Saying Goodbye . . . Again.

The last two years have been a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least.  There have been ups and downs to such extremes that it leaves me wondering how I’ve managed to piece together anything that resembles a normal and happy life.  But, hindsight being what it is, I can look back now and recognize the progress I’ve made as a grieving widower and a single father to an amazing little girl.  These past two years have had no shortage of emotional hurdles to overcome, some small and some large, but none as big as saying goodbye to the home that Ali and I built together.  The home we started our married lives together in.  The home we brought Olivia to after she was born.  The home we turned from a shabby little fixer upper into an award winning showcase property (according to the Price Hill Press!).  In many ways it felt like the last vestige of the life that we set out to build together.  It felt as though leaving that house would be the first step in a new life that Olivia and I would build together. . .without 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.

Ali and I bought our house on the day before our wedding and we thought that having some of our wedding photos taken in the empty house would be an appropriate and memorable way to commemorate such a big step in our lives (see the original wedding day session here).  As wedding days go, it all happened in a blur, but those images represent some of the happiest moments in my life.  It was the beginning of what we planned on being a long and happy life together.  And so, when it came time to pack up the house and schedule the movers, I struggled with the thought of saying goodbye and walking away without something to commemorate such a big step in mine and Olivia’s life.  Having world-class photographers in the family is a nice perk that I try not to abuse, but I managed to sneak into Melanie and Adam’s busy schedule and we set out to once again do a photo session in that empty house.  Only this time I would have a different partner, although one just as beautiful.   It was fun and strange and sad and comforting and just about every other emotion you can think of.  And, it wasn’t until I drove away that the significance of what we had just done hit me like a ton of bricks.   These would be the last memories in that house.

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Side by sides from the original photo session on our wedding day.nunerys023 nunerys022nunerys014
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I did it for me.  I did it for us.  I did it so I would have something to show for the love and beauty that occupied that house for a short time in our lives.  I wanted to be able to show Olivia the place where her mother and I started our lives together and dreamed of raising children.  I thought it would be much harder to say goodbye in this way, but as I sat in the driveway, ready to drive away for the last time, I realized that it’s just a house.  The memories of Ali don’t live in that house.  They live with us, in our hearts.  We take them with us wherever we go and they will live with us in our new house too.  A house is just a house.  Yes, I will miss it but I still have the memories of Ali and I still have Olivia, the most precious evidence of the love Ali and I shared and still share.  Since Melanie posted the photos on her blog, 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.  The pain is nothing compared to the love that I feel for Ali and Olivia and that’s the story I want these pictures to tell to Olivia in the years to come and anyone else that sees them.  The pain will subside little by little but the love never will, no matter where we live.   Our lives will continue down a curvy and uncertain path but Olivia and I will be able to look at these photos and know that for a short time there was a place where I was the luckiest man in the world, even if just for a little while.

- Ben

See the full photo session here

 

75 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye . . . Again.

  1. Pingback: The Nunerys. » loft3 photography

  2. ben, God bless you and Olivia. I could feel Ali hugging you all in this post. what an awesome gift to little olivia. of course my heart aches reading this, but I get what you are saying when you say “the pain subsides but the love doesn’t” this is soooo very true. God love you all.. merry christmas.

  3. Hello. I myself have a daughter. She’ll be two next month, and she’s one of the two greatest things to ever happen to me. I’m still married. My wife and I though have opposing work schedules. We get two short nights during the week together as a family and all of Sunday on the weekends. I’m sure you’d be more than happy with that if it meant you could have Ali back. But everything’s relative and it’s tough, but seeing your pictures and reading your story definitely makes me appreciate more of what I do have. Of course the first thing I did while reading your story was to put myself into your shoes, and knowing what you felt actually going through that journey was 100 times worse than the sinking feeling I felt while doing so definitely put things into perspective. I’ll be sure to reflect on your story during those tough times with my wife and family, remembering how fleeting life can be and how steadfast love is. Thank you.

    All the best,

    JP

  4. What a beautiful way to remember your beloved. I wish you and Olivia nothing but the very best life has to offer. You are a blessing Ben and Ali knew it when she married you.

  5. I came across your photo shoot via today.com, and just wanted to write to tell you how beautiful it was. My heart aches for your daughter and you..but I know Ali is looking down proudly at the job you are doing. As a mother of a 2 year old myself, I can tell you that even on days when you struggle and don’t feel like you have it together, Ali would be proud. :)

  6. On the 7th photo down, are ben and Olivia standing by a window or a picture? if bem is holding her by a window it looks to me as though a faint image is mirrored in the window – an outline of a woman. I think Alli is with them.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting and hopeful.) May Ali’s love radiate every nook and cranny of your new home. So much luck and love to you and Olivia in your new lives.

  8. You wrote this beautifully, Ben…very proud of you and your love for our daughter and grand-daughter. Whoever dreamt 33 yrs ago that our little girl would effect the world the way she has and that you would be writing this story for all to see. We thank God that he brought you into Ali’s life and that you will remain a part of our lives forever. Love you and our sweet Olivia more than words can say and thanks to Melanie for such fantastic pictures again…..as usual.

  9. BEAUTIFUL PICTURES, SO CREATIVE…..She will cherish these forever!!!! I am truly sorry for your loss and if for ANY REASON you make it to Hawaii (Oahu) my 10 yr old (today dec 16) would LOVE to play with Olivia, she is soooo good with kids and could teach her to surf!!! Bless your family during the holidays and don’t be shy to say HI!!!

  10. So this might be a sill question but in the 2nd pic by the window, is that shadow of a women’s figure photo shopped? Did every notice this?

  11. Beautifully written, and beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing your journey & your gorgeous wife and daughter. I hope the future brings so many more happy memories for you two together x

  12. It is so beautiful of you to share your story and these lovely photos. I am so sorry for your loss, what a lucky little girl to have such an amazing father to raise her. Take care, again, thank you so much for sharing.

  13. Pingback: In memory of his wife, young widower re-enacts wedding photos with his 3-year-old daughter [12 pics] | 22 Words

  14. A stunning tribute to someone who will obviously never be forgotten. Your daughter is blessed to have a Dad like you. Keep making memories, your story about your late wife will touch many. Much love from Australia x

  15. I don’t know you at all, but I felt like I had to tell you how much this touched me. I saw the pics of this shoot on Facebook and ended up following a link here and soon I was crying (of course). As I read this I’m sitting in my husband’s hospital room at The National Cancer Institute. He is currently undergoing an experimental treatment for advanced cancer. We are hopeful but the last few days have been hard. We have two small children who we had to leave at home in Arizona with family. I have been full of fear about the what-ifs, full of fear about how my children and I could possibly move on if the worst happened. This post and your beautiful pictures reminded me that love will continue even if what I currently dread and fear becomes a reality. This post was hope to me and I want to thank you for sharing it.

  16. “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.” Wise words for the whole world, especially those who have loved and lost. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks for being brave enough to share them with the whole wide world. Merry Christmas; God Bless us everyone!

  17. I don’t know you, but my heart is so full for you. Having lost my mama in tragedy a few yrs ago and my pastor (a second father) to lung cancer just one yr later so many truthes in your writing hit my heart. Prayers for you and your little one as you continue to celebrate your wife’s life and love.

  18. Ben, we don’t know each other, but your story of loss and love hits home for me and my family. My sister lost a two year battle with cancer this summer and left behind a husband and two little girls, 4 and 6 years old. Your pictures, your stories, your grief, and your hope for healing are so powerful. I wanted to say thank you for sharing such a raw and vulnerable moment in your life. It doesn’t take away our pain, but it reminds us that love and living memories can overcome the pain and anger we still feel.
    http://chronicleofmysoldier.blogspot.com/2013/07/in-remembrance-of-genevieve.html

    You, your daughter, and entire family will be in our prayers.
    Paul Rickmeyer

  19. I came across your photos on the today show site. Your story – and your journey – is such an amazing reminder how important it is to love… for as long and as much as you can. You can feel yours and Ali’s love – and I know (though I never knew her or you) that it will last a forever throughout your life and through your sweet little girl.

  20. Reading your story just moved me to tears and seeing the love you have for your family is beautiful! I hope you and your little angel the best of luck in your new adventure :)

  21. I cam across your story on a friends facebook and I just had to read. I lost my best friend at the age of 31 to a rare form of uterine cancer not even four months ago, and she left 3 beautiful children (Ava,6, Ella,5 and Nolan 2.5). and an amazing husband, who to say the least is going through a lot. I just visited 3 weeks ago (they live 6 hours from me) and we had this exact conversation about him possibly moving from the house he and she built together (someday, not anytime soon) and I can’t wait to share this with him, cause like you said “the memories dont live in that house”. I am not one to leave comments on strangers blogs but I couldn’t help but tear up reading this and wish you and your precious baby girl a life lived with happiness, faith, and those wonderful memories. God Bless you, Olivia and your enitre family.

    Kate – South Bend, Indiana

  22. Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to see a man out there moving through this circumstance so thoughtfully. I too lost my wife, a little over a year ago, and am walking this path, one day at a time, with three young children (http://get-screened.org/). I appreciate the struggles, small victories, cloudy days, and moments of debilitating beauty you must be going through too. My phone number is in my email address; please call if you’re ever in Portland, OR. Again, thank you for sharing.

  23. this is amazing stuff dude. and it hits me particularly hard as not even a month ago my best friend lost his wife of 6 years to breast cancer. She was only 35. they have a 2.5 yr old (turns three in January). im having a hard time trying to help him, and im confused on how to, i know that time is the thing he needs most (im guessing obviously) but can you suggest (or anyone) if there are ways that i can help more? One caveat im in NYC and he is back in LA….thanks for the photos, the story and the thoughts.

  24. Ben and Olivia, thank you for posting these pictures. Ben, you still are the luckiest man in the world. Ali has left you with the best gift possible, a lasting legacy in Olivia.
    I lost my wife in August to cancer and she left me with two of the most beautiful little girls in the world. I will never stop loving my wife and the girls are a constant reminder of what we created together. The memories will last forever and my wife’s legacy will live on just as long. Without the comfort and company of my daughters I don’t know what I would do. They give me inspiration, they show such resilience and such a love for life. I know Olivia must do the same for you!

    Thank you again for sharing with everyone and good luck to you in the newest chapter of your lives!

  25. This is indeed is a love story. Not just ur daughter but Ali’s parents and ur parents must be so proud. I can see the love and strength and connection the bond between you and Olivia.. Every1 goes through the pain of leaving loved ones behind and moving on to a world known yet unknown but very few are lucky enough to have the feeling that my child will be well taken care of. Ali I’m sure is there with you guys and smiles every time u guys smile and looks at you every time you two look at each other and she must be so proud. May Allah(god) give her peace grace and a place among His best. xxx

  26. hello Ben & to your little girl, Olivia & of course to your angel Ali. I saw your story published through deseretnews.com as i was browsing my fb & decided to read your blog in full. your entire story sends me to tears & the photo sesh you had with your little girl to commemorate the love you have for your wife, it really made me cry but its awesome. This i guess is one of the genuine love story ive ever read. Im wishing that God will always be by your side to provide you strength in facing each new day. God bless you & your family

    ps. Little Olivia is the cutest & she has a full resemblance of her mum Have a happy holidays & may your new house be bless with lots of love & laughter

  27. It’s one of the most beautiful way to pay tribute and immortalise a mother and a wife.
    However, the link to the full photo session (at the end of your blog post) says “account suspended”. Could you please share the link again?

    Thank you

  28. Thank you so much for the inspiration I have been so lost my husband died Will be 2 years March 8th 2013 I have a five year old lil Angel of my own with out her my day’s would be so empty. But I wanted to thank you for showing us we are not alone.

  29. To the both of you.im so tou hed by the way you did that.may god bless you and your daughter everyday.i have felt your pain to my half passing.but you have made me smile knowing you two will live a beautiful life and she will always be there. God bless and aloha jennie

  30. Dear Ben, I am Italian and I am 54. I was very moved by your story that is also my story. My mum died of cancer when I was 6 months old. I became for my father the reason to go on. I do not know if it would have been the same without our tragedy, but the relationship between my father and me, became incredibly strong. He was for me the best father one can possibly imagine. My father and my mother used to travel a lot before my birth, and I have the old black and white photos they took. When I travel, I go in the same places, let say the centre of piazza san marco in Venice, in frort of the Louvre in Paris as if I was taking the same snapshot. As you did. Also my dad passed away but now I have a son and a daughter and I believe that they represent my mum’s and my dad’s second life. When I feel sad, I say to myself that nobody dies as long as there is somebody else who still remembers and love. I wish you two all the best. Have a nice Xmas
    xxxoooo mariavittoria

  31. katwoman81: hello Ben & to your little girl, Olivia & of course to your angel Ali. I saw your story published through deseretnews.com as i was browsing my fb & decided to read your blog in full. your entire story sends me to tears & the photo sesh you had with your little girl to commemorate the love you have for your wife, it really made me cry but its awesome. This i guess is one of the genuine love story ive ever read. Im wishing that God will always be by your side to provide you strength in facing each new day. God bless you & your family

    ps. Little Olivia is the cutest & she has a full resemblance of her mum Have a happy holidays & may your new house be bless with lots of love & laughter :)

  32. hello Ben & to your little girl, Olivia & of course to your angel Ali. I saw your story published through deseretnews.com as i was browsing my fb & decided to read your blog in full. your entire story sends me to tears & the photo sesh you had with your little girl to commemorate the love you have for your wife, it really made me cry but its awesome. This i guess is one of the genuine love story ive ever read. Im wishing that God will always be by your side to provide you strength in facing each new day. God bless you & your family

    ps. Little Olivia is the cutest & she has a full resemblance of her mum Have a happy holidays & may your new house be bless with lots of love & laughter :)

  33. Dear Ben,
    I cannot imagine what you have been thru’
    You have such a powerful love story. I pray that you and your daughter, Olivia will continue to feel loved and be loved. The testimony of that love lives in u and Olivia.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Ken

  34. Ali and Ben are truly soul mates.
    I BELIEVE…
    They created an amazing angel together, Olivia.

    This is an amazing story!!

    Happiness always,
    Jody fitz from Dearborn, michigan

  35. This is absolutely beautiful! You are so inspiring. Doing a beyond wonderful job. Keep up the good work! GOD BLESS YOU AND ALI!!!

  36. No words could express what I am feeling right now. What an incredible gift to both you and your adorable daughter! I am profoundly sorry for your loss…but I am POSITIVE Ali is smiling in heaven! You are doing a great job Dad!

  37. I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how inspiring you are and how much I aspire to raise my son with the same grace you have shown while raising Olivia. I relate to your story so much. I recently lost my husband very tragically and publicly. He left myself and our 1 year old son behind at only 33 years old. I understand the many emotions you talk about in your Blog, feel the pain in your words. But you give me hope to know that life does go on and though the pain will never really disappear it will get easier with time. My son and I recently had to leave the home we shared with my husband and it was more difficult then most people can imagine but like you said, I know that his memory comes with us. Lives on in us. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful photos with the world. You are an inspiration to all of us that have suffered such great loss.

  38. Dear Ben I cried a lot when I read about your story and how you overcame the difficulty of being away from his love. I would like you to believe that that which you are Olivia and her dear Ali will be looking for you with great affection. I would one day find a love that was so great as to what you showed us. I wish you and Olivia a Holy and full of Christmas magic that you find much peace together.

  39. Dear Ben I cried a lot when I read about your story and how you overcame the difficulty of being away from his love. I would like you to believe that which you are Olivia and her dear Ali will be looking for you with great affection. I would one day find a love that was so great as to what you showed us. I wish you and Olivia a Holy and full of Christmas magic that you find much peace together.

  40. Dear Ben and Olivia,
    I just read your story on a german news-site and it really touched my heart. It´s a beautiful story about real love and though I do not know you at all it is possible to feel your love for Ali from every word you say. I just wish you all the best for your future and a wonderful christmas time with your family and friends. Thanks for sharing this.

    Regards, Stephan

  41. Ben and Olivia -

    After reading your story and seeing your beautiful, stunning photos on several websites, I was struck by the similarities between your story and my own. My mom also passed away from a rare form of cancer when I was 18 months old, with six months between diagnosis and her death. Growing up, I was blessed by being surrounding by an amazing father who sacrificed so much to raise me on his own and by family who could tell me stories about who my mother was and how I was like her. The one thing I always wanted though, was to know another girl who had never known their mom, who understood what it was like – even if every other aspect of our life was amazing.

    All that to say: sweet Olivia, you are not alone! I believe you will grow up stronger as a result, with more compassion and empathy for others than most. And know that it’s ok to miss someone you never knew. Ben – One day (I can almost guarantee it), she will see and appreciate all you have done for her. (I hope that’s encouragement for those fun teen years). :)

    All the best to you both and your family. Have a wonderful holiday season!

    ~Laura

  42. I absolutely had to come here, Ben. When you said that you don’t want people to see these pictures as though they are expressing grief, but your eternal love both Ali and Olivia, you were so right. Because each memory that’s been captured really showed me love and only love. And often, this kind of love warms your heart and you jerk a tear. That’s what happened to me.
    Ali Nunery was a beautiful lady and you made a lovely couple. May Olivia grow up to be just like her mother. I know little girl will sometimes miss having her mother by her side, but your love & strength will keep her strong and you’ll nurture her well.
    May you be blessed, Ben & Olivia. And Ali, Requiescat In Pace. You’ll be remembered.

  43. Dear Ben,

    just wanted to say that it is such a beautiful site.

    I know exactly how you feel ..

    I wish you and your family strength and love for the future

    Greetings from Germany

    Belinda

  44. Hi Ben and Olivia,
    I am also a widow. I went through the same feeling and I know that yeah little by little, the hurt and pain will be gone but such love will remain in the heart. I pray that God will give you the grace to move on. Olivia, you look so pretty just like your mom. God bless.

  45. Typically I don’t respond to stories but in your case I felt so compelled to share my thoughts and feelings. I’m a 53 year old woman whose mother passed away suddenly. I was 20 months old with two brothers that were 8 and 11. My mother was 30 and my father not much older. My father remains my hero as he chose to keep us all together even though my grandparents wanted me to live with them because I was so young. My life was wonderful and filled with wonderful childhood memories. I’ll be spending Christmas with my 84 year old dad as I’ve done every year. You appear to be cut from the same cloth as my father. Your daughter will grow up and realize what a wonderful father she has and also what a wonderful mother she had as well. Merry Christmas to you both!

  46. I just happened upon the Loft 3 blog and this blog by chance tonight…and wow. Just wow. Tears have been flowing for hours, reading about your family. Unbelievable. So young, so beautiful, so healthy. I don’t understand things like this. Peace be with you, and your sweet daughter and family <3

  47. Beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing your story. Sending lots of hugs and well wishes. God bless you both, Ben and Olivia.

    Jessica from Canada

  48. Pingback: A Young Widower Retakes His Wedding Photos. The Way He Did It Is Tragically Beautiful.Viral Novas | Viral Novas

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  50. This is so touching and full of emotions! I believe her Angel will follow and guide you two wherever you will go.
    In Italy we say: there’s no bigger house than love.

  51. Pingback: A Young Widower Retakes His Wedding Photos. The Way He Did It Is Tragically Beautiful.

  52. Today is a normal saturday and I’m trying to study to realize my dream: become a doctor. I’ve found this story, I’ve read your words, I’ve seen your photos and I’ve seen a lot of what I’ve lived in the last 5 years. I know what cancer is, I live every single day of my life with the fear of losing my mum, I try to spend all the time I have with her but it is never enough. These photos make me cry because I see love in your eyes, I see your courage, I see Ali in your life. I’m fighting against cancer and I will fight forever for my mum, for you, for Ali and for Olivia. You are a wonderful family. I wish you the best. Sorry for my english. From Italy.

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