Mom's memory lives on in sweet dad, daughter photos

  • Slideshow Photos

    Moving without mom

    Ben Nunery and his daughter Olivia recreate family moments as they say a bittersweet goodbye to an old house filled with memories.

  • Moving without mom

    of

    Mom's memory lives on in sweet dad, daughter photos -

    When Ben Nunery and his wife Ali got married in 2009, they had just closed on their new house, so they took the opportunity to take their wedding photos in the empty home.

    Just four and a half years later, after Ali's tragic death from cancer at at the age of 31 in 2011, Ben and his young daughter Olivia got ready to move to a new house, but they wanted to say goodbye to the old one. So they recreated these special photos from Ben and Ali's wedding day, as a way to remember the happy times.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Now and then -

    The images were recreated by Ali's sister Melanie, who had photographed the couple on their wedding day. On the left, Melanie's photo of Ben and his wife Ali in 2009. On the right, Ben and his daughter Olivia, in the same doorway, in Dec. 2013.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Father daughter dance -

    Olivia and her dad, Ben.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Like mother, like daughter -

    As they went through the house, Olivia stopped to play with the curling iron that had been her mother's. Above, a similar photo of her mom Ali getting ready on her wedding day.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Stairs -

    On the left, Ben stands in their empty house in 2009 as his wife Ali comes down the stairs. On the right, he and daughter Olivia play on the same stairs in 2013.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Love story -

    Ben wrote about the experience, saying: "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."
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Memories -

    "The memories of Ali don't live in that house," Ben wrote of his late wife, Olivia's mother. "They live with us, in our hearts."
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Dance partners -

    Ben and Ali, left, on their wedding day in 2009, and Ben and his daughter Olivia, right, in 2013. "I wanted to be able to show Olivia the place where her mother and I started our lives together and dreamed of raising children," he wrote.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    'My Dada' -

    Ali's sister Melanie snapped this photo of her brother-in-law and his daughter dancing in the house.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Window -

    Ben and his wife Ali, left, on their wedding day. He recreated the shot with his daughter, Olivia, in his wife's memory. "Benjamin, you look like a baby!" wrote his photographer sister-in-law, Melanie, on her blog.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Hand in hand -

    Ben and his daughter, with the glass angel Olivia calls "Mommy." "They talk to her and play with her every day," Melanie writes.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Feather -

    Ali's sister Melanie, who took these photos, says she regularly gets "messages/signs" from her late sister, and that feathers often fall out of nowhere. So she was deeply moved when she went to take this photograph in Olivia's room and the little girl bent down and picked up something: a white feather. "Oh hey sis!" Melanie wrote. "Glad you could make an appearance in this sesh."
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Sitting still -

    "She was fidgeting the whole time," Melanie writes of Olivia during the photo shoot, "and you can't really tell in still frames but you can in the shot on the right." Of her husband, who came with her to photograph the father daugther pair and captured this shot, she said: "Adam nailed it."
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Playing the ukelele -

    Ben learned how to play the wedding song he and Ali danced to - Stevie Wonder's "I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will Be Forever") on this ukelele, a gift from a friend. "One night in the hospital he used his skills to serenade Ali," her sister remembers. Here, he demos his musical talents for his daughter.
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
  • Moving without mom

    of

    Making new memories -

    "We said goodbye to Ali two years ago, but her presence has remained undeniable in the house," Ben wrote of his wife. After taking the series of photographs around their empty house, the father daughter duo said goodbye to it and headed into their new life in a new home.

    "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."
    Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography

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."

Ben and his daughter Olivia recreate a photo he once took with his late wife Ali. Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography
Ben and his daughter Olivia recreate a photo he once took with his late wife Ali.

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. 

'Moving without mom' Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography

"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."

TOP