When Leah Rae Wasson entered the doors of my kindergarten classroom she was already six months into her battle with Leukemia. If it wasn't for her adorable silk head wraps covering her newly bald head you would have never known she was fighting for her life. She was a normal kid in every other way. She had a love for softball, school, reading, drawing, and summer sun. She loved her mom and dad with all of her heart. Her brother and sister were her best friends. Every single classmate loved her and always wanted to be around her. Every nurse and doctor adored her. She wiggled her way into every nook of your heart.
After finishing kindergarten she entered the maintenance phase of her treatment plan. Her family and I became close friends. I photographed them that summer and again at Christmas. Leah's hair was finally coming back in and she wanted to show off her brown locks and contagious smile. All seemed to be going great. Their life was beginning to return to (somewhat) normal.
In June of 2013, after two years of treatments, she was finally in remission. She was set to take her Make a Wish trip to Disney World and had a date to eat lunch for her birthday with the princesses... but something wasn't right. She had been battling some sinus issues that weren't getting better. After a short hospital stay, postponing their trip, and some additional testing the doctors discovered Leah's parents worst fear.
Leah had relapsed.
When I received that message, there were no words to take away the pain her parents were feeling. I simply asked, "I'm so sorry. What can I do?"
Her mom replied, just one sentence, "Take our pictures."
It is in honor of the brave face she wore every day, the fight that she endured, and in memory of that sweet little brown eyed girl that was taken far too soon that a little rae of hope is born. So that families can hold on to moments of hope. Because when the shutter closes, only the love, joy, and hope can be captured.
For more blog posts about Leah and our time together, please click here.