Nora Davis, 4, fulfilled her mother’s dying wish to have her photographed in her cherished wedding dress.
Before the toddler’s mother, Amber, passed away from a rare type of cervical cancer last year, she requested her daughter be photographed at the same location where she tied the knot with Nora’s father, Derek Davis. And last week, Amber’s final wish came true.
Wearing her mother’s beautiful lace gown, diamond earrings and wedding band, Nora posed for a series of heartwarming pictures taken at The Hitching Post wedding venue in Statesville, North Carolina.
“Nora is the spitting image of her mother and looked just like her during the shoot,” Amber’s close friend and My Three Arrows photographer, Heidi Spillane, tells PEOPLE. “It wasn’t sad, but it was a beautiful moment where Amber was living on through her daughter.”
Amber’s sister, Adrianne Blackwelder, who accompanied Nora on the day of the shoot, says seeing the little girl wearing her late mom’s dress was “something else.”
“She talks about her mom all the time, she misses her so much,” Blackwelder, who takes care of Nora and her two brothers Reid and Noah while Derek is at work, tells PEOPLE. “During prayers she says, ‘Dear God, thank you that my mommy is not sick anymore in heaven.’ But she knows she’ll see Amber again.”
Amber was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma cervical cancer in February of 2014. The mother of three went through radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer metastasized and spread to her brain. About six months after brain surgery, Amber died at the age of 27.
“Amber was scared, of course, but she did everything she could to make sure her kids and husband were taken care of after she died,” says Blackwelder. “That’s why she wanted these photos, she wanted Nora to know how much she loved her.”
Before she died, Amber told Heidi about her wedding dress photoshoot idea.
“She saw it as a way for Nora to remember her Mama once she passed away,” says Spillane. “She wanted me to promise I would do it when she was gone.”
“She was so proud of Nora, just how beautiful and brave and amazing she was while her mom fought the cancer.”
Nora, who got her hair and makeup done by Amber’s close friend, Erica Stevens, for the shoot was a “natural” in front of the camera.
“She was beaming with pride in her mommy’s dress,” says Spillane. “She loved every minute of it. She would look at the picture of her mom standing in the same spot and touch the dress. It was a really special thing to witness.
“You could tell she just felt so connected to her mom in that moment.”
An especially emotional photograph, Derek picked Norah up and held her in the exact same position he held his wife on their wedding day five years ago.
“I felt so blessed to be able to be there in that moment with Nora,” Derek tells PEOPLE.
Nora told Spillane after the shoot that she felt “special” having her photograph taken in her mom’s gown.
“That’s what we were going for, her mom felt like a princess on the day she got married and we wanted Nora to feel that joy,” says Spillane.
And Derek says his daughter showed incredible strength during the emotional shoot.
“Nora has had to endure many things someone her age should not have,” he says. “Through it all she has shown her mother’s warrior spirit.”