A Tribute: Bravery for Avery

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"My 5 yr old daughter was just diagnosed with DIPG, a terminal brain stem tumor. There is no cure. Average prognosis is 9-12 mos. We would love a photo sessions and book for our family, including her twin sister and little brother, to hold on to as we grieve."

Those words are powerful. Sitting in my inbox, holding so much weight, Emily reached out to Love Not Lost in December. My heart broke, as it does every time I read an application that comes through, and I knew we would make this session happen no matter the cost.

At the end of February, Avery was granted her Make-A-Wish trip to Disney and it was a great opportunity to capture some incredible moments. We were able to spend the day with them at LegoLand preserving memories together. It's a day I will never forget.

I was captivated by both Bekah and Avery, twins with so much love for each other. From the first ride on the double-decker merry-go-round, to the train rides, car rides, and boat rides that followed, all three kids were soaking up the fun and fully enjoying themselves. Of course we stopped for lunch and ice cream treats in the middle of it all, and had some laughs as the kids covered their hands and faces with sticky goodness.

Later in the day, as the kids were getting tired, we stopped to watch a water ski show and rest. Some popcorn and frozen pops helped get their energy back for some more fun before dinner. After dinner, I was able to go back to the Give Kids The World resort where we played games and had fun with other families until bedtime.

I wish I could've captured the whole week, but I had to get back for our 3rd Annual Auction Celebration on March 1. When I talked to Emily this month to share some updates with her, I was devastated to learn that Avery passed away on Mother's Day. I watched their video and cried at my desk for a good while. I know that pain. The emptiness and grief as your daughter leaves your arms for the last time is unbearable. "Be brave my heart. Have courage my soul."

Having spent time with the Neill family, I have no doubt they will be loved and cared for through this time. The facebook community through their Bravery for Avery page is amazing. They are surrounded by people who love and care for them. If that's you, I want to encourage you to show up. Even if it's donating to their DPIG fundraiser, taking care of their yard, offering to run errands, bringing them a meal or sending them gift certificates for gas, groceries, or restaurants... don't disappear. They will need you throughout this ENTIRE YEAR. Send cards, offer to help with the kids, pick up the phone and tell them you're thinking of them - whatever you can do, do it. We need to show up and love them well in their grief.

Today, as we celebrate Avery and Rebekah's 6th Birthday, we hold this family close. We hope these photos can bring some peace and comfort to all who loved Avery and joy to the family as they celebrate Bekah & Avery's Birthday today.

Thank you Neill Family for inviting us and trusting us to capture these memories for you. It was an incredible honor and privilege to spend the day with you. We love you all so much.

Thank you to all of the generous donors and supporters of Love Not Lost who made this trip possible. We don't ask the families we serve to pay anything, because they have enough expenses on their plates. Your financial contributions to Love Not Lost allow us to show up and love people well without having to worry about how we are going to make it happen.

You allowed us to say "Yes!" to the Neill family when they asked for help preserving memories and support through the grief. Every gift enables us to serve more families and we are so grateful for your help in making these memories possible. Thank you!