For 3rd Birthday, Toddler Prays While Wearing Uniform of Her Dad, Who Died in the Line of Duty

Taliya Thomas prays every day to her daddy in heaven, she says.

Taliya Thomas was 8 months old when her father died in the line of duty, but that hasn't stopped her from talking to him every day.

Taliya's third birthday was no different — and as part of that celebration, she had a photo session with Georgia-based photographer Mary Lee, who has been shooting Taliya for most of her life.

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“She is just the sweetest, cutest little girl. She just lights up a room,” Lee told

Her dad, Franklin County Deputy Sheriff Cruz Thomas was killed in May 2014 when his cruiser crashed in a high-speed chase with a suspect.

On Sunday, the 9/11 anniversary, Taliya donned her father’s uniform shirt and his hat for a photograph.

When her grandmother suggested a prayer for all those killed in the terror attacks, and for officers killed in the line of duty, Taliya fell to her knees and clasped her hands skyward.

And Lee, camera in hand, snapped an image that is both sweet and sorrowful.

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“We went to this big farm,” Lee explained. “There was this yellow butterfly that kept flying around her. She said, ‘That’s my daddy. He’s sending me butterfly kisses from heaven.’

“She’s a very, very smart girl.”

Taliya’s paternal grandparents bring her in for photos. Her grandpa, Franklin County Sheriff Stevie Thomas, keeps the flame of his son’s memory burning in his granddaughter’s soul.

“She loves the memory of her dad,” Lee said. “She says, ‘He watches over me every day.’’’

Lee tries to come up with a different theme for each of Taliya’s photo sessions. She said she doesn’t know what the next one will be, but “we will continue to do pictures in memory of her dad,” Lee said.

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