There really are no words to express what Make A Wish meant to us in the final days before Ju’s heavenly departure. I will do my best. Let me first say that our local Houston chapter was very kind to all of our family when we initially met with them regarding Ju’s wish. With Ju’s declining health, we could never seem to make her wish come true. That is until Dr. Navid at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital learned of our disappointment. I credit her for having the compassion to give our little girl her dying wish.
It seemed like an out of body experience when we heard words from Dr. Navid that no parent would ever want to imagine in mid October. Jonathan and I both looked at one another with tears in our eyes and I said regretfully that I guessed we would never get our Make A Wish trip after all. Our kind doctor looked surprised and said, “Let’s make that happen.” The doctors radiated enough places to make Julia comfortable and your Wish team put together a trip of a lifetime!
The Disney store wish reveal party and shopping spree was almost as fun as the actual trip! I mean, who could imagine anything more fun than getting to spend $300 in the Disney store with all Halloween costumes on sale? Ju ended up with a different princess outfit for each day of her trip and was even able to outfit Jonathan, Jenna and Jaxi for each day too! That day was a stand out for me as a mom. Ju got to enjoy the day with her friends and family who were in for a visit also. It meant so much to them to see Ju so happy. To round off the day, Ju and her BFF sister, Jenna, also got to get their ears pierced! Ju said she never felt more beautiful than she did that day! Think about that perspective- an eight year old girl with terminal bone cancer in enormous pain and a shiny bald head saying that she felt beautiful. That’s because of the love and joy she felt in her heart that day (and always). Thank you so much for making that day special in more ways than you know.
Our trip to Disney World in Orlando was perfection! The gentleman who greeted us at the airport was kind and wished us a magical week. The Give Kids the World Resort looked fun and we certainly enjoyed a few hours there, but our family was treated like royalty at the Wilderness Lodge and we were thrilled to be able to vacation and stay there. Our housekeeping staff made every day a surprise! She left lots of goodies and towel characters, chocolates, stuffed animals and balloons. We were even asked to watch the fireworks on the roof top on our final night there. Since we have been home, a number of people from the Lodge and around Disney actually follow our Facebook page and keep up with our continuing journey. Our hearts were touched when the head of Housekeeping, Jessica Roshell, honored Julia at the American Cancer Society’s Lake Buena Vista Relay For Life on April 26th.
We had a most memorable evening at the Grand Floridian dining with Cinderella and her stepfamily. Prince Charming actually asked her to dance and that was to be Ju’s first and only dance with a prince! She felt so loved! They even invited her for a private photo shoot with them in the foyer! After dinner, she discovered they had left her a gift in her stroller out front- a purse and long white gloves! Magical!
We had a really special encounter with some staff at Animal Kingdom too. All week long, we never saw anyone dressed up as Mickey except for Mickey Mouse himself. Ju wore her Mickey costume that day and it was the only day that no one could see her bald head. Well after getting off the Safari ride, she was approached by the “Paparazzi” workers asking for Mickey’s autograph. That just tickled her and once they found out that she was a real star- a cancer warrior- they were that much more impressed with her. Ju melted hearts everywhere she went.
She even had a surreal visit with Ariel who seemed to spend longer with our family than customary. We felt like there was something special about her. After we returned home on October 30, we found out that she actually had been following our story through a good friend and although she didn’t know we would be in Magic Kingdom that week and she never revealed her identity, she recognized Julia and made her time with her special.
Our last magical night with Ju in Disney was spent at Epcot. We ate at the Garden Grille and the lovely hostess, Claire Kaplan, wrote the loveliest tribute to Julia on December 18th. She titled it “How Julia Cobb Changed My Life In One Hour.” While having what would unknowingly be “her last supper”, Ju had personal time with Mickey, Goofy and Chip and Dale. Claire talked with us and seemed to be drawn to Julia’s spirit. She gave us fast passes to Soarin’ and that would turn out to be Julia’s last ride and preparation for her final flight. As you know, Ju awoke the next morning suddenly ill and passed away in the “Happiest Place On Earth.”
As hard as this sudden loss was and the void we feel of every hour of every day, we feel that God did give us our wish. Ju never had to hear the words that there was nothing more that doctors could do for her and she never asked if she was going to die. She passed away fighting on chemo. She had the “Week of her life!” Ju had the faith of a child, the wisdom of a 99 year old woman and the compassion of Mother Teresa. She was an old soul with a playful child’s heart who lived every day as if she was in Disney where “Dreams Come True.”
We are honoring Julia with our Walk Across America and raising awareness and money for very underfunded pediatric cancer research. We also want to carry Ju’s message across America to suffering families- “JuCan-UCan-GodCan.” One of our many reasons for walking is to say thank you to those people who prayed for, encouraged and supported us throughout our journey. We want to meet as many hospitals and families along the way and even connect with Make A Wish chapters along our trail. “Team JuCan: Walking From One Magic Kingdom To The Next” is leaving Anaheim, California this July 31st and we would love to have a kick off party in Disneyland with our friends and also a party to end our journey where Ju ended hers- in Disney World. Our goal is to reach Orlando by Ju’s 10th birthday on March 17, 2015. We would love for Disneyland and Disney World to know what we are doing for children across America and we want them to know that Disney gave us our last great memories with our Ju. Thank you, Make-A-Wish, for EVERYTHING and for the memories! The love and care you took in making sure that Ju made it back to Houston on our family’s flight was appreciated beyond words.