It was 2011 when Ben Nunery lost his wife Ali to a rare form of lung cancer. He and one-year-old daughter Olivia were left to pick up the pieces of their lives. Two years on and the pair were moving out of their Cincinnati home filled with memories. Ben wanted to mark the occasion and came up with the idea to create a beautiful series of photos.
Ben’s sister-in-law Melanie Pace is a professional photographer. He asked her to help him recreate his wedding photos, using Olivia in place of his deceased wife. Olivia is now three and has no memories of her mother. These photos were a way for Ben to connect his daughter to Ali.
We said goodbye to Ali two years ago but her presence has remained undeniable in that house. Every square inch of it was carefully and thoughtfully decorated by her and it was as if she had never left. I remember, in the days and weeks after she died, it was impossibly difficult to live there day in and day out with constant reminders of the loss we all suffered. I walked around the house with blinders on just trying to avoid looking at every little item that she left behind. And slowly those reminders of the pain turned in to little moments of comfort. I knew she was gone but I could look at her things, all those untouched little artifacts, and know that she was there with me. I found comfort in bottles of shampoo and drawers full of socks and jewelry still neatly organized. But always in the back of my mind I knew I would eventually have to say goodbye to the shrine that I was building up in my mind just like I had to say goodbye to her.
They worked off Ben and Ali’s original wedding photos taken in 2009. “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.”
Ben still struggles with the loss of his wife. “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 here. 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!”
See more of these gorgeous photos on Melanie’s blog page.
Images courtesy of Melanie Pace