A mother helped her two teenage daughters stage wedding photos and first dances with their terminally ill father after learning that he only has a few months to live.
In a moving Facebook post, Nicole Halbert, 41, from Tomball, Texas, explained that in April her husband Jason, 51, was diagnosed with grade IV glioblastoma, an incurable and aggressive form of brain cancer.
The family learned last month that his cancer had leaked into his cerebral spinal fluid. The condition, known as leptomeningeal disease, has taken his life expectancy from a little over a year to just two or three months.
Bitter sweet: Jason Halbert, 51, took part in a staged wedding shoot with his daughters Kaylee (left) and Ashlee (right) after learning he has just a few months to live
Heartbreaking: In April, the doting dad was diagnosed with grade IV glioblastoma, an incurable and aggressive form of brain cancer
‘Your heart stops, you can’t hear, your breath becomes shallow,’ Nicole recalled of the moment she was told the heartbreaking news. ‘How were we supposed to tell our daughters? How were we supposed to plan our future?’
The mom explained how Jason ‘has always been the most attentive father’ to their daughters Kaylee, 18, and Ashlee, 16, and ‘never missed any of their events.’
‘We have raised two daddy’s girls and I was about to break their hearts. Their future suddenly looked very different,’ she wrote. ‘The dreams they had of their daddy walking them down the aisle had come to a screeching halt.
‘The certain songs they’ve played hundreds of times while imagining themselves swirling around a dance floor, in the perfect dress, in the arms of the first man they ever loved, suddenly took on new meaning.’
When their daughters asked if they could still have ‘their’ dances with their father, they came up with the idea of staging the moment before it happened as something they can look back on when he is gone.
Hard to handle: The family learned last month that his cancer had leaked into his cerebral spinal fluid, taking his life expectancy from a little over a year to just a few months
Making it count: The prognosis led Jason’s wife Nicole and their daughters to come up with the idea of ‘pre-creating’ their wedding dances with him
Special moment: Dozens of friends came together to help them pull off the emotional shoot, which took place at Olde Dobbin Station in Montgomery, Texas, on October 14
‘We create memories, we recreate them, why not PRE-create a moment?’ Nicole asked.
Dozens of friends came together to help them pull off the emotional shoot, which took place on October 14, with many even offering up wedding dresses for Kaylee and Ashlee to wear.
Olde Dobbin Station in Montgomery, Texas, gave the family full use of its facilities while Shalonda Chaddock, a professional photographer and friend of Nicole’s, immediately agreed to capture the moment.
Pictures from the shoot show Jason embracing his daughters during their individual dances and walking them down the ‘aisle’ — one on each of his arms.
Nicole noted that videographer Michael Shea was also at the shoot, explaining he ‘made sure the girls would have the most special video that they can watch for years to come.’
Support system: Friends offered up wedding dresses for Kaylee and Ashlee to wear on the day of the staged wedding shoot
Emotional moment: Kaylee couldn’t help but cry as she hugged her father during their dance
Never forget: Nicole said her daughters’ shoot with their father was an ‘everlasting memory’
‘The day of the dance, the sun was shining through gray rain clouds, sunlight mixing with rain showers. I realized, afterwards, how appropriate the weather was for this day,’ she recounted.
‘That is what we’ve been doing through this whole journey, trying to find the light among the darkness, the sunshine in the rain. There was laughter and tears but in the end, there was an everlasting memory.’
Though they opted to keep the video of the shoot tucked away until Kaylee and Ashlee’s wedding days, Nicole said they wanted to share a few of the photos to help others who are faced with losing a parent.
‘Maybe this story can strike an idea for someone else to PRE-create their moments, so feel free to share it. Please SHARE it!’ she wrote. ‘It was because someone shared a similar story that planted this seed, and we will forever be grateful for that, so we’d like to pay it forward.’
Most importantly, the family wanted to use the photos to raise awareness for glioblastoma multiforme and leptomeningeal disease.
Inspiring: Nicole said they wanted to share a few of the photos to help others who are faced with losing a parent
Spreading the word: Most importantly, the family wanted to use the photos to raise awareness for glioblastoma multiforme and leptomeningeal disease
‘They are both extremely rare and get very little attention,’ she explained. ‘Those living with this beast need more research, more funding, and we need a CURE! Having more people fighting alongside those of us in this war is what will create much needed change.
‘When our girls look back at this chapter, I want them to remember not a journey of death, but a journey of life,’ she added, urging others to live their lives to the fullest.
‘Take the trip, snap the pictures, eat dessert first, go see your friends, play games with your kids, make your days matter! When you live your life surrounded by kindness and love, you have lived your life well.’
While speaking with Today, Nicole opened up about the father-daughter photo shoot, saying she was happy her girls had that moment with their dad.
‘It was heartbreaking but joyful. I hated that we had to do it, but I loved that we could do it,’ she said, noting that she was proud of both her daughters and her husband.
Good news: Jason is responding well to a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body and was told he may have more time than they thought
Paying tribute: Nicole and her daughters plan on getting matching sound wave tattoos of Jason saying, ‘I love you girls.’ He is also making recordings for them and writing them letters
Bucket list: Jason was able to attend a Dallas Cowboys came in August with the help of Stella’s Wish Foundation. His family plans on making every moment they have with him count
‘I was so proud of him because he fought through feeling miserable to do this for them,’ she explained. ‘He was not going to get to see them in a wedding gown or in that moment. So now he has kind of that image. So, it was important for him to be able to know that that’s what it could be.’
Nicole and her daughters plan on getting matching sound wave tattoos of Jason saying, ‘I love you girls.’ He has also been making recordings for them to listen to and writing them letters to open on important days in their lives.
A few days ago, the family revealed on the ‘Pray for J‘ Facebook page that Jason is responding well to a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.
The doctor said it’s likely that Jason may have more time than they were told at his last prognosis.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the family to help with Jason’s rising medical costs.