In a word, this tribute is beautiful.
In more words: It's heartbreaking, heartwarming, poignant, moving, touching, tragic, wonderful and above all, beautiful. Ben Nunery lost his wife, Ali, to a rare form of lung cancer in 2011, when Ali was just 31 and their daughter, Olivia, was 1. This is his tribute to Ali and to the life they started together.
"When Ali and I got married, we closed on the house the day before our wedding," Ben explains to Today.com. "So we did wedding photos in the empty house." Ben and Olivia, now 3, moved from the house this year and decided to recreate those photos as a way to remember Ali.
Ben enlisted Ali's sister, Melanie Pace, who shot to original pictures, to take the new set.
"It immediately brought up memories of being there the first time," Ben continues. "They were really good memories I cherish and want to remember. In a lot of ways, it felt like Ali was there, and doing that with Olivia I felt a closeness with both of them."
He wrote online, "Many people have asked me how I felt while doing that photo session. What I want them to know is that this isn't a story about grief and loss and hurt. Yes, I've gone through those emotions and still do but that's not what I want people to see in these photos. This is a story about love."
Pace wrote the experience on her own blog:
One of the things that hurts the most, is when I watch Olivia do things that Ali fantasized about before becoming a mom. She would talk about taking her future daughters to ballet and watching them spin till they giggled and fell down. Which is pretty much what happened…
It's so hard to let go of the anger I constantly face because she's missing these things. But I know she's with her still watching and likely whispering in O's ear, "Olivia, don't forget to spot! Oliviaaa! You're going to fall! You're spinning too fast! Oliiiviaaa!"
"I hope that people can see it as evidence of a love that Ali and I shared that is still very deep, [and] that love carries on, and it doesn't die," Ben says. "People who don't know us personally but may have experience with losing a loved one can see that as an example of healing and life moving on."
He concludes, "It doesn't mean that we forget our loved ones, but find ways to remember them and keep that memory going."
(Feel free to dry your eyes now. Or just keep crying. We are.)