It’s said that a picture’s worth a thousand words. For me, those thousand words evoke memories, which awaken the senses, free up emotion, and place me back in time, back in those precious moments when the photo was taken.

I hold on to photos like crazy, part of that is because after losing someone so close to you, your greatest fear can be forgetting all the memories, moments, and details that made them so special. I never want to forget the sound of Jessie’s laugh, the twinkle in her eyes, the smell of her room, the energetic joyfulness that often occurred from a steady dose of baked treats and sugar.

The last time our family took actual family pictures was in 2011, shortly after hearing Jessie was diagnosed with DIPG. Those photos hang in our home and are a beautiful reminder of who we are, forever a unit of 5 even though you only visually see 4 now. I love those pictures and we use them often! There is one photo of sweet Jess, beautiful as can be with the brightest smile. There is so much going on in that photo when I think back to it, but you don’t see it all. She looks healthy, vibrant, radiant, joyful, the picture of a compassionate girl going through life like any 12-13 year old would.

Her physical appearance would drastically change in the following 10 months, but that heart, soul, and spirit wouldn’t! I love using that photo to show people who Jessie is.

Whenever I look at our family group shot though, I can’t help but smile and see how much change has happened in the last 6.5 years. JT looks like a baby in the photo compared to the maturing, growing, teenage boy he is today. And I am very thankful to no longer be rocking a full mouth of braces!

I felt like this year was a good time for our family to take new photos. We’ve grown a ton since Jessie touched our lives and left a permanent mark on our hearts. We are more determined than ever to continue on with her wish and make sure everyone hears how our lives have been changed. This unit of 4 has become closer and stronger, together.

I think one of the reasons we maybe hadn’t taken any photos before now was because when you start thinking about taking new family photos, you don’t want to lose or replace the ones that were before. I didn’t want us to try to replicate or replace or reenact the photos we have when there were 5. I wanted to capture our hearts and smiles now, because of Jessie. I wanted to compliment the photos we took back then on the beach in Corona Del Mar. Those photos will forever hold tight to that day and nothing can change that!

Whitney Schey did the most beautiful job capturing us in a new place, showing how we are more grown up and matured, but still joyful and silly. I love seeing the ways Jessie snuck into our photos too, shining bright lights and covering us in her presence!! Her silver, sparkly, Disneyland ears added a touch of Jess so others could see 5 of us there!

Six years later and Jessie’s light never ceases to leave our side!  Wishing you and your family a JOY-filled Christmas and New Year!!