Mom’s touching wedding photo perfectly honors her deceased daughter

Some say that losing a child is the hardest thing you can experience. Now imagine you’re getting married two years later, and that child is not there to share in the joy.

Sadly that’s what happened to Amanda Crowe Freebird of Port Allen, Louisiana, who lost her 6-year-old daughter two years ago to cancer. Azalee had a neuroblastoma, which is the most common extracranial solid cancer in children. She passed away in November 2013, and Freebird just got married last week on Dec. 13, 2015, just over two years later.

“You can never prepare yourself for the loss of a child,” she told ABC 7. “I went through a dark place with anger from my baby being gone. She was my best friend. She knew me and we did everything together. She loved me, I loved her and I miss that very much. Everyone she came in contact with absolutely fell in love with her.”

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Freebird spent the last two years mourning her little girl. Thankfully, she met her now husband in 2014, and he made things a little better. “I know without a shadow of doubt that Azalee brought us together,” she told the Huffington Post. “He just welcomed my broken heart with open arms.” However, now that her wedding day was approaching, rather than regret the absence of her daughter, she wanted to find a way to make her part of it. Thankfully, a photographer friend came up with a creative idea to incorporate Azalee into the nuptials — putting her into one of the wedding photos.

Ashley Frantz is a professional photographer, but hadn’t really worked with Photoshop before. “I was just learning Photoshop and it’s such a tender subject — I didn’t want to offend her or mess anything up,” Frantz told ABC 7. However, rather than pass it off to a more knowledgeable photographer, she decided to just give it a go herself. “I was going to try and find a photographer friend to try and do it, but I knew how much it meant to her, so I studied for hours and learned how.” Now that’s true friendship, especially considering how frustrating Photoshop can be.

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First, Frantz found a fitting photo of Azalee in a beautiful, yellow dress to Photoshop in, and then she planned the shoot with Crowe. “[She] told me to imagine I was holding her face and leaning in and giving her a kiss. I could see that being something [my daughter] did if she was really here with me. Not having her there was very difficult, but the butterflies and the picture made me feel like she was there,” Freebird told ABC 7. The resulting image was everything they could’ve hoped for and more.

Image: Ashley Frantz

If that didn’t make you tear up, I don’t know what will. Despite missing her daughter intensely on the day, Freebird was so happy to have that moment with Azalee captured. The photo serves as a reminder that Azalee is always with her mom in spirit, touching her in little ways each day. For example, during the wedding, they released butterflies in honor of Azalee, and one stuck to Freebird’s dress. She took that as a sign that her daughter was smiling down on them, happy that her mom was happy again.