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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

22 Moving Photos That Show the Power of Family

This year, we asked readers a question: “When you think of ‘family,’ what’s the image you see?” The submissions, and the stories behind them, were all universal and remarkably moving.

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Family is…

This year, Reader’s Digest asked it’s readers to share their favorite photos that embody the meaning of family. They responded with stunning photos and classic Reader’s Digest-style heartwarming stories.

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Courtesy Christina DeCamp

Daddy’s girl

Photo by: Christina Decamp

This is Sgt. John R. Christian and our five-day-old firstborn, whom he had to leave behind when she was six months old for his third deployment as an Army K-9 bomb dog handler. Despite his being gone for most of her first year and not reuniting with her until she was 18 months old, they are absolutely best friends, forever a daddy’s girl. —Katie Christian, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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Courtesy Dorothy Pelletier

Big brotherly love

Photo by: Dorothy Pelletier

Colby’s and Blake’s teams had lost their games that day. Colby (left) was taking it hard, so Blake was reminding him of what he’d done well. Brothers may argue and fight at times, but when the chips are down, big brothers are always close by. —Dorothy Pelletier, Taylors, South Carolina

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Courtesy Lauren Anzevino

Witnessing the beginning

Photo by: Lauren Anzevino

I was hired to photograph the Charles family in Cranford, New Jersey, a few days after baby Niam was brought home. Just before I took this shot, ­Kieran, the older son, was jumping on the bed behind his parents, so I suggested he go hug his mom and dad. Within seconds, he leaped right between them and they each kissed him on a cheek as they held Niam in their arms. Just like that, their new family of four came together to express their utmost happi­ness in all its security and warmth. —Lauren Anzevino, Westfield, New Jersey

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Courtesy Kevin Dao

The good book

Photo by: Kevin Dao

This is a photograph of my mother’s hands on top of her Bible. I took this photo on the morning of my older brother’s funeral services, on June 1, 2017, in Van Buren, Arkansas. It was the first time I’d been home in over ten years. My mother was sitting alone on the front porch and looking through the Bible for a specific psalm to be read during the service. The ring with the pink ice gemstone had just arrived that morning. It was a late Mother’s Day present my brother had mailed. —Kevin Dao, New York, New York

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Courtesy Chase Hamilton

Endless love

Photo by: Chase Hamilton

We didn’t have a lot, but Skipper and Hudder (Dad and Mom) would put all six of us and our dog, Rex, in the station wagon and drive an hour to the beach in Belmar, New Jersey. Mom had ­Alzheimer’s and Dad had cancer here. This was their last trip. So grateful to have the memories. —Michael Hamilton, Belleville, New Jersey

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Courtesy Ed Luckow

Having a blast

Photo by: Ed Luckow

My brother-in-law Roger and his grandson Quinn were out in the yard playing with a hose and having so much fun. I grabbed my camera, went around the house, and caught this moment. Every time I look at it, I have to smile. —Ed Luckow, Maple Grove, Minnesota

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Courtesy Kellie Carter

Family homestead

Photo by: Kellie Carter

My grandpa grew up in this old house in southern Oklahoma. I would listen to him tell stories of pulling cotton and plowing the fields before the sun came up. I can still see him standing in the doorway, leaning against the door frame, with a toothpick in his mouth. Even though we’ve lost some pieces over the years, the strength of family is like this old homestead—leaning and cracked in some places, but still standing proudly through it all. —Kellie Carter, Newcastle, Oklahoma

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Courtesy Sara Hammond

The river of peace

Photo by: Sara Hammond

This is my dad fly-fishing on the Penobscot River at Abol Bridge Campground. My family has gone here for many years, starting when my grandparents were young. It’s a place filled with many memories, including this one. To me, it summarizes the beauty and peacefulness of time spent together. —Sara Hammond, Sanford, Maine

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Courtesy Natasha Meyer

Capturing the good moments

Photo by: Natasha Meyer

Get them all together, get them to sit still for two minutes, make ’em all look happy … family picture day is a challenge. For this one, the photographer yelled “Jenna’s pregnant!” to get our attention. (She’s the one in green.) —George Desiderio, Coral Springs, Florida

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Courtesy Jubilee McGee

Infectious joy

Photo by: Jubilee McGee

This is a picture of my daughter Hazel. She has created a bond between my husband and I that is unbreakable and stronger than ever. She is full of life, and most of all she is constantly making everyone she encounters happy. Whether we are at a family barbecue or at the grocery store, she is always bringing joy to others. She is pure happiness.  —Iris McGee, Albany, New York

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Courtesy Madison Mackay

Beyond blood

Photo by: Madison Mackay

Sometimes the people who you consider to be your family aren’t always the ones you are related to by blood. I consider family to be the ones who will always be there for you no matter what, and who can make you laugh even on your darkest days. This photo was taken with some of the best friends a girl could ask for, and they’re family to me. Even though it was cold and rainy we still made the best of it and made some amazing memories. —Madison Mackay, Draper, Utah

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Courtesy Lori Slump

Summer memories

Photo by: Lori Slump

“Family Is” time spent together celebrating special occasions. Our three daughters, their husbands, and our seven grandchildren came to our acreage near Chelsea, Iowa to celebrate our 70th birthdays. And since our birthdays both fall near the Independence Day holiday, what better way to celebrate than with fireworks on the 4th! This picture was taken by daughter Lori, as our four younger grandchildren were sitting on the dock watching the fireworks while our sons-in-law and three older grandchildren were setting off the fireworks next to the pond. It was the best family celebration ever! —Dennis and Susan Albers, Chelsea, Iowa

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Courtesy Stephanie Marchant Portraits

Through good times and bad

Photo by: Stephanie Marchant Portraits

This was one month after we received our oldest son’s devastating diagnosis (then age 4), of Sanfilippo syndrome, a degenerative terminal disease often described as childhood Alzheimer’s. We wanted to capture fond memories of our family and our children. We wanted to immortalize the relationship between our boys, when our oldest son was still the big brother, the protector, the one our youngest looked up to. One day, the roles will reverse, and our youngest son will be the one looking out for his big brother. This picture shows life as it should be. —Katharine Sink, Sachse, Texas

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Courtesy Breanna Duffey

A shared legacy

Photo by: Breanna Walrath

This photo is of my Grammy’s hand as well as my three sisters’ hands and my hand. This was taken the night before she passed away. Her hands mean so much to us because they are hands that raised us and helped shaped us into the people we are today. —Emilee Kelly, Woodbury, Minnesota

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Courtesy Andria Morse

A sense of belonging

Photo by: Andria Morse

When I look at this picture of my beautiful mama it says so much to me and it says everything between us. It’s OK that she doesn’t remember my name anymore because when she sees me she says “you belong to me” and that’s all I need. —Gayle Wroe-Johnson, Stillwater, Minnesota

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Courtesy Abigail Egan

A welcoming table

Photo by: Abigail Egan

Family is long talks at the kitchen table with my mother, a steaming mug of black tea with milk and one sugar cube in my hands. It’s where I told her my high school boyfriend broke up with me, where I decided what college I was going to attend, and where we laughed until we cried over something we can no longer recall. Tea will forever be the definition of family in my mother’s house. —Abigail Egan, Boston, Massachusetts

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Courtesy Rick Wilsen

An enthusiastic greeting

Photo by: Rick Wilsen

In 2017, Meemaw and Peepaw drove to Orlando to visit its #1 attraction—our first grandchild! As evident in his expression, Bradson was pretty pleased to see his grandmother as well. Is there a greater joy than spending time with one’s first grandchild? We may go months between visits, but our special relationship picks up right where we left off. When next we meet we are assured to be greeted with an enthusiastic “MEE-MAW!! PEE PAW!!” —Sharon Wilsen, Sarasota, Florida

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Courtesy Michelle Van Egdom

Tiny miracles

Photo by: Michelle Van Egdom

After being born early and spending time in the NICU, we were finally able to take our beautiful daughter home with us! What a perfect little miracle she is!  Born on January 6, we lived with her in the NICU for the first part of her life. Between a crying baby and only a tiny couch to sleep on, it was a stressful time of very little sleep, so taking her home was one of the happiest days of our lives! —Ethan Brummel, Rock Valley, Iowa

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Courtesy Lisa Thurman

The time we spend

Photo by: Lisa Thurman

To me, family is growing old together, and growing close together. My grandparents are the epitome of love, in its truest form. They embody everything that makes a family whole, and they share that honor with our community, far surpassing blood. Family is commitment. Perseverance. Encouragement. Dedication. Service. Loyalty. Faith. Prayer. Honor. Love. Timeless. —Lisa Thurman, Neosho, Missouri

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Courtesy Jenna Martin

Made in the hard moments

Photo by: Jenna Martin

Being a newborn is hard and they are sure to tell you all about it. Sleepless nights and sleepless days, but they are what makes a family. —Jenna Martin, Ramsey, Minnesota

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Courtesy Renee Lund

Well-worn teamwork

Photo by: Renee Lund

What a wonderful sight to see family working together to get the job done. Driving cattle is tough enough and gets even tougher when strays head off in all directions. That’s when it’s great to have others there to lend a hand. —Renee Lund, Worland, Wyoming

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Courtesy Laurel Holland

The bond of sisterhood

Photo by: Laurel Holland

When I think of family I see my nieces, both independent and strong-willed while being completely selfless when it comes to the other. They are the vision of sisters, always protecting one another and sharing a hug. Either little sister is leading the way, or big sister is providing the guidance, but one is never far apart from the other. —Jacob Addison, Toccoa, Georgia. Next, check out these photo contest winners for Reader’s Digest’s Made in America contest.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest