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Did that just happen?

How does one gather thoughts when something so incredible happens in their life? It’s been about a month since our photos

of Ali, Ben and Olivia went viral. It’s taken me about that long to stop being so overwhelmed with it all as well. I owe it to you all

to write a new blog with a big wet, sloppy kiss of thanks. It was truly because of you all, this happened. I’m going to attempt to

share my thoughts on it the “media crazy” weeks of December because everyone I see wants to know more about it!

First of all, I couldn’t be more proud of Ali. She’s been gone for over two years and yet she is STILL touching lives. Around the

freaking globe, y’all. Something that I said in every interview (and got edited out every.single.time) was that we all have a purpose

on Earth. We know she achieved more for the good of humanity in 31 yrs than most would in a century. She fulfilled God’s wishes

for her and he called her Home. Yes, we know that. However, what we know now? THIS! THIS WAS HER PURPOSE. Her job on

Earth was a fraction of God’s plan for my sister. Her job in Heaven has been far more important. Our images helped heal

thousands and help millions know that everything is going to be alright. Life is hard, but we can move on, gracefully. Something

else I talked about EVERY SINGLE TIME was my faith. And I understand TV stations can’t talk about religion because it creates

controversy, but I was sure to bring it up just in case someone had the balls to credit having faith in such a hard time. God is good

and though it seems to many that He is cruel for taking Olivia’s Mommy from her at such a young age. Or making Ali suffer for

almost 8 hard months. But it’s not about all that. It’s about the bigger picture. It’s about how we now have a kickass angel by our

sides every moment. It’s about how Heaven and Earth aren’t so far apart. It’s about using her to bring millions back to Him. It

didn’t make much sense to us two years ago. But now, it’s clear. She is his instrument shining her light on those stuck in the

darkness. I’ve said it so many times before, but I’ll say it again, SHE IS THE LUCKY ONE. And we still get to enjoy her

personality, just in a different way. She still says hello to me SO often, I’m never shocked anymore. Even in my sleep we hang out

all night in my dreams, almost every night. In fact, I talk to her more now than I did then. Let me tell you, I think she actually

answers me faster now then she ever did over text. Believe it! I’ve realized my role here on Earth is so much bigger too. God gave

me this gift. Not just to create memories via photographs, but a gift to speak here on my blog. So in combination of me using my

talents, Ali consistently shining down on me, I’m able to speak loud and clear about God working in my life. I used to be worried

about speaking out because I got SO MUCH grief growing up for being into my faith. But this whole experience proved to me I

need to start speaking out about it again. Because apparently a lot of people like it.  (I apologize to those who don’t believe, we

can still be friends.;-)) I’ve been sharing some of her “hellos!” on my Instagram too which has made so many more people more

of the angels around us. Just being more conscious of “signs” from their loved ones. I love the texts and messages I’m receiving

from people who are really starting to “get it!”

So back to that time when I asked Ali to make herself more present in my life. Which quickly became that time when I wanted to

throw my phone in the toilet and curl up in a ball and cry. Yep, it was really that overwhelming. You guys, I’m truly so thankful for

it all. For the 14million blog hits in a weeks time. Enough to crash our entire shared server multiple times! Ali was so popular she

crashed the internet! However, I’ve never experienced my phone blowing up like that. Call after call from around the world. I was

exhausted and would ignore them, but they’d leave voicemails and then call back. Everyone said, “just unplug and ignore it for

awhile.” I tried that. And then it took 5xs longer to dig out from hundreds of emails requesting to use the images. Requesting to

speak with me on the phone. And I wanted to answer them all because her face deserved to be seen around the world.  I quickly

learned to answer emails with a copy and pasted statement. And then the requested links started rolling into my inbox. Seeing

our work on website after website, hundreds of them. Below is just a fraction of them that I’ve seen. I took screen shots for mine

and Olivia’s memory boxes and to post here. Basically to remember, this really did happen. Each Facebook post or blog had

thousands of shares. Comment after comment of the hope that was gained from our tragedy. The story was broadcasted on Tvs

everywhere, in every language. Just in the states alone, I know for certain over 500+ stations aired it because in a single phone

call from the NY Newsroom, I granted permission for it to be syndicated to all their affiliate channels in all 50 states.

There were some shares that were just hilarious to me. Celebrities talking about us and sharing, People.com and E!  Carson Daly

quoting me on the Today show. HA! My husband’s favorite was seeing it on The Chive. That site is either funny pics or sexy

chicks, not sentimental. It was also cool to see only positivity in the comments. People typically like to bash others especially

when something has gone viral. And don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of losers who shed some inappropriate words, but

others quickly jumped on their case in our defense. Faith in humanity, restored. And then of course were all the top ten lists

around New Year’s. The pics were mentioned in quite a few different places and articles are still popping up making reference

to them well after the Today show. We’ve had some interviews lately and Germany is apparently sending a correspondent to tape

for a FULL day next week. Isn’t it baffling? I can’t wrap my mind around it.

The one thing that I think most people kept forgetting about it all, was the raw emotion it stirred up for our family. In so many

ways it was just like the days after. The wound was slowly healing over the past couple years and then just like that, the bandaid

was ripped off and maybe even a little salt was poured in. To see Ali’s name allllll over my social media accounts again. To have to

dig through her wedding photos to find “more images to match up” for the Today show and other images of the two of us. To have

to talk about her sickness and our relationship repeatedly on camera. To watch her bright shining healthy smile on my TV screen.

It wasn’t easy. I know you probably don’t believe me, but truly I was an emotional mess in every interview. The magic of editing

left me mystified. I guess it was basically just like how I turn a screaming/tantrum/hot-mess of a family session into cuddly and

happy perfection. Ha! I was not as cam and collected as I appeared. At all. Bittersweet is the only way to truly describe it. Artists

dream of their work being published around the world. But unfortunately, our work that caught the world’s eye are of some of

the hardest images for me to look at now. So cool, but really freaking sucky at the same time.

These screen shots are hard to read but there are different languages mixed in. I wish I kept a list of the countries that reached

out. 20 different ones at least. Germany, Brazil, Uk, Spain, France, Japan were amongst the top inquiring and commenting. But

it was the ones from places like Finland, Jerusalem, Norway, Indonesia that really made me take pause. It was just so surreal. So

stinking amazing. I haven’t even mentioned the straight emails I got with story after heartbreaking story from people who have

lost loved ones or about to lose them and how much this has helped them. And to think, it was on a whim that I dug up those

weddings pics we recreated and decided to side by side them just for fun. WHO KNEW this would happen!!! (Ali did.)

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I’m so thankful for the folks at Today.com and the Today show for lighting the fire to spreading this story. We think the story was

originally picked up by Today.com from one of our blog followers who works at NBC. After the story quickly became THE

NUMBER ONE SOCIAL STORY OF THE YEAR  (Whaaaat??!!), the Today show wanted to have us on. They flew in

correspondent Janet Shamlian, who then brought a producer and filming crew to our house.  It was a four hour ordeal which was

followed by other local news crews coming and then followed by online Skype interviews. Everyone was so nice to us

but I especially loved the Today show group. They didn’t just rush in and out. They made themselves present like they were our

friends. We walked around my house (which I quickly sprinted around and cleaned because I figured they only needed the first

floor, NOPE! Fail!) and talked. I shared stories of Ali and my family with them. We laughed and shed tears together. They even

showed me their own family’s pics. I almost didn’t need the handful of Imodium I popped as Janet did her makeup in my

bathroom. (I was a nervous poops wreck.) But Janet talked to me as a mother. She truly grasped it all on a different level than

everyone else. It wasn’t just about getting the top story before everyone else. Her tone was sympathetic and her voice was so calm.

On Instagram I referred to her as my BFF because that’s how easy it was to talk to her. If you are reading this Janet, THANK

YOU! I was so glad they chose you to come to us.

These are some Instagrams from while the today show was there. Janet actually had me using her phone to take pics of

everything as it happened. I just loved that. She wanted the memories too. She even texted me just after the segment aired to

ensure I liked it and was happy. Through my tears, I wrote back how perfect it was.

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The top left image was the very first night after today.com posted. I thought life was crazy then and it was just the beginning of

the whirlwind. Adam got so frustrated with me because I couldn’t close my computer. My kids were screaming for my attention. I

was staying up waaay too late and getting up waaay too early. The kids were home and in my face demanding my attention which

I obviously couldn’t give. So they were doing things like painting the bathroom with makeup. Using my hair cutting scissors to cut

up everything. The schoolroom looked like a tornado which is a HUGE no-no and they know it. I was so so overwhelmed. And I

wasn’t eating, because frankly I didn’t have time until it was almost dinner time when most work days were over. The shots in

the bottom row are from the one day the site kept crashing. (Don’t worry, they found me through the birth photography site and

through facebook and inquired for the images through there! Reporters are persistent!!) The next is just before the Today show

interview. I was ready in yellow and then they decided to shoot me in my yellow room, so I decided to change in the middle of the

phone still ringing, and oh did I mention my kids had their 2 and 4yr well checks that day? Thank the lord Rachel was on break

and came to my rescue to take them. Ya, Nori turned 4 that week too. I had her party Friday and then about 60 of Adam’s family

members over the next day. Life was SO FUN! The bottom right was me finally eating something for the first time that day and it

was a donut that my BIL Brian brought over to help relieve some stress. YUM! Speaking of Brian, I super casually planted two of

his books on the shelf behind Janet in the playroom footage. You can see them if you look at those shots above! Boom.

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I haven’t gotten around to taking pics of the articles in print yet. I just threw them into Ali’s memory box for safe keeping before

they got lost or cut up by my kids while I was too busy with my nose in my laptop or phone. I mean, what is it like to be a

celebrity? I guess they pay people to do this stuff for them? I don’t think ever want to be “famous” again. I’ll stick to everyone

knowing my name on the Westside. Did you guys like that shout out in the huffpost live interview?? HA! No one had asked

anything about me as an artist and I was totally caught of guard. :0

I have so many thoughts I wanted to share. So much I’m leaving out. The gist of it is I just want to say thank you world! Thank

you for sharing my sister’s story. Thank you for letting me truly understand why she needed to be called Home. My heart is full

and He and Ali are smiling big. I’m truly not surprised she helped orchestrate all of this. One of her biggest fears was being

forgotten, especially by Olivia. Well I’ll say, no one ever truly dies as long as the living are still loving and talking about them.

And I’ll say we most certainly still are! Thanks for blowing my world up, sis! I GET IT! YOU’RE STILL WITH US!!

Heart, Melanie.

PS. THIS POST WAS SOOOO LONG.  If you made it all the way through, fist punch and THANKS again!:)

  • Traci Frommer - Fist Bump back at ya! AMAZING! :]

  • Anna @ IHOD - I am in utter amazement of how God and Ali teamed up on this one and you were the instrument. What a story! Thanks for sharing it all with us. Its incredible to say the least.

  • Gail - STILL giving me goosebumps.

  • Madre and padre - Well done Melanie. As blessed as we have been with all of this attention, it has been very hard to handle at the same time. We love you very much and are very proud of you and your talent that started all of this. Ben did a fantastic job expressing himself and his love for Ali and Olivia. We were blessed with 3 beautiful girls, inside and outside and thank The Lord everyday for each of you and your wonderful spouses and kids. You all help us deal in the loss of Alllison and we know that we will all be together one day. Ali sends us so many signs that she remains with us daily that it helps so much with not seeing her face and hearing her fun laughter. Amazing how God keeps using her on in death to spread His word. You all have helped so many people around the world. So awesome. So Blessed. Be proud and humble to continue doing His work too. Love you.

  • Alisha - Long-time blog follower here. These are SUCH beautiful photos. I mean, truly. What an amazing project and ode to a beautiful life and legacy. Thanks for sharing.

  • Megan Baughman - AWESOME! I loved seeing all the screen shots

  • JennyBZ - Wow. I don’t hve a lot to say that I haven’t already said. So incredible. I can imagine how it felt seeing all those photos on tv and in your face again. Whenever I look at too many photos of my dad, I can’t help but get weepy. It’s so nice to see Gods work so blatantly obvious. And I love that you get signs from your sister. So amazing and heartwarming.
    Also, your moms comment above, tears again. I’ve just known you a short time but I totally love you.

  • Luci - Fist punch. God is good.

  • Terri Karle - The best part it was a positive story and portrayed how well God does work in our lives everyday. Thank you.

  • Aunt Net - What an incredible gift we have all been given. We are so very proud of your work and profession of your faith. We agree with the tears thing-so awesome seeing this on the Today Show while crying our hearts out bcuz of the love we all have for Ali. I kept sharing as much as I could on FB and we received wonderful comments. I play games with people all over the world and they remembered me asking for prayers for Ali, and they were so excited to see this story in their countries! The top 10 reasons to be thankful referencing Ali by so many was such a warm tribute to the love between Ben n Ali and then Olivia. The note we got back from the thank-you I sent was an example of how many lives were touched. I’m sure we will never know how much good you all have done, but we can just imagine. We love and support you and we are so grateful to be a part of a love we never dreamt would be shared around the world. Bless you Mel-we think your work has only just begun! Love you lots!

  • Fran - Melanie and Ali ~ you have strengthen my faith. I know now more than ever that God is all around us. Melanie, you skill with pictures and words are gifts from God. Thank you so much for sharing this! I will never take anything for granted. You have enriched my life in ways I cannot explain.

  • Emily Ruoff - Fist punch..very touching rock star!!!

  • Becky Schwallie - Kiddos to you kid!! Another great article Melanie. I love your faith and believe in Angels also! Take some time for yourself, it is well deserved !!
    Love, Becky

  • Patti - You, & your family, are amazing.

  • Amy -
  • shadma - Melanie well done and well said…there is a super natural power governing and guiding us … whatever happens … happens for a purpose and good…god bless all of you..give a sweet kiss to olivia from my side :-*

  • Joell Angel-Chumbley - Congratulations! I did not know your sister or you for that matter, but we are all blessed to know her story, how it has touched so many lives, and to enjoy her memory through your beautiful work. You are creating a legacy for her daughter in a way that she too will know the just how amazing her mother was to so many people.

    God Bless you and your family as you heal and move forward in her memory.

    Joell (West Price Hill) – the “Best” side ;-)

  • Diane - Again the tears flowing this morning . So proud of your words’ your faith, your pics and changing hearts and souls.
    Prayers that God continues to use you and Ali to bring all to Him!
    Love you ,sending a big bear hug and wish I could do it in person !!!

  • Becky Williams Porter - Love you– since you girls were little crazy gals off of Beechmeadow!! Knew you would ALL BE AMAZING~~ and you have surely done that x100000!!

  • erin. - Beautiful post~ continuing to keep Ali’s memory alive throughout the world! I only found your blog when the media madness began and I must say each and every post I’ve read is more touching then the next.

    *Fist punch from Long Island (what a funny way to end the post..wish I could utilize an emoji like you do so well on instagram)
    :) Erin

  • Janet Shamlian - Melanie,

    It was a privilege to tell your story on TODAY. And while I cover a lot of tear-jerkers, this one touched me in a way I cannot explain. Perhaps it’s because I lost my own mom so young.
    Thank you for welcoming me into your home.. for sharing so openly.. for living with grace.

    Janet

  • Jennifer - I’ve been following your blog since you photographed Nora’s birth- and I bet you thought that was crazy! Your photography really tells a story, it is beautiful , and inspires me to keep trying (total amateur here) to document for my children. It was fun to feel like one of the cool kids, for once in my life…when all my friends were saying “just saw this”…and linking your amazing images, I was all “oh yeah- I’ve been following her for ages- isn’t she amazing?” Continuing to keep your family in prayer, God bless, and thank you for sharing your gift!

  • Kathy Ray - Yeah. I’m a little behind, too.
    But you rock, Melanie.
    And so does Ali.
    Heart, Kathy

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