Florida February 2019

I recently flew home to North Carolina for my father’s 50th Birthday. It was a grand celebration and I met so many amazing people. Although I’ve never met them before – they knew my dad and how truly great he is which was really special. My dad is a strong man; physically and mentally. He’s also a funny guy, too. So I rarely saw him without a big smile on his face.

Shortly after my dad’s birthday, my grandmother become very ill. She was put into hospice immediately and my dad was on the next available flight.

Sad and confused on what the situation was, my mom ask my sister, Lindsay, and I to stay a little longer. We moved our flights and stayed with my mom. To understand why we didn’t go with my dad to Florida immediately is to understand my family.

Let’s just say we haven’t been very close with my dad’s side of the family. So we thought it best to hang back till my dad needed our support. Lindsay and I came up with a plan to go to Disney World in Orlando, Florida for her birthday that following week. Orlando was just three hours away from where my dad was so we figured why not go! Plus we haven’t been to Disney World since we were little peanuts! But how to get there was the problem. It was an 11 hour car ride to Florida or a very expensive plane tickets, since booking last minute.

In my brother’s USC barbie-size dorm room; My mom, Lindsay, my brother Jake, and I sketched out a plan. Literally, on a white board. We crunched the numbers to see how much the hotel, park tickets, car rental, flight tickets, and the kennel for parent’s dogs would all come out to be. We came to the conclusion that the trip would cost way too much.

Randomly – Jake saw a post from his friend on Instagram saying that he had a private jet flying to Miami, Florida from Greensboro, N.C. He jokingly suggested that we do it and after looking at the post myself, I convinced him to text this friend to ask if we could get seats on that flight. A few phone calls later, we got my grandma to watch my mom’s dogs, a flight on a private plane to Miami, a rental car, a hotel, and Disney World Park tickets. Greensboro is an hour and half away from my parents house so we woke up early the next morning and we were off to the airport.

The private plane experience was an absolute trip! It was really scary during take off due to the plane shaking like crazy, but overall it was the best experience ever. Being able to board the plane from a quaint little airport was so nice. We didn’t have to go through security or deal with crowds of people, but the best part was being able to lay down horizontal while in flight. Once you’ve experienced such lavishness, it sure made it hard to ever want to squeeze back in between two strangers on a commercial flight

After touching down in Miami, we picked up our rental car and headed into the city for lunch. Before my butt even touched the seat at the table, my mom received a phone call from my dad that my Grandy had passed.

A wave of silence brushed over us as we adjusted to reality. With nothing in our bellies, we drove three hours from Miami to West Palm Beach where my grandparents lived. As we entered their gated to their neighborhood, I felt an enormous amount of guilt. Guilt, for not being as close with her as I would have liked. Guilt, for us not coming sooner. Guilt, for thinking about going to Disney World when the chapter of my grandmother’s life has just closed.

The next couple days were absolutely draining, but to see so many friends and relatives share stories that brought life back into my grandma again, made me happy to be among those that knew her. I slowly didn’t see her as just my grandma anymore, but as a strong Label girl with her own story. These stories I will treasure forever.

The funeral service was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure. Focusing on her death, made me sick to my stomach. So I forced myself to focus on her life, celebrating that, and all the great memories we had shared.

Joyce Label was a creative, witty, artistic, colorful, vibrate person who always knew what she wanted and went after it. I admired her a great deal, and she will be with me always.

After the gatherings began to fade, Lindsay and I decided to spend the last days we had in Florida at Disney World. It was time to push out to sadness, and be thankful for the time we do have.

We started our two day Disney World adventure in Animal Kingdom where we rode the Yeti and visited the amazing interactive world of Pandora. In Pandora, we waited in a two hour line to ride The Flying Banshee ride and met some cool people along the way. The ride was 100% worth the wait! On the ride itself, you get on this machine that is built like a horse and you put 3D glasses on that transport you into the Pandora world. Between all the sights and spells, it really feels like you’re really embraced in day and night life of Pandora!

The next day, after realizing we spent most of yesterday waiting in lines, we decided to splurge a little extra and buy a group VIP tour that takes you through Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This gave us exclusive backstage access to the parks, free lunch, and pushed us to the front of every fast pass line in each park. This was the perfect way to experience Disney! This was the first time I’ve been to Disney and didn’t feel rushed or completely excused by the end of the night. We actually got to see all of Disney World and go on all rides we wanted to! It was so worth it!

Although it was a crazy trip, I’m glad I went! Family is the absolute most important thing and I would do anything for mine. The trip taught me about forgiveness, the importance of traditions, and to live in every moment!

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