As you are all well aware, the last 9 months have been a bit of a challenge for our family. After the first four or five months I began to wish for a vacation. Bobby's illness and his "absence" that came along with it was starting to take a toll on me (and the kids as well). So, I started to plan/hope for a vacation sometime off in the future when he would be able to take one. I thought of how wonderful it would be for the 6 of us to just have some fun together with no thought of cancer, chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, etc. I knew that financially it would be difficult to go to Disneyland, but that is what I really wanted to do. It had been 3 years since our last visit there, so Seth and Kaymbria had little to no memories of it. I decided to save my candle business money, and then register for Disney's newest volunteer promotion where you can volunteer for a day, and in return, get a free day at Disneyland. I started to get excited about my plan, and it was nice to have something to look forward to. And then, the transmission in Bobby's car went out. Over $1000 later, the car was fixed, but my hopes of Disneyland had gone to the junkyard with the old transmission.
It was only about a week or so later that 2 wonderful friends pulled me aside at church one morning. I wish I could remember in better detail how they presented me the gift... I just remember feeling completely overcome with emotion when they explained that they had organized an all-expense paid trip for us to go to Disneyland. Through my tears I tried to tell them that we were doing fine, and that surely there must be others in our congregation who needed help more than we did, but they stood firm and said that the trip was already paid for. They also explained that as they contacted families and shared their idea, they were so very happy to contribute. They gave me a Disney bag full of T-shirts for all of us, a stuffed Mickey, a Mickey blanket, and the trip itinerary for 3 days at Disneyland, and 4 nights at a nice hotel. I just stood there and bawled like a baby (and even now, almost 2 months later, I am still brought to tears just thinking about it!).
We decided to tell the kids about the trip on Christmas day. We waited until the late afternoon so that it wouldn't interfere with their Christmas morning craziness. We brought them all together an told them we had one more Christmas gift to share with them. We explained that it wasn't from us, or Santa, but it was from many friends at church who love us. Through my tears (once again) I shared with my children that sometimes when people are sick or having a difficult time, others want very much to help, but don't know how or what they can do to help. This trip was how many friends wanted us to feel better. Their reactions were very mixed- from jumping up and down, throwing Mickey up in the air over and over, to "Who did this?!?" and "THANK YOU HUGHSON WARD!" The next morning Kaymbria woke up first. As I held her in the quiet of the morning before everyone else awoke she said to me "Mommy, do you know what my best present was?" What? I asked. "That we are going to Disneyland!"
Our days there were truly magical! Having a note from our doctor to get a medical pass proved to be valuable in many ways. Not only did we go to the front of every line, it also allowed us to witness others who have been through a lot. From a horribly disabled burn victim to a mother with terminal brain cancer, Bobby and I gained further perspective and great appreciation for our simple trials and the tender mercies of our Heavenly Father. I will not forget the father who had a smile on his scarred face, and Bobby will always remember his conversation with the mother who will not live to see her son grow from a boy to a man. Our children, of course, were oblivious to these people, but have wonderful memories of their own now. They are still talking about their favorite rides and attractions and ask when we can go back again!
I wish that we could hug and thank everyone individually who contributed to this amazing gift, but also understand and respect the desire to remain anonymous. We will never forget this act of love and kindness. This trip, plus all the other wonderful outpourings of love and support over the last nine months has taught me so profoundly of Christ-like love, and has increased my desire to share that same love with others. So for any of you who may be reading this who in any way offered help or love through this trip, dinners, money, house cleaning, babysitting, praying, hugging, sending cards, or giving words of encouragement, I thank you whole-heartedly! "My cup runneth over" with gratitude for you all.