ATHENS, Ga. - A young boy's 7th birthday photos have special meaning for an Athens family, because the boy's father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty.
Wyatt Christian just celebrated his birthday for the fifth time without his father, Athens-Clarke County Police Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian. In 2011, Christian was shot and killed while responding to a carjacking where another officer had been shot and wounded. Christian had just arrived at the scene when suspect, Jamie Hood, shot him inside his patrol car. In July, Hood was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Officer Christian's murder.
Officer Christian's wife, Melissa, reached out to Georgia-based photographer Mary Lee after learning about the wonderful work she does for law enforcement families who have lost loved ones. Lee created a beautiful picture of Wyatt for his 7th birthday that includes an image of Officer Christian to the left of his son. Melissa said it's a reminder to her family that her husband is never far away and lives on in their hearts forever.
"Life moves forward and we know God has it all under control, but we still miss him every day and always will," Melissa said on Facebook. "I know he watches over his little man and sends us God winks from heaven."
Melissa learned about Lee's work through a mutual friend, Franklin County Sheriff Stevie Thomas, who lost his son, Officer Cruz Thomas, in the line of duty last year. She created a beautiful image of the daughter Officer Thomas left behind.
"I had Melissa send me a few pictures I could use of Buddy and I let my mind create the portrait," Lee told FOX 5 News.
Lee said any time she does a session for an officer or their family she tries to make the photos special so the children left behind have beautiful images of their "heroes in heaven."
"I spend time trying to think of creative ways to incorporate the loved ones that have passed on," Lee said.
"The kids and I are thankful for the many blessings and family God has sent our way," said Melissa.
Melissa urges everyone to please remember families who have lost loved ones this Christmas season. She said there have been 116 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty this year. Eight of those are from Georgia.
"Their job is a thankless job, yet they will be working around the clock this Christmas season to keep you and yours safe," Melissa said. "If you see a law enforcement officer, or any other first responder team please remember to thank them for all they do each and every day for others."
Lee said Wyatt is a sweet boy with a pure heart, a pure soul and he loved his daddy very much.
To learn more about Mary Lee Photography, click here.