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Dying Father Walks 11-Year-Old Daughter Down the Aisle Thanks to Photographer’s Surprise Gesture

By Hanssie on April 2nd 2014

A father’s duty never ends, but at his daughter’s wedding, the symbolism of a daddy giving his little girl away on her wedding day is a treasured tradition that has spanned centuries. It is a father’s duty to symbolically, lovingly give the care of his precious little girl to the groom.


Jim Zetz , who is battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, knows that he has little time left with his family and that he will not have the opportunity walk his little girl down the aisle on her wedding day. Knowing that time was short, he and his wife, Grace booked a last family portrait session with photographer, Lindsey Villatoro.

Lindsey, who owns Lovesong Events and Photography, is a wedding and portrait photographer who, in her spare time, teams up with charities and cancer organizations to photograph terminally ill patients to help them tell their stories through photographs. Among the charities Lindsey partners with, Michelle’s Place, Never Give Up and City of Hope, Lindsey does rare, heartbreaking sessions, with families that have recently lost a loved one, families that are facing the death of a loved on and also anencephalic baby sessions. In these particular sessions, she documents the maternity session, delivery and funeral for a family whose baby have little chance of survival outside of the womb.



After her session with Jim and Grace, and their 11 year old daughter Josie, Lindsey posted on her website, as she often does for these families, a request for donations to make Josie’s birthday, which was a few days away, extra special. It would be the last one she would celebrate with him.


Grace had mentioned to Lindsey that Josie was “so emotional about her dad not being there for memories down the line, so I figured we would make some now,” recounts Lindsey, which sparked an idea. She wanted to surprise Josie with a special memory that Josie would be able to carry with her when her daddy was gone. In 72 hours, Lindsey brought together a hair stylist, makeup artist, pastor, wedding cake, dress, flowers and even a promise ring. Lindsey with the help of Grace, kept the secret until the day of Josie’s 11th birthday, March 14th. Jim would get to walk her daughter down the aisle.

‘Down the road, this will mean a lot to her,’ Jim said. ‘She will always remember it.’ Josie told her mother the next day that it was the “BEST day of her life.”

Zetz-Family-1 Zetz-Family-2 Zetz-Family-3 Zetz-Family-5 Zetz-Family-6

“The goal when I do these things is to preserve that person. Most people focus on the death and not the beauty of that person, who they were and the memories that they leave,” says Lindsey.

Watch the beautiful video, “Walk Me Down the Aisle Daddy” from the special ceremony below.

To see more of Lindsey’s work, please visit her website.

And special thanks to the vendors who donated their services to make it all possible, The Mill, Nothing Bundt Cakes, elyseREUBEN Custom Couture Gowns, Sears, Murrieta VIP Florist, Finicky Flowers, Gary Galbraith, Allie’s Party Rental, Touched By Time Vintage Rentals, Art By Kelly, Craftalicious Mama, Helen Saragosa, Michelle Washington, Salon O, Friar Tux Shop.

CREDITS: All photographs by Lindsey Villatoro are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

via HuffingtonPost

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  3. mugur ic

    Nice post

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  4. Faith

    Oh my goodness! Beautiful, tear jerking and awesome.

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  5. Michelle Ford

    wth?! i can’t even watch the video. just the write up and the stills have turned me into a puddle! GAH! call me the 17-thousandth sucker to burst into tears over this. go ahead! i’ll admit it shamelessly.

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    Lindsey- Thanks i watched what a great human being can do . Keep up the good work.

    please let me know how i could share this video with some of my good friends.

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  7. Gogu

    Kudos for Lindsey for doing all this charity work.
    The story is very moving.
    Now, since this is more of a photography discussion place, and I know this article is intended to “melt” you more through the story, I can’t help but notice the photos are of a pretty BASIC and MEDIOCRE quality, especially when they are advertised as coming from a PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER. Yes the story is powerful but if you get passed the emotional aspect these look like some regular snaps, you average Joe could take with a decent DSLR, a 70-300 lens and a very basic knowledge in composition and technique.
    Although her work is admirable, I really can’t help not thinking that these type of moments deserve a more skilled photographer.
    I know I would probably get a lot of hate for saying all these, but hey, I would be really interested in reading some honest and pertinent opinions.

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    • Hanssie

      While I appreciate your honestly, I am going to have to disagree with your statement. Lindsey should be commended for using herself, her talent and her skill, however basic and mediocre you feel it is, to help another person. “These type of moments” were possible, because Lindsey created them for this family, who I am sure are overjoyed with the memories and the photos and will be for a long time to come. And really, isn’t that what is most important in this instance?

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  8. Marvin

    Absolutely beautiful and sad at the same time.

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  9. Robin

    Its a great thing to do free stuff for charities but the act is then spoilt by telling everyone what you did, the Bible says ” let your left hand not know what your right hand is doing” in other words, if you help someone, keep it to yourself.

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    • Melissa

      Really?……….really? Take your judgement and your bible and go repent your sin in your church and leave something beautiful for the rest of us

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  10. Pye

    This is incredible, such a wonderful use of photography to truly make a difference. Amazing!

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  11. Wendy {just wenderful}

    So sweet! Couldn’t stop the tears! Wish Upon a Wesding can totally help with stories like this!

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  12. Derek

    This is one of those moments when it’s very challenging to be OK with not being OK.

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  13. Leon Tong

    This was truly beautiful. As a working photographer who remembers clients down to their favourite food, I admire Lindsey’s ability to keep her composure for these heartbreaking sessions. I know it would be very tough for most of us.

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  14. John

    Beautiful yet heartbreaking

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  15. J. Cassario

    Great idea. Great memories. Heartbreaking to look at.

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  16. E_PO

    Very very very moving, great initiative…

    @Josh, you nailed it and made me laugh (thanks, it was quite necessary here).

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  17. Kaylee


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  18. Rick

    Wow. Truly remarkable to reach out to others and use one’s talent for something so positive during a very difficult time.

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  19. Josh

    There seems to be a lot of onions all of a sudden, my eyes are watering. Great post.

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