Anyone click on this because of the title? Sorry about that. I didn’t intend for it to be a “click bait” title, it just sort of happened. While Jesus and Mickey Mouse might sound like two things that should be spoken of on opposite sides of a room, for me, they go together like peanut butter and jelly.
If you’re new to my story, we lost our infant son unexpectedly in 2014, during the beginning stages of labor. “Traumatic” doesn’t seem like a descriptive enough word for the emotional rollercoaster of pain and confusion we experienced during that time. We fell hard into a valley of darkness and despite prayers and attempts to “cheer us up” and “make things normal” we (I) just couldn’t get my head back on straight. Torn between grief in child loss and keeping normalcy for my living children who were so young, I wanted to protect them from the pain.
Most days I wanted to stay under the covers – sometimes alone and sometimes snuggling with my husband and little girls, and wait for it all to be over, but grief in loss is never ending and we had to find a way to mourn and reset. I never say “move on” because that’s not a thing you do when you lose a child – move on. You just move to a new normal. Somehow I decided that some family time would help. Some family time away.
So just two months after John Karl’s death I declared we would take a trip to Disney World! Surely some time at The Happiest Place on Earth would “cure” us of all the sadness, right? So frantically, I threw myself into planning our trip – just 8 weeks away. If you’ve never done Disney before, I assure you it is quite an undertaking, and I certainly needed a project so I was all in! I researched, I booked a package, I researched, I chose restaurants, I FastPassed, I planned, I researched, I revised, I shopped (because of course we needed matching shirts to be happy), I researched some more and planned and planned and planned. Everything must be perfect, we must enjoy our time together. It was precise, from the announcement of the trip to the girls first flight, to meeting Minnie in their matching dresses on the very first night (which is now a tradition for us).
It could not have gone any better – unless we had been magically chosen to stay in Cinderella’s Castle. The smiles were abundant, the giggles were plentiful, and I had snapped more pictures of firsts and funnies than I could count. By the time we tucked two exhausted girls in on the second night, my once hesitant husband said,
“When Can We Do This Again? It Is Magical.” I Actually Felt My Heart Swoon.
Something was still missing, and my heart felt empty and I still wanted to cry myself to sleep in that gorgeous room with the smell of cotton candy and the fireworks nightlight on the headboard. So I prayed, Jesus, please. We are literally at the Happiest Place on Earth. My mind knows that my heart should be full and I know their hearts are full, yet mine still aches. Please bring peace to my soul that only you can bring. Tell me this was ok. And off to sleep I went.
The next morning was just as full of excitement and magic as we explored the Magic Kingdom and later when we settled in with a hot dog from Casey’s Corner to watch the Wishes fireworks show at The Castle, my heart felt nearly full for the first time in months. My smiling, ketchup-faced girl climbed onto my husband’s shoulders while older sister snuggled next to me to share Cracker Jack and just before the first note of music for the show began I spotted a blue Mickey-shaped balloon float away into the air and I ugly cried. Bittersweet tears of grief and answered prayers and magic while we watched explosions of light and listened to well-known stories and tunes cascade across the park.
Mickey made me happy,
but Jesus healed my heart.
This, friends, is why we go back every year. It’s more than a theme park for us. Disney started the healing process when I was in such a dark place. It was a project to focus on, a welcome distraction, new memories to make, permission to laugh. And we will keep doing it. Because each time we do it is something old and something new all wrapped into one. Each trip there is always a moment where I miss our boy, so we buy a blue Mickey shaped balloon and we give it away and think about what would be his favorite part of this trip. With hearts that are healing we giggle and make magical memories.