When we marry, its with the intention of being with someone forever. But for some, that forever is cut short at the blink of an eye. Such is the story of Vanessa Lanktree and her late husband and best friend, high school sweetheart Eric. Years after his passing, Vanessa honours her late husband in a touching annual photoshoot.
Canadians Vanessa and Eric met back in 2006 when they were still in high school. They fell in love, and in 2011, firefighter Eric proposed to Vanessa on Christmas Eve.
“He was my first boyfriend, my first love,” Vanessa told SWNS. “Our relationship through the years was so strong because it started so young. I had no doubt about our lives together.”
They married on September 8, 2012 in a beautiful church ceremony.
“As I walked down the aisle with my dad, Eric was bawling his eyes out,” she said. “I already knew I wanted to marry him but when I saw him crying, I thought how lucky I was.”
Two years after their wedding, however, tragedy struck. Eric was killed in a head-on collision with a truck in November 2014 while he was making his way home from a vacation in Vegas. He passed away soon after the impact, before Vanessa could even make it to the hospital.
“I felt like I was the only one at that age that had lost somebody that young like their husband,” she told CBC News. “Our lives had just started — it takes time to finally feel like you’re not in a cloud anymore.”
Years later, on the day after what would have been the couple’s four year anniversary, Vanessa suddenly decided to don her wedding dress again. In her dress, she danced around her kitchen to their wedding song, Keith Urban’s “Making Memories Of Us”. Putting her dress on again was a cathartic experience, one that soon became an annual tradition.
“It has felt so good to put my dress on,” Lanktree told CBC News. “I love putting it on and just felt good and I felt good in it that day and I still feel good.”
“Grief doesn’t go away but somehow you find little things to help you cope, like putting on your dress,” she said to SWNS. “Most people get to go out with their husband for supper or a date night on their anniversary, and this is my thing that I get to do without him.”
Putting her dress on became a symbol of an incredible relationship and marriage, and a way to honour their time together. Vanessa says that she will most likely do this yearly for the rest of her life.
She has since found love again and her boyfriend, Kurtis Isbister, is very supportive. This year, he took pictures of her in her wedding dress whilst in a sunflower field.
Vanessa hopes that this tradition inspires others to deal with their grief and live their life to the fullest.
“Eric would have wanted me to continue on with life and find some happiness somewhere,” Lanktree said. “The thing is to somehow find a way that you can honour that person. You can still find a little bit of happiness.”
Image: Vanessa Lanktree