Have you ever stood in the middle of a crowded place and felt completely alone? Sometimes the memories in your head are so vivid they drown out the rest of the world. Sometimes the memories are welcomed thoughts and sometimes sneak up on you when you least expect it.
Last week I packed up my merry band of misfits and headed out on a grand adventure. We'd planned and saved for months so we could go to Disney World. We're sort of self proclaimed Disney experts so I thought of everything, hotel, meal plan, perfectly selected magicbands, and dining reservations painstakingly made 6 months in advance. I spent a week making lists and packing for 4. I spent hours in Pinterest looking for ideas to keep 2 kids occupied in the car for 14 hours. I was ready for the magic to begin.
We spent 14 glorious hours together (I might be exaggerating the glorious part) on our way to the happiest place on Earth. The kids were so excited. Emma is a Disney pro but Jax had no idea what he was getting into. I couldn't wait to see that look in your kids eyes when they experience everything Disney. It can only be described as magical.
As soon as we saw the famous Disney World sign a flood of memories hit me in the gut like a ton of bricks. This overwhelming sadness creeped it's way into my brain. So many wonderful memories have happened at this place. This was the first time we've come back without her. This was her place. This is where she wasn't just a handicapped kid. She was princess Madison in this place and everyone she met seemed to recognize that. You could feel her demeanor change when she was in Disney World. Her smile and laugh were contagious everyday but in this place they were electric. I never thought that visiting her place without her would be so hard.
Everything Disney was covered in her memory. Even boarding the bus at the resort reminds me of her. Standing in the regular (non-handicapped) line, not uprooting half the bus to strap her wheelchair in, not hearing her laugh when the bus takes off. Why was this all so emotional? She's been gone almost 4 years. I walk through my house everyday, the house where she took her last breath, and I don't feel this crushing sadness at home. Maybe I've just learned to pretend better at home.
Stepping off that Disney bus to our first park felt like time stopped. Walking the path to the park entrance tears welled up in my eyes. I tried not to show it. Thank God for sunglasses! I didn't want my kids to feel my sadness. I wanted to keep out vacation happy. Every place we went, every thing we did I felt crushed by her memory. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just felt her memory weighed very heavy on me.
I think the hardest part of whole trip was on "It's a small world." That was her ride. We used to ride it over and over again I'm the special wheelchair boat. Typically on our trips they didn't put people in the boat with us. It was like for a moment the entire ride belonged to us and in those moments life was perfect. Boarding the regular boat with other people was a huge punch in face from reality. Some of our magic had been taken away. I let my tears fall just a little on the ride. Perhaps a little bit of healing in those tears. I laughed a little when Jax laid his head on my lap and fell asleep. His sister never would have let that happen. She would have laughed and "talked" all the way through the ride.
The week did get easier and I did really enjoy the time with my family. It's just like everything in life after you lose a child, you have to get used to your "new normal". I didn't see this waive of emotion coming but I'm glad it did. I miss her so much every day. I enjoyed being in her place and feeling her presence with us so clearly.