One week ago I was heading to the airport for a flight to Orlando, FL and Disney World.
I didn't know what was ahead of me.
Before we even saw a volunteer from Inheritance of Hope, I recognized a fellow survivor I'd corresponded with a couple of weeks ago. We all loaded up on the bus for the resort- staying at Coronado Springs. We had just enough time to find our hotel room and get the girls changed since we had their clothes suitcase as carry-ons. We didn't get to change because our luggage hadn't made it to the room yet.
We found our way to the banquet room where dinner was being served. As we sat down for dinner we met what seemed like hundreds of people- volunteers, other families like ours, I was so afraid that I wouldn't remember names and embarrass myself. Luckily everyone wore name tags. :)
After introductions there was a knock at one of the doors and a little boy answered it... Mr. Mickey Mouse was on the other side!
Instantly Vera tried to wiggle out of my lap and Iris didn't know what to do with herself. Once Vera got to him, she wasn't about to let him out of her site- so the volunteers had to distract her with tickles so he could make his escape.
From there- the volunteers took the kids to do activities with them while the parents went to rooms for discussions. Everyone talked about diagnoses and family situations. Of course we had some things in common and though I don't wish this outlook on anyone, it was nice to have someone TOTALLY understand your situation.
The girls were beyond exhausted by the end of the night- Vera fell asleep on one of the volunteers. She doesn't just do that with anyone so with that, she had picked our volunteer for the weekend. The next morning at breakfast we asked Shelly if she wanted to tag along with the family as we went to the Magic Kingdom. We were thrilled that she came with us. She was a total blessing. The girls loved her and Jason and I really enjoyed talking to her and getting to know her. She held a place in line for us to meet Rapunzel and Flynn Rider while we took the girls to look around. She took pictures, changed diapers, grabbed snacks and so on. What a blessing she was. And I'm sure she IS to her family. I am sad to say that Iris chose NOT to get the royal makeover... she only wanted sparkles in her hair and that was it. eh- no big deal I guess, I just thought she'd want to get done-up.
So Iris and Vera got to meet Rapunzel and Flynn and Tigger and Pooh a little later.
Most of that first day at the park was spent looking around because it was a little more packed than we'd expected and we had to be at Disney Hollywood at 6pm so we didn't want to lose track of time and end up being late.
Dinner was with the IOH at Pizza Planet after the group photo in front of the big sorcerer's hat.
Sunday we hit the Animal Kingdom- my cousins Carla and Kelly met us there for the day. :) We got to meet Rafiki and Pocahontas (another MUST VISIT for Iris) and watched the parade then caught the Bug's Life show. Vera was NOT a fan of the scary part, but she made it through. And we rocked the 3-D glasses...
Sunday night we had dinner and sent the girls off for "Kids' Night Out" The volunteers took the kids to the Magic hours @ Disney World while we met with the counselor that worked with Iris a bit. She said Iris was not showing extreme signs of grief or distress. I was happy to hear that she was a very average 4 year old. That kid deals with more than any 4 year old should have to.
After that, I made my Legacy Video. I chose to pick questions to answer about myself on video. Just a little something for the girls to have- to learn about me. Things they might not think to ask, things they may want to know after I'm gone. I did pretty well until the end "What do you want your girls to know?" ugh.
After I composed myself, we headed to Magic Kingdom... by this time it was 10:00pm... just enough time to hit Space Mountain one time before the park closed at 11. We met another couple from the retreat- Mike and Kristi- Jason took one look at Mike during our first group session and figured they'd get along great. Jason was afraid he'd end up very lonely, but he and Mike had a lot in common and found some camaraderie. Both 30-something dads of young children (their children were pretty much the same ages as Iris and Vera) with wives in difficult medical situations. Guys need support too, and I think really that the spouses need more support than the patient at times.
It was nice to get to know them and I'm sure we will be in touch with them from now on.
We left the park that night, and I didn't know that we'd walked right past t Shelly- that had my girls with her. They were piled on each other- Vera fell asleep in Iris' lap and Iris was sleeping on Vera's back. LOVE IT!
So we got them back to the hotel for some much-needed rest.
Monday morning was breakfast and closing ceremonies. They recognized all the volunteers who gave of their time to help the families on retreat. The volunteers were beyond wonderful. The Volunteers also presented us with photo albums with pictures from the weekend. It was hard to keep real composure... I can go from smiles to blubbering idiot in .10 second. I was so grateful for Shelly and the other volunteers who were so great with my kids.
The founders of IOH - Kristin and Derek Milligan- stood up to speak. It is because of their vision that we got a dream weekend with the girls and have pictures and memories forever. It was really a worry-free weekend. I don't even have the words to thank them for everything they did. I met them both and I think the world of them. Both super people- doing all this for others while they are dealing with their own hardships in the same arena. It's beyone anything I can even describe accurately.
I am actually having a hard time closing this post out. I just want to gush and gush about the people and the memories. And I am afraid that I've overlooked something.
Let's just say that I am continually trying to pay forward all the good that has been afforded me.
It was a dream weekend and a real blessing for us. I will never forget it.
Thank you Inheritance Of Hope.
Watch the Video