Receiving news that your cancer, which you thought had gone, has now spread, and you don’t know how much longer you’ll live can be devastating to hear.
But it can be even more crushing when the one thing you’ve waited a long time for is just around the corner.
Ellen Hayes was looking forward to her granddaughter’s wedding day in September, when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer last December. The cancer had spread to her bones, and Hayes was left with excruciating pain as a result. But more painful than that was the possibility that she wouldn’t be well enough to dance with her granddaughter, Brittany Marr, on her wedding day.
The news was equally crushing to Brittany.
The bride-to-be from Ashley Michigan, knew how important this day was. After a heartbreaking phone call with her grandmother, she decided she wasn’t going to wait around and see how her health was closer to the wedding—so Brittany took matters into her own hands.
Brittany entered and won a photo shoot contest with photographers Copper + Pine after writing to them about her grandmother’s illness and wish for a dance with her granddaughter.
“I’d like to capture through pictures the love I have for her and the love she gives me. Life is too special and short when you have special people in your life, to take them for granted.” Brittany wrote.
She decided on a “first look” style pre-wedding shoot to give her grandmother the day she’s always wanted, three months before the wedding.
“After we won, my grandma and I were so excited and we talked about it every time we spoke, whether it was over the phone, through text or when we were together,” Brittany told HuffPost.
The started off the session by exchanging heartfelt letters about their favorite memories of each other.
Photographer Mikayla Miller captured the incredibly close and beautiful bond between the two relatives in a hay field in Breckenridge, Michigan—near Brittany’s home.
In a Facebook post that has since gone viral, Miller said she didn’t know what the letters said, and she didn’t ask.
“Brittany did keep laughing about the memories her grandma had written about in her letter as she was reading them. They cried and laughed.”
Then Ellen took off her beloved necklace and gave it to her granddaughter.
During the shoot, Miller asked the bride-to-be and her grandmother to look at each other and tell the other what their favorite memory of each other was.
“Brittany’s grandma, Ellen, looked at her and said, ‘Probably this,’” Miller said.
Then both grandmother and granddaughter changed into their wedding outfits and Ellen closed her eyes.
When Brittany tapped her on the soldier, Ellen opened her eyes and gasped.
She was blown away.
“It was genuinely the most loving moment I’ve ever captured,” Miller said.. “The bond that those two share is absolutely incredible.”
They also danced to a song Brittany chose and had it left as a surprise for her grandma. It was “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” by Martina McBride.
“It was the only time during the session where Brittany and grandma really, really cried together,” the Oklahoma-based photographer wrote.
Miller, who posted the contest on her Facebook page Copper + Pine earlier this year, said she couldn’t have imagined a more rewarding photo shoot. She said it was “the most emotional shoot that [she has] shot to date.”
“I can’t even remember how many times I could hardly see through the viewfinder on my camera because of the tears that had welled up in my eyes,” she told HuffPost UK.
As evidenced by this photo shoot, Brittany and her grandmother are great friends.
Brittany said “My grandma has ears that truly listen, arms that always hold, love that never ends and a heart as sweet as her soul.”