Angel Moore, CPT (Mickey's Angel)
Disney holds a very special place in my heart for many reasons. My very first trip was in 2001 the November after 9-11. We went to get my daughter away from all of the bad things in the world… the fighting, the images on the TV, the daily stress of people trying to get back to their normal lives after losing a loved ones.
What we found in Disney World was an amazing place that was truly Magical. We were really transformed into a world were Magic lived. It was not a realist trip though. We soon found out that the empty parks, short lines and special attention were not the norm. They were because most people were at home dealing with tragedy and ugliness of everything that came from 9-11.
We took another trip in 2002 and while it was fun, it was not the same. It was a stressful vacation. Lines were long, we could not get into restaurants to eat – we were new to this advanced dining thing – and although still Magical, it was not the same. It was hectic and caused stress, something we were taking a vacation to get away from.
Then a terrible thing happened in March of 2003. Dad was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. He was given 4 months to live… it was one of the worst days of my life. Dad was handling it just fine. He asked for 2 things. Number 1 was to see Disney World again and number 2 was to go back to Las Vegas. I jumped at the chance of taking dad to Disney World. In less than 2 weeks I was walking in Epcot with dad. Do you know that I had never, in my whole life taken a vacation with my father? Here we were in his favorite place in the World. Dad continued to live in Florida when my parents split when I was a child. He got to go to Disney World on a regular basis. For me, it was a far away dream.
Here we were in Epcot… walking together on our first ever vacation, knowing that dad only had a few months to live… yet there was a smile on his face that I had never seen before. Dad was the happiest man on earth at that moment. As we were walking he would point things out to me. Little things, stopping to wait for the fountain to dance to the music, the smell of Rome burning, every plant in Living with Land (we passed this ride before because it looked boring), the squares in the ground with twinkling lights… all of the little things that we were moving to fast to see on our previous trips. At the end of the night I found out that Illuminations told a story… before I thought it was just fireworks.After that trip I developed an even bigger love for Disney, one that some people will never understand. It taught me to slow down and enjoy the Magic that is right in front of you. Whether it is Disney or any other vacation, slow down! Don’t rush to see it all or you will miss most of it and not feel relaxed when you come home.
Dad beat that cancer and 4 more terminal cancers after… each only giving him 3-4 months to live. But in October of 2008 the Chemotherapy became more than he could handle. After entering the hospital for severe dehydration the decision was made that dad would stop chemo. It was too hard on his body and he was no longer able to live life to the fullest. We decided to place dad with Hospice so he could end his life with dignity. That was a very hard decision since we had a huge family trip planned for Disney World in just 3 weeks. We discussed canceling the trip but dad would not hear of it. The Hospice nurse was so supportive. She mad sure that I understood that by canceling the trip dad would feel like a burden and that was one thing he did not want.
As the days went by I watched dad decline and get weaker, but he never changed his mind about us taking that trip. We decided to go and make it a trip to remember. I spent every moment pointing things out to my kids and grandkids just as my father did with me. You could see the excitement in their eyes as they “got” it. Every night I called dad. He was not responsive but I carried on a conversation with him anyway. I told him everything we did and called during fireworks so he could hear them.
On November 26th we spent our last day in Epcot. I called dad to tell him were we were and to let him hear the beginning of Illuminations. I finally got a response from dad. When I told him we were in Epcot he got excited and actually said “Epcot? Epcot?”. I knew he understood and was happy for us. Epcot was always his favorite park and to hear him speak again meant so much to me.
I got a call the next morning telling me that dad was calling out for me. I knew it was time. I called the airline and was able to get a flight out the next morning with my oldest daughter and grand kids. Both Southwest Airlines and Disney were wonderful. Bobby would drive home with my son in law and Taylor. We flew into New Orleans and drove back to Lafayette. We arrived mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day and evening with dad. He ate for me and took his medications, but could not talk or communicate. I knew he felt me there. Bobby and Taylor arrived after midnight and were able to stop by and see dad before coming home.
I received a call at 4:15am telling me that dad was struggling to breath. By the time I got to his house he was gone. Dad passed away at 4:30am on November 29th, 2 days before our trip was scheduled to end. Dad wanted us to take that trip and I was able to share the true magic with my family that dad shared with me. I had no regrets about going. Dad let me know when it was time to come home. Dad was buried with some special things I picked up in Disney.
Now we had a dilemma. We had another trip scheduled for Mardi Gras which was only 3 months away. How would I deal with the grief of visiting a place that was so special to me because of my father AND a place that I visited at the end of my dad’s life? I felt like it robbed me of a few extra days I could have had with him. Of course that was my feelings only. No one else felt that way and I knew in my heart that dad was happy for me.
Those 3 months leading up to that trip were filled with anxiety. Should I cancel the trip? Would I break down in the park? Would I still love the place that was so special to both of us? All of that anxiety was short lived. When we arrived I knew we were “home”, a place that would truly be special to all of us for the rest of our lives. I did cry one day… when we sat to watch Illuminations. I could only think of how happy dad would be if I could call him and tell him…