When Brandy Butzbach married the love of her life, Ben Butzbach, she thought it would be forever.
But her world collapsed when Ben suddenly died of a heart attack on Oct. 31, 2017.
Ben was just 33 years old, a volunteer firefighter and father. The couple had only been married for two years.
Butzbach, 37, suddenly found herself widowed and trying to cope with the reality of her new life.
In an interview with People magazine, Butzbach recalled the day she instinctively knew something was wrong with Ben. She left work to check on him with a nagging sense that Ben was not OK.
“As soon as I opened the door to the bedroom I knew,” Butzbach said. “He was a side-sleeper, but he was turned over on his belly with half his body off the bed.”
“As soon as I saw him, I knew. I went up and touched his toe and his toe was cold. I immediately walked out and called 911. But he was already gone.”
On that day, Butzbach said, she was shattered.
“Everything in my world just crashed. I had an emotional breakdown,” Butzbach said. “From the time the ambulance came, it’s like a blur to me.
“I don’t remember everything that happened. I was having an emotional breakdown.”
After the dust settled, Butzbach got the idea to do a photoshoot in honor of Ben’s life and their marriage.
It took her a while to go through with it, and Butzbach said it was through the encouragement of a friend that finally helped her move forward with the photoshoot.
“I wanted to do this to honor him and remember him,” she said.
“For me, it would be a good opportunity to explain what happened. It wasn’t until August (2018) that my best friend convinced me. I felt like I would regret it if I didn’t do it.”
Wearing her wedding dress, which she had dyed gray, and holding a bouquet of flowers, Butzbach posed alongside Ben’s favorite hockey apparel and framed photos of their wedding day.
“On the night I dyed my dress, I washed my gloves and laid them on the counter. I went to hang out with Robin and when I came home the glove had fallen off the counter into the ‘I love you’ sign,” Butzbach wrote on Love What Matters. “I knew right then that was Ben’s way of letting me know that everything was going to turn out great, and that he was ok with this being closure for me.”
“This was not just about loss and sorrow. It is about love,” she later wrote on Facebook. “It is about honoring my husband, the man I planned on spending my life with.”
The photos taken by Jessica Rasmussen, business owner of Paper Flower Photography, have brought a measure of solace and healing to Butzbach’s journey of grief.
Butzbach will always miss her husband, the way he smiled and laughed, and the joy he found in life.
The photos are a tangible way for Butzbach to keep her husband’s memory alive, as she enters a new season of life.
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