DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) — This is not a sad story. Tanner Gillen wouldn't have wanted it that way.
Tanner was like many other 14-year-olds, juggling his many interests with a biting sense of humor.
"I probably could not come up with one [of Tanner's jokes] that was G-rated," said Tanner's dad, Scott Gillen.
Tanner spent the last 10 months of his life battling glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. His diagnosis was initially mistaken as a stroke in March 2018.
"I took it hard, very hard," Scott Gillen said. "But [Tanner] was always there comforting me making sure I was okay."
The prognosis quickly turned for the worse.
"We knew he was going to pass away," Tanner's mom, Amy Gillen said. "He was so grateful to us and said 'you guys have given me the best life.'"
But that's not how Tanner wanted to be remembered. The kid who could slide effortlessly between Gwen Stefani, Frank Sinatra and the Notorious B.I.G. with ease wanted to be remembered for the fun he brought everywhere he went.
"He would sing and dance," Tanner's sister Reagan Gillen said. "He couldn't more the right side so he had this shoulder dance he would do."
Tanner's legacy even goes beyond that. His parents donated his brain and tumor to further research on his specific type of glioblastoma.
It's not enough to bring him back — nothing ever will be. But it's enough to ensure Tanner's impact extends far beyond central Illinois.
"He taught me more the last ten months than I could've taught him his whole life," Scott Gillen said. "He was my son, but he was also my best friend."
On the urn that holds his ashes, Tanner lets loose one final quip: "It's awfully dark in here" — a fitting epitaph for a teen who gave back to the world through compassion and humor.
"The greatest gift of Tanner was he gave 10-fold the love we gave him," Amy Gillen said.
The Gillen family is hosting a celebration of life ceremony for Tanner on Sunday, February 3 at 1 p.m. in the First Church of the Nazarene in Decatur.