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To the Family at Disney Who Saw My Son in Line to Meet Buzz and Woody

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It’s the holidays. A time of love and goodwill, of reflection and appreciation. This year the season will be quite different for us. We lost our son Landon suddenly in September after a courageous battle with MPS IIIA, also known as Sanfilippo syndrome. We’ve been left devastated by his absence and trying to move forward with positivity each day has been harder than we could ever have imagined. 

We do what I think most families who are traveling this road of grief do… we remember. We talk about our son and the amazing nine years we were fortunate enough to share with him. The memories bring laughter and tears, but they’re always an affirmation that despite it all, our son lived. And he was loved.

One particular memory has been floating through my mind quite a bit lately. This time last year, we took Landon to Disney World to attend a conference for families who have children fighting MPS disorders. Landon so loved everything Disney. The week was pure magic, and I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to take him to one of his favorite places one last time. 

Landon was a lifelong Toy Story fan. Woody and Buzz were his best friends at every stage of his life. He adored them. As we waited in line for his turn to come face to face with his heroes, something beautiful happened, something that still touches my heart to this day. And I would like to take a minute to acknowledge and say thank you to this family, where ever they may be.

To the family who saw my son:

It’s become so common place when we take our boys in public, and especially when they ride in their chairs, to elicit curious looks from strangers. That is our normal. Often people will catch their children looking on curiously and scold them. Or whisper for them to “stop being rude” or “turn around.” 

But as we were waiting in line on that beautiful December afternoon to meet Buzz and Woody, you did something I desperately wish more people would.

When your son peered over his shoulder in curiousity and saw Landon behind him in his little purple wheelchair, you did not scold him. You did not tell him to stop being rude. You knelt down and said hi. And you asked him his name. 

You talked to Landon like he was any other child you would meet at the playground or in a line at Disney World. Instead of telling your child to “turn around” and essentially teaching him that people with disabilities are to be feared or avoided, you started a conversation. You asked questions and you let your son learn about a child who was different from himself. 

Even though Landon could not talk or verbally respond, he was thrilled to be acknowledged. Our sons smiled and giggled together, and without a word, they made a connection. Because kindness and love can be felt without ever being spoken. In that moment, they were just two little boys in a line, waiting to meet characters they idolized.

boy meeting landon at disney

Thank you. For seeing beyond the chair, beyond the differences. Thank you for seeing my son and making him feel like a normal child. Thank you for raising your son in a way that you will be so proud of some day.

Thank you for being the kind of parents who give me hope that there is still love and tolerance in this world. For showing your son that curiosity is OK, and making new friends is easy and fun if you have an open heart.

You may not remember us, but we will never forget you and how you made us feel included instead of isolated and different.

Originally published: December 12, 2015
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