We’ve just returned from a magical family trip to Disney World.  As is to be expected, the kids loved every minute of it.  And the Husband and I  . . . well . . .we had a pretty good time too.  It’s hard not to have a good time when you’re in the happiest place on earth.

But, this trip didn’t go by without some introspection, and some lessons (re)learned.  You see, Disney holds a special place in my heart – it’s where we had our first family vacation – but it’s also where I first came to terms with the symptoms of my tumour and the fact that there was something wrong.  But in the five years that have followed that fist trip, Disney has been a place to celebrate birthdays (mine, my son’s, and even my daughter’s).  It’s been a place to celebrate being together, and to celebrate making it through the tumour situation more or less intact.  And so, with ever trip we take there, I tend to take a bit of time to reflect on the past, where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and where we might be going in the future.

This trip was no different.

But, just as our trip was coming to an end, and I was starting to plan out how the next few weeks would go once we got back, my path crossed that of another vacationing family, and through that chance encounter, I found a much clearer picture of how I want things to be now that we’re home.

Let me explain.  After a long morning at Hollywood Studios, the little one and I decided to go back to the hotel to spend the afternoon by the pool, while the Husband and the older one opted to travel to EPCOT.  As the little one and I took our place in line to wait for the bus to take us back to the hotel, another mom with two children about the same age as my little one got into line behind us.  As the kids started to interact with each other, I started to chat with the mom.  Before long, I learned why they were at Disney; her sister, a mom to a 4 year old and a toddler, who was waiting further behind us in line, in a wheelchair, has terminal cancer.  They were there, to create lasting, big, happy memories for her kids with their mom, while they still could.

I was instantly reminded of the time, between my diagnosis and my surgery, when I would say to the Husband, “I just want them to remember me”.  This sentiment affected a lot of my behaviour towards my family before and long after the surgery.  When the kids were little, I tried my best to make every day just a little bit magical.  That often resulted in frequent little “treats” and overdoing it when it came to Christmas and birthdays.  As the kids have gotten older, I have turned more towards spending quiet time with them, and relied less on purchases to create happiness.  This has meant we’ve spent more time cooking, going on runs together, making crafts and the like.

And of course it’s meant I have put a priority on things like our trips to Disney, where we can take a complete break from our everyday lives and focus on being together and having fun.  The kids relish these trips, because they know they will have undivided attention from both the Husband and I, and that together, we are making truly magical memories.

The stark reality of our world today is that more and more of us are having experiences with disease and tumours.  Regardless of the cause of the rising rates of disease (although my focus on clean eating and exercise is how I work to mitigate my chances of ever experiencing a tumour again), none of us know if or when we might be faced with a similar situation.  And not to be overly melodramatic, if something were to happen, how would you like your family to remember you?

So, as we’re now home and already back into our daily routines, and looking ahead to the holiday season, I am going to put a renewed focus on my family.  Years from now, the kids won’t remember the gifts I might have bought them, how many activities they participated in, or how rushed we were running from one thing to the next.  What they will remember is how loved they felt, how we took time as a family to honour our little traditions, and how we slowed down so that we could truly enjoy each other’s company.  And those, regardless of whether they happen at Disney or at home, well, those are the memories that will last a lifetime.

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