Life and Death

Posted by: Andee / Category: , , ,


It's no secret that the past week has been hard as hell on me. I don't think I have cried this much since I lost my Dad, and I know the funeral tomorrow will be emotional and tough to handle. I wouldn't be anywhere else though, Taft was a really cool cousin and he is a huge part of my childhood memories. I don't think I could write anything that would do him justice.

This news has had me thinking (dangerous, I know)...

A long time ago, I shared a story about a little boy I met while working at Universal Studios Orlando. His name was Nathan, and he was dying of cancer. His trip to Orlando was a gift from the Make A Wish Foundation, and Nathan's wish was to meet Barney the Dinosaur.

On the day Nathan and his parents made their way to the Barney Show, I happened to be the opening employee. It was my job to greet the guests as they entered the small, indoor playground and give them any information they needed to attend the show. I was standing at the giant archway at the front of the attraction in front of a giant Barney water feature when I saw two adults and a child in a wheelchair approach me. It wasn't until I saw the button on Nathan's shirt that displayed the "Make A Wish Foundation" that I realized he was going to be an extra special guest.

Nathan's smile got bigger and bigger as he reached the water fountain. He saw pictures of Barney, BJ and Baby Bop all over the place and he was getting really excited to meet the purple dinosaur. I squatted down so I could look at Nathan on his eye level and introduced myself. I usually introduced myself to all the kids first, everyone got a kick out of that... especially because the area was themed for kids.

Nathan's smile was HUGE when I asked to shake his hand. He told me his wish was to meet Barney. That was really cool, because it was rare for us to get someone who planned their whole trip in order to see what we put our time and effort into each day. I immediately got tears in my eyes when I looked at his parents. They were happy, and sad. They knew this was his wish... but it was his final wish. That is something I can't even wrap my head around.

I told Nathan a little fib. I told him Barney was expecting him (we were not given a heads up, but sometimes that happens) and he was getting first class treatment for the show. He stood up and got out of his wheelchair in excitement. I took his hand and took him to the indoor playground and gave him a little tour of all the things he could do. Nathan was a sick little boy, but that morning he had tons of energy and excitement. He even ran and tripped over something and scared his Mom at one point. Nathan just smiled, waved that he was okay, and continued to jump on musical stepping stones and slide down the tree house slides.

I excused myself for a few moments and called my supervisor on the radio. I told her what was going on and got permission to pull off some fantastic things for Nathan and his family. This was all going to be a big surprise for him... and I was thrilled to be a part of putting a smile on his face and helping his parents make sure he had some fantastic memories.

I went to the Barney store and picked up a T-shirt, a Barney doll, BJ doll, Baby Bop doll. I also grabbed a Barney balloon and put it all on Universal's tab. I would have paid for it myself if I would have had to... believe me.

Pretty soon it was time to load all the guests in an area to get ready to see the show. I pulled Nathan and his parents off to the side and told them that when they got into the theater to look for me. I would be waving my hands wildly to get their attention because I would be saving their front row seat. Nathan was so excited, he jumped up and down and said, "Thank you!!!" over and over again.

When the theater doors opened for the guests, Nathan spotted me immediately and I escorted them to the best seats in the house. It was hard to notice Nathan was a sick little boy at this point. I don't think he sat in his chair the entire show... he was singing and dancing and clapping with the audience. At that moment, he was just a little boy having a good time... and everyone in the theater knew how precious that was.

Soon, the show was over, and Nathan and his family were picking up their things and getting ready to leave with the rest of the guests. I walked over to them and winked... I told them to hang out for a few minutes. I couldn't say more than that for fear another guest would overhear what was about to happen. All the employees (and Barney) wanted the moment to be personal and just for them... it was the right thing to do.

I walked the family over to a designated area after the rest of the guests had left the theater. That is when Barney, BJ and Baby Bop all snuck out of a hiding spot with all of the goodies we had picked out for him earlier. I told his Mom and Dad I would videotape everything for them, so they could just enjoy the moment.

Most kids are a little freaked out when three fuzzy life-size creatures are approaching them, but not this little boy! He started telling Barney and the other dinos stories and giving them tons of hugs. He even did a little dance with Baby Bop. It was the sweetest thing. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Not one. Except Nathan. Nathan was just having fun.

We gave Nathan front row seats for all 5 shows during the day. During the last show, he became my special helper and assisted me with getting people to their seats. He told the other kids that he was best friends with Barney and he was here to help for the day. It was fantastic.

Eventually, the day had to end. The employees had to go home and the park had to close for the day. We were sad to see our special helper go.

A few months later I received an email from Nathan's Mom. Nathan had passed away in his sleep after his battle with cancer, and he was buried in his Barney T-shirt and his dinosaur stuffed animals.

During the whole day Nathan thanked us a million times. When I look back, I should be thanking him. He taught me a lot about cherishing each and every moment of our lives.

The loss of my cousin, along with other family members and friends passing away, brought this story from my memory bank because I wish I could go back and give them all one last hug, give them one last smile, tell them I love them one more time... but I can't.

Leaving the Mormon Church has made me question everything I ever thought about heaven and being with our family and friends again after we die. Will they be up there waiting for us when it's our time? I don't know. Only one word pops in my mind to describe my feelings about that...

Hope.

Tomorrow I go to a funeral to celebrate the life of a young man who was taken too young. To say this isn't fair is an understatement. I am not talking about unfair to me... but unfair to him and his parents and his brother and sister. They are in pain and there isn't much I can do to help.

Please cherish your friends and family today. Give them hugs and tell them you love them... even if they don't like you or the decisions you have made. When it comes down to it, none of that matters in the end.

Andee


3 comments:

  1. Big Hos Says:

    Andee,

    I am so sorry for your loss. I haven't had to face death yet since I have lost my belief in god and I have no idea how I will deal with it. Your story literally made me cry here at my computer.

    When it comes down to it, I think the only thing we can do is live every moment of precious life the best we know how.

    Jason

  1. maybemaybenot Says:

    I am so very sorry for the losses you have suffered recently; what a rough go you have had of it.

    I read something on another blog I follow that I liked. It is kind of a sad blog because it is for a group of ladies who have lost babies or children. These women have experienced terrible pain and they blog to gain some strength, understanding (if possible) and comfort. One lady wrote that after her daughter died, she asked her best friend to not call her for a while because she just could not talk about it while it was so raw.

    She commented that her friend only followed up with e-mails because then she could lend some support without requiring any response. One of her e-mails said, “If someone tells you that your daughter is in a better place, I give you permission to tell them to fuck off.” She said she couldn’t believe how much that e-mail meant to her.

    On a related note, a friend of mine lost his 18 year old son in a car accident. He was in sheer emotional agony. He said that at the funeral he was getting absolutely furious with all of the people telling him his son was in heaven and it was God’s will, blah, blah, blah. He said that at one point, a close friend walked up to him, put her hands on his shoulders, looked him square in the eyes and said, “Shit, this is awful”. He said those few words saved him that day.

    I lost someone close to me last year and I found that to be so, so true. You just don’t want to hear all the niceties. You want to be allowed to feel. Because, even if you do believe in a god or afterlife, well, the truth is, we want our loved ones here with us. And it hurts like hell when they are taken from us.

    So, I have nothing to say to make you feel any better. But, gawd do I ever feel for you and your family.

    *Hugs*

    Jennifer

  1. Nicko Says:

    Ugh...heartbreaking stuff....anyone with children would feel nothing but absolute sadness with this story....