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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.”

 

When my husband died, my son sang at his funeral  service.  He sang this song.  This is what he said before he sang it:

The afternoon before my father passed, he watched a broadcast of PBS’s Memorial Day concert with my mother. I was watching the same broadcast from home. My mom reports that he was particularly touched by the concert, which brought him to tears several times. The concert included this song, sung by Jean Valjean in the stage version of Les Miserables.

Les Miz is the story of Valjean’s quest for redemption, the imperfections of human justice, and the perfection of divine justice. It is about a man who learns compassion, and who ultimately teaches his stepchild, his employees, his fellow citizens, and even the story’s protagonist to love by example.

That is the way I will always remember my father.

Bring Him Home is sung by Valjean as he contemplates the possible death of his daughter’s suitor. When my father first spoke with me about death in my youth, he did so very matter-of-factly. He told me that he wasn’t scared of death—his gentle way of telling me that anyone could be taken at any moment, and that no future days are guaranteed.

My father rarely minced words, he was honest, he taught by example, and he was prepared for death.

I am so, so lucky and blessed to have two sons that my husband and I loved, raised and watched grow to strong, good men.  Each has found a love in their life.  Each has found meaningful life work.

Each life is so precious.   I thank God for my husband and for my sons.

I work everyday now with men and women who have returned from the War Zone.

They are fortunate to return and they grieve for those they left behind.

So do I. 

God on high
here my prayer
in my need
you have always been there
he is young
he’s afraid
let him rest
heaven blessed
bring him home
bring him home
bring him home
he’s like the son I might have known
if God had granted me a son
the summer’s die one by one
how soon they fly on and on

and I am old and will be gone
bring him peace
bring him joy
he is young
he is only a boy
you can take you can give
let him be let him live
if I die, let me die
let him live
bring him home
bring him home
bring him home

 

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got

You say you just don’t see it
He says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts

So don’t yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in
You may just be O.K.

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

Child of Mine

Child of mine, you are the wildest wind
And the dearest dream I will ever know.
Love’s lasting light shines out from deep
Within this father’s heart as I watch you grow.

Child of mine, you are the break of dawn
and the brightest star I will ever know
Love’s lasting light comes shining on and on
From this mother’s heart as I watch you grow.

There is a road, and that road is all your own
But we are here, you need not walk alone.
To face, not fear each coming new unknown
Is the way to lift your wings.

Child of mine, you are the sweetest song
And the greatest gift I will ever know.

Child of mine, where spirits fly above
There is but one that belongs to you.
So let it grow and it will thrive on love
For it is love that sees us through.

You have hands that will open up the doors,
You may have the hopes this world is waiting for,
You are my own, but you are so much more
You are tomorrow on the wing, child of mine.

In My Daughter’s Eyes I am a Hero

In my daughter’s eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter’s eyes

In my daughter’s eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter’s eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It’s hangin’ on when your heart
has had enough
It’s giving more when you feel like giving up
I’ve seen the light
It’s in my daugter’s eyes

In my daughter’s eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she’ll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I’m gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I’ll be there
In my daughter’s eyes

Sabbath Prayer

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May He always shield you from shame.
May you come to be
In Israel a shining name.

May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
May you be deserving of praise.
Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
And keep them from the strangers’ ways.

May God bless you and grant you long lives.
(May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.)
May God make you good mothers and wives.
(May He send you husbands who will care for you.)

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.

I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, “Look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree, I think. And he says – “you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.” And I think that he’s kind of nutty.

First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me, too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is; but I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time I see much more about the flower than he sees. I can imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimetre, there is also beauty at a smaller dimension, the inner structure.

Also the processes, the fact that the colours in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting – it means that insects can see the colour. It adds a question: Does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kins of interesting questions which shows that science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds; I don’t understand how it subtracts.

If you expected science to give all the answers to the wonderful questions of what we are, where we are going, what the meaning of the universe is and so on then I think you could become easily dissolusioned and then look for some mystic answer to these problems…

We are exploring, we are trying to find out as much as we can about the world…I can can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing…

I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things….

and this is my favorite:

He was happy with me, I believe. Once, though, when I came back from MIT – I’d been there a few years – he said to me, “Now”, he said, “you’ve become educated about these things and there’s one question I’ve always had that I’ve never understood very well and I’d like to ask you, now that you’ve studied this, to explain it to me,” and I asked him what it was. And he said that he understood that when an atom made a transition from one state to another it emits a particle of light called a photon. I said, “That’s right.”

And he says, “Well, now, is the photon in the atom ahead of time that it comes out, or is there no photon in it so start with?” I says, “There’s no photon in, it’s just that when the electron makes a transition it comes” and he says “Well, where does it come from then, how does it come out?” So I couldn’t say, “The view is that photon numbers aren’t conserved, they’re just created by the motion of the electron.”

I couldn’t try to explain to him something like: the sound that I’m making now wasn’t in me. It’s not like my little boy who when he started to talk, suddenly said that he could no longer say a certain word – the word was “cat” – because his word bag has run out of the word cat. So there’s no word bag that you have inside so that you use up the words as they come out, you just make them as they go along, and in the same sense there was no photon bag in an atom and when the photons come out they didn’t come from somewhere, but I couldn’t do much better.

He was not satisfied with me in the respect that I never was able to explain any of the things that he didn’t understand. So he was unsuccessful, he sent me through all these universities in order to find out these things and he never did find out.

Bill Gates paid to have his lectures at Cornell available to the public and they can be found here.

 

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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