined woman has or will find her long-lost father – able to embrace him the way Stillman was able to after too many painful years apart.