Terminally ill man dances with daughters in 'tragically beautiful' wedding photo shoot

Elise Solé
Jason Halbert did not let a terminal illness stop him from performing father-daughter dances with his unwed teen daughters, Kaylee, 18 and Ashley, 16. (Photo: Chubby Cheek Photography)

Teenage sisters “pre-created” their wedding days to dance with their terminally-ill father in a gorgeous photo shoot.

In April, Jason Halbert, 51, of Houston, Texas was diagnosed with Grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme, a fast-spreading brain cancer. Jason’s life expectancy, roughly 12-15 months, broke his two girls, Kaylee, 18 and Ashlee, 16, who longed for their future father-daughter wedding dances, even selecting their favorite songs while in elementary school.

“These dances have been a big deal their entire lives,” mother and wife Nicole Clowson Halbert, 41, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Despite radiation and chemo, Jason got sicker and after a spinal tap, doctors said the cancer had leaked into his cerebrospinal fluid. One month ago, Jason was diagnosed with Leptomeningeal Disease and his expected life span was reduced to anywhere from a few weeks to two months.

“When we told the girls, the first thing Kaylee said was, ‘Will Dad be there when I get married? I won’t have my dance,’” says Nicole. “I told her I would figure it out.”

Ashlee Halbert, 16, and her terminally-ill dad Jason enacted a father-daughter wedding dance. (Photo: Chubby Cheek Photography)
Kaylee Halbert, 18, and her dad Jason, who is terminally ill, shared a father-daughter dance ahead of her future wedding. (Photo: Chubby Cheek Photography)

Nicole was going to hold mock wedding dances in the family living room, but after she sourced ideas on social media, the plan amplified. “Random people we didn’t know donated wedding dresses,” Nicole tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The girls had about 35 gowns to choose from.” A videographer offered to document the dance, Nicole’s friend Shalonda Chaddock of Chubby Cheek Photography volunteered to shoot, and Montgomery wedding venue Olde Dobbin Station opened its doors to the family.

On October 14, in the presence of only a few family members, Kaylee and Ashlee lived out their father-daughter wedding dances. “We create memories, we recreate them, why not PRE-create a moment?” Nicole wrote on Facebook last week, sharing photos.

The videographer also interviewed Jason who shared life advice with the girls. That on-camera interview, which no one in the family has watched, will air during the girls’ future weddings, plus footage of their father-daughter dances. Nicole will save the dresses and repurpose them for her daughters’ real wedding days, either for the ring-bearer pillows or accessories.

“On the day, the weather alternated between sunny and raining, representing our joy and tears,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “During their dances, Ashlee and her dad talked a lot and Kaylee held on to him for dear life. It was tragically beautiful. We can either stay positive with the blows that keep coming or get lost in the pain — I can’t have that for my girls.”

Seeing his daughters as future brides was emotional for Jason, says Nicole. “He knows he won’t be here, so at the end, at least he’ll have that image.”

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