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After Losing His Wife To Cancer, Man Re-Creates His Wedding Photos With Their Young Daughter

One of my online friends, Kurt,  posted this story and I am re-posting it here on my blog.  

Ben Nunery’s 31-year-old wife Ali passed away in 2011 after a battle with a rare form of lung cancer. Two years later, Ben and their daughter Olivia made the difficult decision to move out of the house that he and Ali moved into the day before their wedding. After everything was packed up, the house was empty, just like it was on the day they shot their wedding photos. So Ben enlisted Ali’s sister, photographer Melanie Pace, who shot their original set of wedding photos, to shoot a set of new ones.  

This happened in Cincinnati, Ohio a “home town” of mine and the setting is very reminiscent to me of the many old beautiful old homes found there.

When a loved one passes away, we often use photographs as a way of keeping that person’s memory alive. One Ohio family took the process a step further, creating a unique set of photos that serves as both a touchstone of the past and a reminder of how life moves forward.

In 2011, 31-year-old schoolteacher Ali Nunery passed away from a rare form of lung cancer, leaving behind her husband Ben and a 1-year-old daughter named Olivia.

This November, after two years on “a rollercoaster of emotions,” as Ben described it, he and Olivia were ready to move out of the Cincinnati home they’d shared with Ali. But before they left, Ben wanted a way to remember the happy times they’d shared in the house. So he asked his sister-in-law Melanie Pace, a professional photographer, to take photos of him and his now 3-year-old daughter in their home.

“I was just really looking for a way to say farewell to the house, and have some things that Olivia and I can have to…remember the house,” Ben told TODAY.com. “When Ali and I got married, we closed on the house the day before our wedding, so we did wedding photos in the empty house.”

Since the home was empty again due to the Nunerys’ impending move, Pace, who shot Ben and Ali’s original wedding photos in 2009, was able to recreate the images with Ben and Olivia, including one of the father and daughter in a doorway to mimic the photo Ben had once taken with her mother.

“It immediately brought up memories of being there the first time,” he said. “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.”

Pace, who noted in her blog post that she often feels her sister’s presence, said she felt Ali’s guidance during the photo shoot.

“It’s almost like she was nudging me along as I was shooting, telling me which places to go and what to use as props,” she told TODAY.com. “It was a very overwhelming feeling to have her so close even if she was not physically there.”

Pace and her husband, who is also a photographer and helped out with the shoot, posted the photos to their blog, and the beautiful and poignant images soon attracted attention, as even those unfamiliar with the Nunerys and their story were moved by the photos and story.

Ben said that while he did the shoot for himself and his daughter, he is heartened that the images have had an effect on others.

“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,” he said. “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.

“It doesn’t mean that we forget our loved ones, but find ways to remember them and keep that memory going.”

old friends in snowb

The Winter of Life

by: Mary Dow Brine (1816-1913)

As down the frosty road we came,
My man and I together,
We talked of this, and smiled at that,
Nor felt the chilling weather.
For side by side we trudged along,
Each thought the other sharing,
And in each other’s company
The wintry breezes daring.

The sky above was cold and gray,
The earth below was dreary,
But home was near, and love was warm,
Altho’ the way seemed weary.
John had but me, I had but John,
Life’s twilight skies to brighten,
But every sorrow we had borne,
Some blessing came to lighten.

….

The summer joys long since were past,
And winter’s snows were o’er us;
The twilight sky was cold and drear,
And night was just before us.
But though the way so weary seemed,
Yet John and I were merry:
For said I not that home was near?
And hearts and thoughts grew cheery.

old friends

old friends

The Meeting

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

After so long an absence
At last we meet again:
Does the meeting give us pleasure,
Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,
And but few of us linger now,
Like the Prophet’s two or three berries
In the top of the uttermost bough.

We cordially greet each other
In the old, familiar tone;
And we think, though we do not say it,
How old and gray he is grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas
And many a Happy New Year
But each in his heart is thinking
Of those that are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,
And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish
Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
Steals over our merriest jests.

“The Meeting” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Public domain.

old female friends

A Friend
by: Carmen Sylva (1843-1916)

Old age is gentle as an autumn morn;
The harvest over, you will put the plough
Into another, stronger hand, and watch
The sowing you were wont to do.
Old age
Is like an alabaster room, with soft
White curtains. All is light, but light so mild,
So quiet, that it cannot hurt.
The pangs
Are hushed, for life is wild no more with strife,
Nor breathless uphill work, nor heavy with
The brewing tempests, which have torn away
So much, that nothing more remains to fear.
What once was hope, is gone. You know. You saw
The worst, and not a sigh is left of all
The heavy sighs that tore your heart, and not
A tear of all those tears that burnt your cheeks,
And ploughed the forrows into them.
You see
How others work again and weep again,
And hope and fear. Thy alabaster room
With marble floor and dainty hangings has
A look so still, that others wonder why
They feel it churchlike. All thy life is here;
Thy life hath built the vault and paved it, and
Thy hands have woven yonder curtains that
Surround thy seat, a shady sunshine.
Age
Is feeble not to thee, as all thy wishes
Are silent and demand no effort. Age
is kind to thee, allows thee all the rest
That never came, when life was hard and toilsome.
Receive it with a smile and clothe thyself
In white, in Nature’s silver crown, and sing
A lullaby of promise and of comfort.
Tell them that life is precious, after work,
And after grief and after all the deaths,
And not a loathsome burden of a life.
Old age is like a room of alabaster,
The curtains silken; thou art priest and Druid!
No mystery for thee, but Light from heaven!

old friends on beach

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory