Cancer-stricken dad marks future milestones with kids while he still can
Nearly 20 years after Ray Burrow wed his high school sweetheart, Christy, the father of three is getting ready to do the hardest thing he's ever had to do — say goodbye.
The couple from Raeford, North Carolina, have been by each other's sides since they were teenagers, but as Burrow continues his years-long battle with throat cancer, he knows he's nearing the end.
Burrow decided to stop cancer treatments this year and was recently admitted into a hospice center.
He's been trying to enjoy every minute he has left with his wife and three children, Zaidee,15, Ava,13, and Nathan, 9.
But he knows he's going to miss out on future milestones like watching their graduation ceremonies, walking his daughters down the aisle, and handing them their first set of car keys on their 16th birthdays.
Photographer Amanda Ward, who has known the family for years, called Christy up last week and volunteered to take pictures of the family, free of charge, along with her partner, Jennifer Williams, of Southern Fried Photography.
Christy "had a vision for the shoot at that point," Ward told CBS News.
"I really want to have my girls photographed in wedding dresses," Christy told Ward. "I just really hate that cancer is going to take that away from my babies, take that happy memory away."
So they gathered all the necessary clothing and met for a photo shoot last week.
Zaidee wore the same dress her mom wore when she married Burrow in 1997 and Ava borrowed a family friend's dress. The girls posed next to their dad, smiling through the bittersweet moment.
It was hard to shoot the photos, but Ray exuded strength, Williams said.
"His sense of humor was still intact," she added. "He was cracking jokes."
But there were definitely some emotional moments.
"You can see the love between his daughters and him," Williams described. "I can't even find words for it. It was so amazing, even as sick as he was, the emotion in his eyes said it all."
After taking a few shots with his daughters in their wedding gowns, Burrow mustered up the strength to stand with his son, who was wearing a graduation cap and gown.
He then posed for a few pictures with his bride. Afterward, Burrow headed to the car and pretended to hand over his keys to his children, something he had hoped to do years down the road.
While it's hard to accept he may never get to make these memories with his family, Ward said it was still a special day they will never forget.
"We were very well aware of the love in his eyes and how proud he was," she said.
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