One Nebraska widow is paying tribute to her late husband, who died tragically in a kayaking accident right before her eyes only three months ago, in a way that she says he would have approved of.
Although Katie Swantek says that she’ll “never be the same” after her husband Brett Swantek’s death, she is finding solace in remembering, and celebrating, their relationship.
“I just put it on and didn’t want to take it off,” Katie told local NBC station KSNB of finding her wedding dress one day recently while tidying her house. “[I] just sat in it for most of the day and really cried and watched our wedding video.”
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Katie came up with the idea to have a photo shoot with her best girlfriends all wearing their wedding dresses — an idea inspired by a classic episode of Friends.
“Had he not passed away, I know he would have said, ‘Go do it, if that’s what you want to do and you think you can get the people together, then do it,'” Katie told the news station.
Katie’s friend and photographer Miranda Helmuth said that their “tribe” of friends were happy to rally around Katie and help her feel some happiness again.
“These girls got together, and they were ready to have a good time and drink beer together and that 100 percent came out in the images,” Helmuth said.
The photographs are bittersweet, striking a perfect combination of joy and somberness.
For example, while one shows all the women chugging cans of beer, another shows Katie alone, wrapped in the American flag that was presented at Brett’s funeral (he was a volunteer firefighter).
“It was needed, and it was fun,” Katie said of the cathartic experience. “And there wasn’t a time when I felt like I needed to break off and cry because I had all of this awesome support around me.”
Brett died in May while the couple were kayaking together on the Loup River in central Nebraska, KSNB reported.
“There was an undertow and it just sucked him straight under, kayak and everything,” Katie described of the horrifying trip that took her husband’s life. “I saw him three more times and then he just didn’t come back up. And then he didn’t come back up for 10 days after that.”
“I will never be the same; we undoubtedly loved each other so much. And he told me that everyday,” Katie said. She and Brett share a young son together.