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On Saying Goodbye: Wandering Thoughts on the End of Happily Ever After

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ― A.A. Milne, The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh

Taken at the second to last Happily Ever After last night. 

I feel like I’ve been mentally preparing for my sons’ first heartbreaks since the days they were born. I think sometimes about my own mother and what her own heart had to bear when I was growing up. How when a little boy named Danny broke up with me in the sixth grade and I came home in tears she was sick with sadness too that whole weekend. (She later told me she’s pretty sure she took it harder than I did… My father, on the other hand, said something along the lines of “did you think you were going to marry him??”, laughed not unkindly, and suggested we return to our regularly scheduled activities. They had different parenting styles…)

But I digress.

What I mean here is…it’s the kind of thing we have to watch our kids bear, and know we’re supposed to let them bear. We know they’ll face heartbreak in their lives and we hope we’ve raised them to face it well. Because if we don’t let our kids learn to process it themselves then we most definitely aren’t doing them or the rest of society any favors later in life.

And so as my older son starts sixth grade I’ve been starting to sort of mentally prepare myself to bear witness to his pain when it inevitably comes from time to time. To support him without interfering. To stand by him and not for him.

I figured it would be a girl or a bully or a less than kind teacher that first crossed our path. But instead it’s this.

Taken at the second to last Happily Ever After last night. 

The end of this show. This wonderful middle child of a show that had to follow in the wake of Wishes and to precede whatever grandeur will come with the 50th and Enchantment. That we walked into begrudgingly and fell in love with immediately. That we missed for 18 months while the world shut down and the skies over Magic Kingdom went dark. That we welcomed back with tears not long enough ago. And that ends tonight.

It seems like a silly thing, doesn’t it? The end of a fireworks show in a lighthearted place like Walt Disney World. It feels like the reason why phrases like “first world problems” came to be.

But then again…it’s real, the power that these things rightfully have over us. I talk endlessly about the power of things like scent to transport us. And it’s probably no surprise that I love Disney as much as I do because they are absolute masters of the art of full immersion in a feeling. Of safety. Of community. Of awe.

It’s hard going into nights like these. In a way it’s a sort of passing. I remember on the last night of Illuminations, having to almost shut off my thoughts because they kept reminding me that every moment was happening for the last time. The last blowing out of the torches. The last first sailing firework with that sound. The last time the countries danced with light. The last opening of the globe…. Every moment, like any other moment, passing and then gone forever.

I just kept telling myself: “Lisa, be present. Enjoy the last show.” I’m still not sure how well I did.

It feels like losing a loved one and knowing you’ll never hear their voice again, never be able to lean on them again when you need them. It’s a sort of parting with this thing that’s stayed beautiful and uplifting and awe inspiring despite everything. It’s saying goodbye to a show who’s short run of just over four years is matched only by its being far and away the only show NOT to light up the night sky for as long as it did. It's saying goodbye to what's been the backdrop of our vacations, our family time, our moments together. An 18 minute moment of refuge from the day where everything is too big and beautiful for anything else to be wrong.

For my family, Happily Ever After marks a sort of beacon in time. On May 12, 2017, when it premiered, I was still dusting off my bruises from leaving Big Law. It was an anchor in our trips here. The lyrics spoke to us. My sons found their own favorite bits. Maddox has always loved Moana and clings to that section. After our move here, we stood in Magic Kingdom on that first night and watched and I heard the words – one day I'll know how far I'll go – and tears streamed down my face because we were really home. I watched it from my bedroom window – or, more often than not, just heard the booms as I folded laundry or wrote or packed candles or put the kids to bed – and it made me feel connected to the crowds that I knew were watching in awe less than two miles away.

Some nights Maddox would look outside and point to the hook shaped fireworks and know that his favorite part was playing.   

I’ve probably seen Happily Ever After a hundred times. Enough that I’ve started to watch different things. I look as much around me as I do at the castle and the sky. I love watching the faces of people seeing it for the first time. Tonight I’ll watch them too, but saying goodbye. I’ll watch Maddox say goodbye and I’ll hug him and talk to him about what’s coming and I’ll feel what it feels like to watch your child experience pain and not be able to fix it. And that will be okay. He will be okay. And we’ll open this next chapter together.

My sweet Maddox after the second to last Happily Ever After last night. I thought long and hard about taking this picture – and about sharing it.  But in the end I think the emotion here is beautiful and reflects what's in all of our hearts right now.

And when his heart is breaking next to mine. When the tears come tonight and the moments pass like moments always do, I’ll remind us both“how lucky [are we] to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Because part of opening our hearts to feel joy is maybe one day saying goodbye with a broken heart and knowing it was all worthwhile.

And so, our journey comes to an end. But yours continues on. Grab hold of your dreams and make them come true. For you are the key to unlocking your own magic. Now go. Let your dreams guide you. Reach out and find your Happily Ever After.

With love and light and ease in parting… yours, L

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You can find my complete guide to making the most of your runDisney race weekend RIGHT HERE. And while those are on hold, you can find my guide to running trails on Disney World property RIGHT HERE.

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If you’re missing home (or love someone who is) and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.

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