"She doesn’t remember a life before Tommy," a family member said about the wife.
Young Maryanne was taken by surprise when Tommy Pilling proposed to her nearly three decades ago, but there wasn't a doubt in her mind that this is what she wanted—to spend the rest of her life with the man she had a strong connection with. They barely any time apart in their life together but today, after more than 30 years together, Maryanne is confronted with the reality of not having her husband by her side following a tragedy on January 1.
At a time when many thought two people with Down syndrome could never have a happy marriage together, Tommy and Maryanne Pilling proved critics wrong and they crossed their 25th wedding anniversary in July 2020, according to BBC. The couple, who became one of Britain's first married Down's syndrome couples, had to be separated for the first time when Tommy was hospitalized on December 1 due to a chest infection.
While 62-year-old Tommy was in the hospital, Maryanne was described as being "absolutely lost."
"She is trying so hard to put on a brave face but she keeps breaking down in tears," said an update on their Facebook page. "Maryanne and Tom have only spent 24 hours apart in 30 years. She is distraught and it isn't getting any easier but she is staying with our mum so is distracted and keeping busy but it is still not helping."
A couple of weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus on December 17, Tommy passed away on New Year's Day, leaving Maryanne and the entire family grieving his loss.
"Tommy has left a vast hole in our lives that nobody will ever fill," said Maryanne’s mother, Linda Martin, according to The Guardian. "I considered him as my son and I’ve never regretted a single moment of the three decades he was in my care."
Before passing away, Tommy was able to give Maryanne some of the best memories that naysayers thought they'd never be able to share. They met at a local training center in the 1990s and fell for each other almost instantly. The two dated for 18 months before Tommy proposed to Maryanne.
"She doesn’t remember a life before Tommy," Maryanne's sister, Lindi Newman previously said, as quoted by the Daily Mail. "The day she met him, she had the biggest smile on her face and she couldn’t stop talking about him."
In 1995, they exchanged wedding vows in Essex and Maryanne later said, "My wedding was the best day of my life. I was shocked when Tommy proposed but I didn't have to think twice about saying yes."
As she recalled the special day, Maryanne said during an appearance on This Morning, "I had a white dress, my hair was tied back. I wore my crown," as quoted by People.
When walking down the aisle, Maryanne ran the last few steps towards Tommy because she couldn't contain her excitement.
In the same interview, Tommy grew emotional as he said, "I was excited. I was going to get married... I do love her."
Going against all the criticism they faced, Tommy and Maryanne made it through 25 married years and overcome several challenges, including Tommy's diagnosis of dementia.
"What keeps their marriage so strong is that there is never a hidden agenda. They love each other with their whole hearts and are honest with one another," Linda told TODAY in 2017.
Today, the family is grateful for all the love Tommy showed them, as Lindi wrote on their Facebook page, "Thank you for showing me what unconditional love was, I will remember your beautiful ways forever, your pure heart, your love of music, Elvis, your dancing... Thank you for making Maryanne so happy and for being the best uncle my children could ever ask for."