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2 Things That Were Hard to Accept With Our Make-a-Wish Vacation

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On February 18, 2017 we packed up a rented minivan and took off on a 10-day, epic family adventure. Thanks to the Make-a-Wish organization, we were off to California to visit Disneyland, Legoland and most importantly to show Dax the ocean. He loves water with a sweet passion and he had always wanted to see big, blue waves.

As I prepared for this trip, the Led Zepplin song “Going to California” played in my head for weeks. Partly because I just watched Brandi Carlile cover the song at a pretty amazing party, but mostly because of this lyric:

“Going to California with an aching in my heart.”

It took me some time to get excited about this trip for two reasons. First, it meant that we had to accept hel…(ahem)…hel…(I can do this) help. That hasn’t always been easy for us. We do the helping. We do the giving. Receiving help was a role that was very uncomfortable for us at the time. We promptly made a priority to add Make-a-Wish Montana to our charitable giving list when we were through that challenging time.

But the main reason for my trepidation was that Make-a-Wish experiences are reserved for kids with life-threatening illnesses. Accepting the trip meant accepting that our little man is seriously ill and that’s just…too much.

So I did what I always do when I feel overwhelmed…I tried to learn more. I read about the impact and proven health benefits of wishes granted and how families find strength, hope, and joy through this experience. I spent hours reading stories of Wish kids with giant smiles on their faces, consumed by the moment they are living in.

Consumed by the moment.

It’s so easy to be consumed by the logistics of life, that we forget to live. We forget to be present, to live fully right now. This trip was about just that…finding strength, hope and joy in those moments.

The memories of the days we spent at the beach and Disneyland held considerable power from which we drew to get through six months in the hospital. We talked every day about meeting Mickey, Donald and Goofy. We shared stories of our favorite rides and stinky horses. The memories of those Wish days changed the way I viewed the true impact of Make-a-Wish. The aching in my heart was replaced with tremendous joy, hope and strength.

This was four years ago and we each still share stories of this Wish come true. We still find strength, hope and joy in those memories. And while our son is currently healthy and thriving, we know more challenge will come. Because of Make-a-Wish and this experience, I know we can handle those challenges, too.

“Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams,

Telling myself it’s not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.”

Photo via contributor

Originally published: April 14, 2021
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