We wanted to give you a glimpse into the life of little Javier Santiago Restrepo.  He is a delightful 4 1/2 year old little boy who fought hard to beat leukemia.  On July 25, Steve and I were blessed to meet their family, photograph them, and video their most precious moments before Javi went to be with the Lord on Friday, July 31, 2009.

It began when I received a call from a dear friend and client, Coach Sherri Coale, saying she wanted to give them this priceless gift – a photo session and a gift certificate for prints… I cannot agree more.  This is absolutely priceless.  Thank you, Coach Coale, for allowing me to be a part of recording these memories.

Our family and our dear friends lifted up this specific photo session in prayer… I want to share those prayers with you and show you how faithful God was in answering them.

1) We prayed for the weather – it was supposed to be 100 degrees this day, but I really wanted to capture him outside if possible.  The Lord brought us cloud cover which cooled it off a bit and made us feel safe to bring him out on the porch… and, I could not have asked for a better location.  The backdrop of their home was amazing and beautiful.  They had a big wrap around front porch with a swing and rocking chairs… The direction their home faced was even a blessing from a lighting perspective.  We were able to shoot on their front porch, their yard, and then in Javi’s room.  Javi’s room was even perfect…

2) We all prayed for Javi to have strength, happiness, and joy.  It took him just a little bit to get warmed up, but once he took me to his room I felt like his new friend.  He wanted to show me everything that was important to him… his sailboat, his backpack, even his closet.  He was so good at interacting with his family as if I wasn’t even there… this made for true, intimate moments.

3) We prayed that God’s Spirit would work through us as artists… giving us perfect conditions, fresh eyes, and wisdom for a new aspect that we brought to the session – video.  We’ve wanted to eventually incorporate video into a few family sessions but had never done it before.  He was faithful… the end product is more than I could have ever dreamed up myself.  God set everything in its perfect place.  I am so thankful that we incorporated video… to  see the way his Mama plays with his hair, the way he “bonks” his Papa on the head, hearing his sweet laugh, and just hearing his voice.

We have spent countless hours editing and examining these images over past 10 days (thank you to our clients who graciously waited while we put our efforts here, first)… we’ve cried buckets of tears as we got to know their family through these images.  We hope you watch this so you can get to know Javi a little bit better… and we pray you see how faithful God is.  Please keep praying for this wonderful family as they enter into a new chapter.

There will be a new photo of Javi added to this post each day for the next week, so feel free to come back and visit… the new images will appear under the slideshow.

***If the video does not run smoothly turn the HD option “off” in the player.

Oh, how I admire Heidi’s strength.  Everyone who mentions Heidi to me, mentions how strong she is.  She loves that little boy so much… you can tell it in each image.  And, I love every image I took of them together.  It was wonderful for her to be so “unaware of me”… I just felt like I was a peeking in on all of her sweet moments with Javi and was able to capture so many unprompted moments.  These images are a true picture of how much they love each other.

In this first one, Javi was a little sad and went to hide in a little corner of his room.  His Mama came and picked him up and comforted him.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place for them to stand.


True happiness.  I’m not even sure what they were talking about…  this corresponds with one of my favorite video clips in the slideshow.


And, Heidi’s favorite:


Javi with his big brother, Diego.  They are such a fun pair… the best of buddies.


I love these next two images.  Javi shows me his sailboat and tells me all about it.  In the second image, he runs his fingers over the treasure chest.  I love the detail of his hand.  Haven’t you memorized the hands of those you love?restrepo1-1084


A proud Papa watches his sweet little boy.  Their relationship is so cute… Santiago (Javi’s dad) makes me just stop and laugh – as I’m sure you can tell that through the photos and video.  I can tell he brings laughter and hope to this family… I am thankful that Heidi and big brother Diego have that right now.


Javi playing with his Etch-A-Sketch


39 Responses

  1. Saunya Says:

    What a beautiful memoir of Javi to treasure forever. Thank you for this gift that you have not only given the Restrepo family but to all those whose lives they have touched. You have such a gift. Thank you!

  2. Rita Robertson Says:

    If love could be captured, you have allowed us to have a glimpse. God’s love for and blessing on Javier are evident!
    Love is stronger than death.
    My prayers are with the family as they journey thru their grief. In God’s Love, Rita

  3. Dayna Says:

    Thank you for sharing how you approached this with prayer. God certainly answered and has given the family beautiful memories.

  4. melanie mauer Says:

    beautiful. beautiful. beautiful. i’m without another word, dear friend. love, -melanie-

  5. rita delitta Says:

    May God comfort you as only He can—-Thank you for sharing this video!

  6. Karen Bent Says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with your family. Thank you for the privledge of seeing such a wonderful video.

  7. Jeff Wyke Says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful way to allow all of us to help you celebrate Javi’s life. The grief we experience over our loved ones when they pass on will be far exceeded by the joy we experience when we see them again. May GOD give you the peace and the joy in knowing that you will be together again. Our FATHER gave HIS only son, and HE has gone to prepare a place for us. Javi is there now. He wants you to be strong – to complete the plans GOD has for your lives. That’s what you can do to honor his life. He is waiting for you. I love each one of you, and my life is so much richer now because I got to “meet” little Javi. What a precious, precious little boy. I can’t wait to see you, Javi! Keep smiling, precious child….keep smiling.

  8. Kate Says:

    This is truly beautiful. and being a photographer myself I can appriciate the talent that went in to photographing this family as well as wroking hard to put an amazing slide show together..,kudos to you!

  9. Randi Says:

    The pictures and video are absolutely beautiful. What a wonderful way to capture the life of a loved one. You did an excellent job capturing these moments on film for the family. This will be something they will cherish forever. God truly blessed them by bringing you into their lives in this crucial time. My heart goes out to the family. I could not imagine what they are going through, losing a child. They are in my thoughts and prayers.

  10. debbi rison Says:

    Shannon, what an amazing gift you have. Not only your artistic giftedness but your heart. God has blessed you and you have blessed through the gift he has blessed you with. Isn’t that always how He works, and yet we are never not humbled and amazed. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Debbie Moriarty Says:

    That was the most amazing video ever! Absolutely beautiful!!
    The Restrepos are wonderful people and Javi will be remembered forever!! My love to you all…may you find comfort in God’s arms and hope in God’s promises to us.

  12. Fran Harrell Says:


  13. Kimber-Leigh Says:

    thank you for sharing these with us shannon…i love seeing your heart reflected in your words and your pictures. love you and thinking about you today!

  14. charlie samples Says:

    Awesome imagery! Photos will never replace the warmth of a hand or a beating heart, but it does bring back many joys to our memories. You captured the essence of Restrepo family…Love & Happiness!

    Cheers, Charlie

  15. Kate Says:

    Shannon, I am crying buckets of tears too. What a talent God has given you. As I can only imagine how percious and dear these will be to this family.

  16. Rebecca Culver Randolph Says:

    Absolutely breathtaking…what a beautiful little boy Javi was and your photos not only capture the family’s love for one another, but the tenderness they have for each other. Thank you.

  17. Lindy Duff Says:

    Thank you for allowing me to see these pictures. You are a wonderful family. I pray for you everyday to help you through this time of grief. He was a precious brave little boy. God has something special for him and I know Javi is watching over you and his big brother Diego.

  18. Bicycle Bill Kinzle Says:

    I played volleyball with Santi back in the day. We hadda lotta good times. My heart goes out to Him n his Family for their loss. Your video n pictures were very well done. Full of Love and affection. I feel like i know Javi without having ever met him. Good kid n he will be missed

  19. Robin Says:

    I want to thank you for these beautiful photos and the videos were beyond words. That day was a blessing, the weather did cooperate and he was so happy!!

    Javi is such a wonderful little boy who brought so much joy and love into our lives.

    We will always keep him in our thoughts!

    Love Aunt Robin

  20. Delores Howard Says:

    Thank you for sharing the video of Javi. A life gone too soon. I was wrapped in love and emotion just watching the family interact. Each picture told a story that the family will cherish forever. They are in my thoughts and prayers.

  21. GARY SIMS Says:

    Dear Santiago, Heidi, and Diego..

    Greetings from Hattiesburg MS…
    I recently heard about Javi. I can not say anything more than what has been already said…but just wanted you to know I am thinking about you guys…

    Gary Sims 601 270 6462

  22. Norma Burke Says:

    Even though I never got to meet Javi, this video makes me feel like I have known him forever. What a blessing it is for Santi, Heidi, & Diego. I love you guys & will keep you near to my heart.

  23. Nate Gonzales Says:

    This video was absolutely amazing!!! Each photograph told a story and were very touching!!! Thank you for sharing this video. My thoughts go out to Santi and his family…

  24. Jessica Sippy Says:

    What a beautiful gift to have. You really captured the Restrepo family well.

  25. Tonya Says:

    How precious. We are a “volleyball family” and lost our little star,Kayla, 2 years ago to leukemia also. Pictures are SOOOO important in life and you did a wonderful job for this family. We treasure and cherish the pics and videos we have of our angel.

  26. Howard Jordan Says:

    A beutiful tribute. My friend, Debbie Stanford, told me about the video. I never meet Javi or any of the Restrepo family, but the video was very moving. I lost my brother, Ben Jordan, after a long battle with cancer. Ben was a volleyball official in the SEC. The volleyball community was a big part in helping Ben’s wife, Leisa, and my family deal with the loss. I know they will be there with the love and support the Restrepo family will need to make it through this difficult time. Take care and God bless.

  27. Michele Carlineo Says:

    What a wonderful and beautiful way to capture the images of such a strong and loving family. Javi will be in my heart forever. I am so proud to have you as part of my family. I love you!

    God Bless,
    Michele Carlineo

  28. Jody & Tony Bellotte Says:

    Javi is a beautiful boy and we know he really brought a lot of happiness into your lives, for too short of a time. But you gave him all the love and care you could while he was here. God bless you all, and I am sure He will take excellent care of Javi until you are reunited one day.

    Tony & Jody Bellotte

  29. Stacy Olewiler Says:


    I just heard of your loss. My heart, prayers and tears go out to you and your family.

    From one of your extend family VBALL brothers.

    Stacy ESU – 81

  30. Michael H. Denardo Says:

    DEAR COACH…I always knew you were a good guy by how you’ve treated some of the players I’ve personal known from our DFW area. Rachel swears by you as do some of those other players in the metroplex. Andrea McQuaid is going to do well by you, too! having lost my own mother to cancer early in her life on my 20th birthday gives me insight but no relief for your loss. It’s been apparent that your family cares for those in and out. Your son lived well while he was here and now is with our Lord. God bless you and your family. SOONERS, rah!

  31. Jennifer Jacobson Says:

    I’m going to have to come back and read the rest of this another time because my eyes are filled with tears and my 3.5 year old Leighton will be asking 20 questions…why? Shannon, you have always truly understood the importance of stopping time for families and this indicates that time is truly fleeting. What a gift! God is good!

  32. Wong-Orantes Family (Winnie, Robbie, Anthony, Justine) Says:

    We are sorry for your precious loss…. Our hearts and soul go out to your family.. We know and hope you stay strong for Diego who is another awesome boy! He needs you guys and each other.. You will always have great memories of Javi. God took him for a reason…he needs another Angel in heaven!


    Wong-Orantes (robbie&winnie)

  33. John Brennick Says:

    A life not shared is a life lost… Javier’s innocence was captured with perfection and I can say I will cherish the images I have of this boy forever even having never met any of these people. I have watched this video well over 10 times in a row in awe of the emotion and love as well as the strength this family shared. That boy is not gone… He is here… Every story you tell of him, he lives on.. He lives that moment over and over, and he always will till the moment you hold him again… And you will hold that boy again. He was an Angel on earth… and now an Angel in heaven. Godspeed to the Restrepo family. Thank you for sharing your Angel with the rest of the world. We are all better for witnessing what you had and thank you Shannon Ho for sharing your talent with the world.


    John Brennick

  34. Hamid Mortazavi Says:

    I had the recent pleasure of meeting the Restrepo Family (Santiago, Heidi, and Diego) in Bogota Colombia while I was on business from the United States and while they visited with family after their tragic loss. Two nights before meeting this incredible family, I was informed by one of Santiago’s brothers that his brother recently lost his youngest son of 4 to cancer. Like any father, I was hurt to know that a family had been visited by such a tragedy.

    Two days later I met this beautiful family and was amazed at how strong they all appeared. As I got to feel more comfortable with Santiago and Heidi, I gave my sincere condolences for their loss and I was struck by their inner strength. I was also touched by the love that they had for each other and their son Diego.

    I pray that the inner strength and constant love for their son Diego continues for ever. I pray for the lord to bless this family with his healing hand and that Javi’s joyful memory lives on. My heart goes out to Diego’s loss of his younger brother. That being said, I am comforted in knowing that this young man has two unbelievably strong rocks for parents!

    Godspeed Little Man, Sweat Dreams Little Man!

  35. Sheila Connolly Schamber Says:

    I just Read about your loss and then I found this beautiful tribute to your son. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family.

    One of your ESU Friends,
    Sheila Connolly Schamber

  36. Julie Roche Says:

    I am running with Team in Training to raise funds for cancer. My aunt made a donation in honor of your son. I will be running the Rock N Roll Half Marathon on June 6th, 2010. I will be thinking of him as I complete this endurance event. God bless!

  37. Linda Doolin Says:

    Your beautiful little child is with his Heavenly Father. May God continue to bless and comfort your dear family.

  38. Rogelio Vaz Says:

    Diego, Heidi, Santiago: God bless you. I known Javier is by His side. You are all an inspiration to so many families around the world.

    My sons Felipe, Carlos Andres and I had the fortune to meet the Sooners volleyball team during the Meet the Sooners event two weeks ago. We also were motivated and inspired by coach Restrepo before entering the event. Best of lucks on this new season. Aim High !! like Javier.

    We were visiting OU since my son Felipe is applying for admissions for 2011. We are highly impressed by OU and its people. People like the Restrepo´s and people like the wonderful girls of the volleyball team.

    From Panama City, Panama we send our best regards.

    Santiago: Muchas bendiciones para toda tu familia y para tu equipo !!

  39. Shannon Ho Photogaphy Blog » Blog Archive » Thinking of Javi Says:

    […] Here’s a sweet video. […]

Leave a Comment


Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.