A Memorial Photoshoot // In Loving Memory of Tristin Woods

Tristin Woods passed away unexpectedly in a car accident, a month before his wedding day on October 11th, 2014. Today is the one year anniversary of his passing. Earlier this year, Tristin's fiance, Lauren Reynolds wanted to honor him with a memorial shoot in her wedding dress that she was never able to wear down the isle. The first week of Spring was the perfect time. This season and photo shoot being a symbol of healing, blooming and renewal to the soul. When death comes before "I do," and life forces you to rearrange your molecules, Lauren bravely shares her story of love, loss, and healing. She hopes this tribute helps others to have a new outlook on life and to love wholeheartedly.

FULL VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST: purpose of this shoot, how we met, how I lived through the wedding day, what I would tell Tristin if he were here. 

Tristin and I have a beach that we loved to go to, the Dash Point Beach. On the day of our wedding, family and friends gathered at that beach. We all wrote to Tristin on these purple balloons and we sent our messages to heaven. I let mine go first and then everyone else let their’s go. It was a really good day, but at the end of the day, I still went home without a husband and I woke up without one.
I don’t know why he had to go at this time, but I know us being together was really important.
Today is my wedding day. On October 11th I didn’t just lose Tristin, I lost the life we’ll never live together, I lost all of the children we’ll never have and all of the grandchildren we’ll never get to spoil, all of the mornings to wake up to my husband’s smiling, loving face, I lost my other half. I know Tristin is forever grateful for all of the people who have taken care of me while he isn’t able to. Today I’ll be in the loving arms of my friends and family, and I know Tristin’s spirit will be with me today, so instead of celebrating the wedding that won’t happen today, we’ll celebrate love. The love that Tristin and I share, and the love that has been shown to me, my family, and what would have been my family in-law today.
Turn to your own life. Open your eyes and love. Really, really love with every authentic fiber of your being.
We met at a church potluck. I only went because I knew that he was going to be there. We hugged goodbye and I was walking to my car, and he said, “Hey wait. I just wanted to tell you that you are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” I felt like I was in a movie. Is this real life?! I got in my car and screamed and I was hitting my steering wheel. It was just perfect.
Faith is all I have to live on right now.
Tomorrow I fly to Belgium to serve with the Volunteers For Peace organization at Centre Couleurs Du Monde, a refugee center of the Belgian Red Cross. I am ready and excited for this journey, and plan on holding Tristin’s spirit close. I’m not only traveling because I don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity, but also because I want to experience the world in a way Tristin wasn’t able to. I’m doing it for the both of us.
He would call me and if I didn’t answer he would leave these little voicemails of his pocket noise. I used to hate it, because I just wanted him to leave a real message. I have like twenty of them, but I love it now, because it’s HIS pocket noise.
God was good to me when he sent you. You brought my life so much joy and love. You have now turned into my very own guardian angle to protect me and comfort me for the rest of my life. There aren’t words to describe the agony my heart feels at this moment. There aren’t always explanations for tragedies like these, but I have faith that God will get me through this. Rest in peace baby, all my love.
One year ago yesterday, July 11th 2014 was the day Tristin put a ring on my finger and we were able to officially announce our engagement to be married. Our love was pure and real and strong. We were one. We were confident in our decision to seal our love in marriage at such a young age. He was my hand to hold through every path we traveled. He was my cheerleader and my comforter. I’m honored by the way he treated me and loved me.
Yesterday, July 11th, also marks 9 months since his passing. My soul feels quiet. As I look out the window and ponder over these last 9 months, I feel agony, yet peace at the same time. Just as if Tristin is here, holding my hand telling me everything will be okay. He’s still my cheerleader, my comforter, and my hand to hold through the long nights, and the exciting adventures.
I’m so grateful that I got to be with Tristin and that he got to be with me.
‘You’ll get through this.’ That’s what people say, don’t they? They said it to me and it really pissed me off. What exactly does it mean... to get through this. Through what? What’s on the other side? I didn’t want to get through it. I wanted to die in it. And then someone told me that grief is like a suitcase that sits at the bottom of your bed, and no matter what without fail you have to pick it up, every day, take it with you. Somedays it will be filled with rocks and you won’t think you could carry it. And then other days... light as a feather. That, she said, is getting through it.
— Claire Bennigan


Dwarfism Awareness Month

October is Dwarfism Awareness Month. Growing up with Rachel and her family has brought so much joy and understanding to my life. I cannot think of a family with more compassion in their hearts and zeal for life. My simple hope is that we will stop pointing fingers and start intertwining them. 

(Use the hashtag #dwarfismawareness on social media to continue the conversation)

Words from Rachel Webster:

I have experienced it all. I walk down the street. 

Sexual interrogation. The big group of men on the Seattle street corner. "Hey little momma, wanna come home with me?" "Ooooo I wanna have some fun with you! Come over here!" 

Mocking. Ridiculing. "Its a midget!" Yeah, "IT". Dehumanizing. 

My favorite. One person notices me, smirks, tries to hold in their laughter, and then quickly taps all of their friends to join the party. From over two decades of lip reading,  "Look, look, look!" Better yet, sometimes they don't bother to hide it at all. I get the face right next to me in a crowd, completely shocked. And then a scream, "Whoah!!" Or the child AND adult who follow me around the grocery store, hiding behind corners hoping I don't notice them gawking.  

And then if I'm in the mood, I shout back, "What are you staring at?" Or to the little child, "It's not polite to stare. I'm little just like you." Their response? The look of "How dare you!" Or the flabbergasted parent who has just joined the conversation and can't believe I would ever say such a thing to her child. So I'm just supposed to take it. Because no one knew any better. 

I know I'm not the only one. What about people in wheelchairs? People who are deaf and blind or both? People who have been burned or have lost an eye or don't have any arms or legs? People who struggle to talk and walk? The list is endless. And then there are those who's differences are not noticeable from the outside, but constantly battle fears from the inside. Are they just supposed to take it, too? Because no one knew any better?

The answer is no. I want to tell everyone to be kind, for we are all fighting a hard battle. I want to shout it from the rooftops! It's so ironic to me that the world has such a definition of PERFECTION. And it is all based on physical appearance, yet 99% of us will never fit into society's elite category! It's impossible. SO maybe you should just start accepting me even though I will never be 5 feet tall and the person in the wheel chair will never walk, and that woman over there will never have ears that hear, and the man's leg is never going to grow back. Did you even acknowledge that I am a human with goals, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes? I have a heart that loves and a mind that thinks and lungs that breathe. 

Isn’t it ironic that we all strive to be unique yet want to fit in at the same time??? Each person has something about him or her that stands alone, it’s just that some of our differences can be seen on the outside for all the world to either judge or accept. Being different is what makes us all beautiful and we should praise God for creating us each individually.
My hope is that society regards every human being as having potential to contribute to the good of all.
— Nancy Webster
We have the best of both worlds. I’m so grateful to have a son and a daughter; one of each stature. It’s a great learning experience. Although some parents may be nervous raising the two differently, I wasn’t. We love them both unconditionally.
— Chris Webster
Be kind. It’s so easy.
— Nancy Webster
Take one day at a time, everyone has their own Goliath, I can do anything I want as long as I have the desire to do it.
— Nancy Webster

As a 27 year old, I have learned a lot. My parents being my strongest motivator. I am so lucky to have parents who know exactly what I have been through, because they have experienced it, too. They have seen 1,000 tears. Over and over again, “This world is so mean, mom. No one understands. No one SEES me.” And their greatest advice, “Tomorrow is always a new day. New people. New chances. Better moods. Greater motivation. A good night’s rest.” And always, “Everything is going to be okay.” Because, it always was.
— Rachel Webster

Growing up in a family where both my parents are little like me, and my brother is the one who stands over 6 feet tall, I felt like I fit in pretty well. And then I met the world, and they didn’t have quite the same opinion as me. “Look at that midget, mommy!” “That’s a little girl over there!” “Is she a baby?” “Why is she SOOOO small?” I was perplexed. Why were kids nearly my height saying this about me? Didn’t they think I was just one of them? Then it happened, I remember the first time I saw myself on camera. Do I really waddle like that? Do my arms sway vigorously back and forth like that? My face. The face of a 12 year old in a body of a 5 year old. Yes, I looked different. I was different.
— Rachel Webster
I wait for the day when we can just pass each other on the street and its just understood that we are all a little bit different. The child doesn’t look at me like a monster, but instead smiles. I’m not immediately rejected on a date because of my size. The manager doesn’t blink an eye when he greets me for my interview. In a world populated by diversity, we could all use a lot more understanding.
— Rachel Webster
Emotionally I struggle, too. As a 27 year old, seeking a romantic partner, it’s so hard to find someone who sees me. Who gives themselves a chance to get past my physical appearance so they can really discover who I am. I’m sure so many who are “different” can relate. To you and myself, I am continually reminded of the wise words of Jim Carrey, “If you go around saying it’s impossible, no one will ever love me, a good man is hard to find, then you’re saying to the universe you don’t believe in abundance - and this universe that created the stars, galaxies, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and the duck billed platypus, is quite capable of finding someone for you who has the capacity to love you no matter what your situation is and will not only do that but think of it as a blessing. So, convince yourself that you deserve to be loved first of all.”
— Rachel Webster