In The Darkest Days of Nyla’s Life, Jeff Became Her Beacon
By Kelsey Miller
When Nyla set up her Bumble profile in January 2020, she was clear about what she wanted: “Friendship first.” Whirlwind romance? No thanks. “I’m extremely old-fashioned,” she says. “A slow-mover.” It wasn’t easy finding like-minded men offline, and she doubted she’d find any on an app. It was her septuagenarian father who finally persuaded her, with a loving — but firm — nudge: “He’d say, ‘You’re never gonna meet someone the old-fashioned way! You don’t go to bars! You don’t party! You’re always at the hospital!’”
He had a point. Nyla is a home health caregiver in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and at the time, she was working double duty by looking after her parents as well. Both her parents were battling cancer, and though her dad was in remission, both depended on her heavily for care and transportation to and from appointments. But Nyla did want to meet someone. And maybe there was someone like her out there: an old-school soul who liked to take their time, but just didn’t have enough of it.
Meanwhile, Jeff had the opposite problem. A full-time truck driver, he had plenty of time to himself, but he spent it alone on the highway. Like Nyla, he believed in slow-and-steady, and had no interest in anything casual. “My parents were married from the time I was born until my father passed,” he explains. “That’s all I wanted for myself.” Both he and Nyla joined Bumble assuming it’d take a while to find a good fit. And when they matched in February, both were equally—and pleasantly!—stunned by how quickly things moved.
Their profiles were uncannily similar. Both of them had noted — first and foremost — that they took dating slower than most, and required a solid friendship before considering romance. “That’s what jumped out first,” says Nyla. “And then — he had such kind eyes. Just from the photo, I felt, ‘He has a good heart.’” Still, she reminded herself, “You never know until you speak to someone.”
So, she gave him her number. “The first time we talked, he was on the truck. I remember he answered, ‘Hello there!’ with a little chuckle.” Jeff sounded just as he had in his profile: courteous, friendly, but not too friendly. Something in his deep, resonant voice struck her: “I hate to sound clichéd, but that first ‘hello’ told me this was special.” Jeff felt it too. “I’m a quiet person,” he says. “But I found myself talking to her easily. And she made me laugh! That’s rare for me.”
They agreed to stick to the phone for a week before meeting — a brilliant decision, as it turned out. They spent hours talking, Jeff on his headset, chatting as he made deliveries. “It was like I was there with him,” Nyla says. As he drove, they’d discuss favorite films and music, their careers, and their families. But the conversations she overheard were even more telling: “He was driving freight between warehouses then, and every time he stopped for a delivery, he’d speak so kindly and respectfully to the staff,” she says. “‘Yes, sir. Could you please sign?’” The exchanges were brief, but telling. Jeff was the kind of person who treated others well.
Their first date was set for February 24 — which happened to be Jeff’s birthday (a big leap for two slow-movers, but somehow it seemed natural). “On the 23rd, we were on the phone, talking about how excited we were,” Nyla recalls. “Then my mom called.” Something was wrong with Nyla’s father. He couldn’t walk. Nyla rushed over, dashing off a text to Jeff, relaying the situation before hurrying her father to the hospital. The next morning, she was still there. Overnight, her life had changed dramatically. Tests revealed her father’s cancer had returned, and was now terminal.
Leaving the hospital, she texted Jeff — who’d kept in touch throughout the night. She’d have to break the date, of course. She didn’t think she could even manage a phone conversation. I’m afraid if I call, I’ll just cry, Nyla wrote. Listen, Jeff replied. I know it’s early, but I care about you. If you want to cry, call me and cry. So she did. Weeping, Nyla told him the whole harrowing story, opening her frightened heart to the kind, quiet man she’d never even seen in person. The bond between them was already deeper than they’d realized. Hours after they hung up, something dawned on Nyla. Panicked, she called Jeff back: “Oh God! I forgot to say ‘happy birthday!’”
That was Jeff and Nyla’s next two years in a nutshell: a tumultuous period marked by loss and grief, with moments of hilarity in between. There was the moment on their first (rescheduled) date, when Jeff held the door of the restaurant for a party of older women—who then began openly hitting on him, not realizing he was on a date. There was the night he met Nyla’s parents, both seriously ill at the time. It was all friendly chit-chat and basketball talk, until Nyla’s dad turned to Jeff and launched into a full-blown lecture: “If you don’t love my daughter, you can leave right now! You better respect her at all times, because she’s wonderful!” Her mother ran in, scolding her dad for yelling at Jeff, and the two of them descended into bickering. Nyla wanted to melt into the couch.
Jeff laughs at the memory, but he took it to heart. “He was just telling me how much he loved his daughter!” Jeff recalls. He wasn’t rattled, he was honored. “I’ll never forget that speech,” he says. “I felt lucky to meet him.” In fact, that was the night Jeff realized he and Nyla might be in this for the long-haul. The fact that she’d invited him into her family during their final days together? That too was an honor. Nyla’s father died two months after that fateful dinner. But Jeff did get the chance to give him his own speech: “Thank you for raising this wonderful woman,” he’d said. “Because of you, I’ve met the love of my life. I promise, I’m going to marry her and care for her for the rest of our lives.”
Nyla felt the same, but it was too soon—and life was too complicated. Nyla moved in with her mother, whose own health took a sudden downturn. Another arduous year passed, Nyla supporting her mom and Jeff supporting her. There was one silver lining to the hardship: Nyla’s mother had the chance to see her daughter in love, and with a man who adored her for the chatty, funny, old-fashioned woman she was.
Nyla and Jeff wanted her to see their wedding too. So when they got a dire prognosis in August 2022, the slow-movers sped up. “It was a whirlwind,” Nyla recalls. Within a week, they’d gotten engaged, picked October 21st, and told friends and family, all of whom swooped in to organize food and decorations, and even a last-minute wedding gown. Then, another blow: Nyla’s mom didn’t have months, said the doctors. Even a short-notice wedding would take too long. “Okay,” they said. “Then we’ll just get married.”
On September 10th, Jeff and Nyla married at her parents’ home, beneath a photo of her father, with only their mothers and immediate relatives present. But Nyla wore the beautiful gown her friend had given her as a gift. And she’d adorned the living room with the decorations provided by families of patients she’d cared for. “It was beautiful,” recalls Jeff. “We both had a glow to us that day. My mom joked that she’d never seen me smile so much in my life. It was the happiest day. But stressful too.” Nyla’s mom awoke in too much pain to move. “But she was determined,” says Nyla. “She put all her spirit into getting dressed. All that just to make it to the living room. That’s how much she loved me—loved us.”
“I was overwhelmed,” Nyla says, recalling the brief ceremony. “So happy, so heartbroken.” Above all, Nyla felt so profoundly loved: by her stalwart mother, her devoted friends and relatives, and by the kind, quiet, deliriously happy man who stood before her beaming, as always. “I’ve had a smile on my face since the day I met her,” adds Jeff.
“We met during the hardest time of my life, right in the middle of the storm,” Nyla says. And they’re still weathering it. Nyla’s mom died on October 21st, their original wedding date. The grief is still acute, and she and Jeff are still adjusting to life with just the two of them—for better or worse. “Our entire relationship, I’ve always been torn,” she says. “I’ve never been 100% there.” Jeff never gave it a second thought, but still, says Nyla: “He’s been on the sidelines. I’m ready to be there for him now—to love him, to shower him with affection and attention.”
If that’s what she wants, Jeff’s game. All he wants is more years with Nyla, be they happy or hard. “Honestly,” he says, “I always remember our first conversation—how easy and bubbly it was. It still is. I truly feel we were put here for each other. I hate how long it took for us to find each other.” But he doesn’t dwell on that: “I’m just so glad we did.”