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A True Superman – End of Life Photography Wish Vow Renewal

A True Superman

Jim Gainey

July 8th, 1981 – January 11, 2016


A cartoon drawing made by Jim’s cousin

I met Jim and his family on Friday Jan 8th.  Jim died on Monday Jan 11th, 2016.

“I had an amazing life.

I regret nothing because everything I

did made me who I am.

I’m proud of the family I came from.

I’m proud of the people I call friends.

I was lucky enough to meet my

soulmate and have her family become

my family.

Most of all, I’m so proud of my boys

and I love them more than air.”

-Jim, December 2015

The last two weeks have really got me thinking about life and death and how we live the dash in between.  I was having a normal day in my office on a Wednesday, when one of my contacts at Agrace Hospice Care called.  She informed me that there is this family in Prairie Du Sac, in which the father is dying of colon cancer and Jim and Catherine’s last wish is to renew their marriage vows.  Part of the wish that is being granted by Make a Wish Foundation was to provide a professional photographer to capture the moments of this special ceremony.  “We need to hurry because he is failing fast and we have scheduled the ceremony for Friday, can you do it?” said Agrace.  I said of course, I would.  I marked on my calendar then called my assistant Erin Thomson to assist me with the shoot.

We arrived at the lovely home of Jim and Cat and their super cute boys on Friday Jan 8th for an 11:30 am vow renewal ceremony.  Jim’s parents and Cat’s parents were also present.  An Agrace worker was also there and she quickly pulled me aside.  Apparently Jim had bought Cat a new diamond ring for this special day.  What a romantic!  Erin and I started to photograph the details of the flowers and rings, when Monsignor Ken Fielder of Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church arrives at the door.  I’m thinking, “Oh my goodness!  This man is so wonderful, and he has married a few my clients in the past and he such a compassionate man of God.  He is the one God has sent for this day, for sure.

Monsignor Ken Fielder talked for a while one on one with Jim.  It was moving and surreal.  Once the boys and Jim got the boutonnieres pinned on, we were ready.  Monsignor Ken Fielder proceeded with the end of life blessing.  He gave Jim his last communion, and blessed him.  The hardest and most brave thing I’ve ever seen a family do came next.  Jim’s mother, father, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and Cat individually kissed Jim and hugged him letting him know just how much they love him.

The air was filled with emotion and Monsignor Ken Fielder said, “Ok let’s do something more fun.” and proceeded with the vow renewal ceremony.  The family lined up in front of the fireplace at home ready to pronounce their love.  What a sight.  Cat and Jim are soulmates and I know someday will be reunited in heaven.

I attended the funeral on Friday January 22nd.  I learned that Jim had been fighting stage four colon cancer for three years.  I learned he fought strong and hard.  He is a true superman.  Cat let us know that Jim wrote letters to her and boys during his last days in a journal.  He said those letters are for her to discover when she needed them most after he was gone.  Again, a true superman.   May everyone know that kind of love in our lifetimes.

Erin also recorded a video of the vow renewal day that you must see (with a box of tissues).

It’s not the dates you are born and died, but how you live the dash inbetween.  I’m honored and blessed to be a part of this family’s last wish.

Blessings – Erin Melissa


cancer tattooNew wedding ringsnew flowers for vowskids prepping for vow renewalmom helping with last wishwife helping husband with his last wishfamily vow renewalnew ring for forever promiselast wish to renew vowsfirst kissJim last pictures before Cancer took overblack and white wall canvas



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