In the past few months, as my mother-in-law was slowly dying, she began talking about a “big vacation.”
When she died, she said, she wanted us to use her life insurance policy to pay for it.
She made my wife promise that we would go.
But we knew there wouldn’t be enough money. Funerals and burials are expensive. After we paid all her bills as well, there would be nothing left.
My wife told me that we should just humor her. It made Alice happy to dream of us going on a magical vacation. Let her have that happiness when she could no longer even get out of bed.
So Alice and I would talk about this big vacation. I started looking things up, trying to get into the spirit of things. She wanted her grand-daughter to meet Doc McStuffins, a character they loved watching on TV together when Alice was too weak to play anymore.
But Doc is a Disney character.
Disney is a big vacation.
The costs were staggering. I looked up Disney cruises, which were slightly cheaper, and then the Disney last-minute cruise sales, which were still shockingly expensive. But those, I thought, had at least a chance of being affordable.
It made Alice happy. She insisted there would be enough money.
And then, Alice died. Despite knowing she was dying, it still took us by surprise. It still felt horribly sudden. We thought we still had more time.
Alice had left us a well-organized folder with everything laid out – numbers to call, things to do, even the exact phone extensions for the fastest way to report her death to her federal pension system and Social Security. That’s when we found out. Alice had a second life insurance policy.
She was right. There was enough money for the big vacation that had given her happiness at the end of her life.
And so we are taking her beloved granddaughter Katie Beth on the trip of her dreams – her last gift from GaGa.
Tomorrow we fly to Orlando, where Disney Magical Transportation will take us to Animal Kingdom Lodge. We’ll eat dinner while watching giraffes and flamingos. The next morning, we will meet Doc at her clinic at the Animal Kingdom. We’ll go on safari – which Katie Beth has been asking to do pretty much daily since we went on a Six Flags safari last fall – and we will eat lunch with Mickey and his friends.
We will spend the week doing only the things a 2-year-old would love to do. The Disney Junior show, the character meals, glitter and Mickey ears and petting baby animals.
It is bittersweet. It’s going to be as amazing as Christmas, as amazing as her last Christmas should have been, before lung cancer and a broken hip robbed us of her too soon. But I will miss Alice every single minute of it. Because she would have loved to see the pictures, which I used to take whenever we went anywhere that Alice couldn’t go. I would sit next to her bed and she would look at every picture, watch every video, while offering a constant commentary to Katie Beth about how much she loved seeing her having fun.
She even figured out how to do FaceTime so that she could watch her granddaughter from afar.
She loved that little girl so much that she arranged to bring her joy even after her death.