Since being diagnosed with throat cancer three years ago, dad of three Ray Burrow has undergone radiation, several rounds of chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries. He fought hard and he fought strong, but eventually, his cancer became too aggressive — and, three weeks ago, he made the difficult decision to stop his treatment.
Knowing he doesn't have much time left, Burrow was recently moved into hospice care. But the hardest part is yet to come: saying goodbye to his high school sweetheart and wife of 20 years, Christy, and his three children, 15-year-old Zaidee, 13-year-old Ava, and 9-year-old Nathan.
For the Raeford, North Carolina, native, knowing he'll miss out on some of his children's biggest future milestones is absolutely heartbreaking. Thankfully, though, Christy wasn't about to let her husband's disease steal those special moments from her family: Instead, she called up the photographers behind Southern Fried Photography, Amanda Ward and Jennifer Williams, and asked them to help the family create those memories now — and preserve them in a set of beautiful family photos.
So, last week, the family gathered up the necessary props and came together for an emotional photo shoot. The kids posed in caps and gowns to create grad photos with dad, and Zaidee and Ava donned wedding dresses to mimic the moment their father would walk them down the aisle at their weddings. (Zaidee, in an especially heartbreaking turn, wore the dress Christy wore in her 1997 wedding to Burrow.)
There were silly moments and solemn moments throughout the shoot, but the family knows that, in the future, they'll be grateful they documented these important moments while they still could.
"I knew there was no time to waste," Christy told CBS News. "My husband and I have made every effort to keep our children's lives as normal as possible, so I knew this was our opportunity to give our children memories that they would need to carry with them through some of the hardest days that are sure to come."
Perhaps the best part of the shoot, however, was the strength it brought out in Burrow, who was as silly, spunky, and loving as ever.
"This is us winning over cancer... not allowing it to take anything more away from us," Christy said.
Take a look at more of the Burrows' beautiful photos below.
[h/t CBS News]