Another dad might have been shocked to find his family at the center of a viral Facebook post after a chance encounter at Walt Disney World weeks earlier.
But not David Kolb.
Because the encounter had been related to his now-deceased daughter, Rachel, he wasn't surprised at all. "Super weird magical, serendipitous stuff like this seems to be the standard in matters of Rachel," he told, "Good Morning America" of his daughter who passed away at the age of 5. "When all of this happened, nobody who knew her was surprised at all. 'Of course it was y'all,' they said."
The encounter, the Mickey ring and the Facebook post
Kara Geiselman of North Andover, Massachusetts, posted to Facebook on Nov. 11 about her daughter Belle, and a gold Mickey Mouse ring a stranger had given her on a recent trip to Disney. She told "GMA" she had witnessed the interaction in late October from some distance away and her husband, Kyle, told her what had transpired. After the reaction she got from family and friends when she relayed it, she decided to post it on social media.
It read in part: "On their initial trip [with their daughter] they had bought two gold Mickey Mouse rings, one for their daughter and one to gift to a child who in their words, 'was adorable like their little girl.' Moved beyond belief that they chose our daughter to memorialize their daughter with, Kyle was at a loss for words," she wrote.
"I did think we would find them [the couple who gave their daughter the ring]," Geiselman told "GMA." "But after so many shares and not hearing anything for about a week, I started to give up hope. And then one morning I saw a Facebook message that just said 'it's us' and it had a photo of the Kolbs. I knew it was them because I remembered what they were wearing when they gave the ring to Belle."
What the Kolbs could never have known was that 5-year-old Belle had faced much adversity in her short life. Belle, a twin to her sister Milly, was born at 30 weeks and put on life support immediately. It was unclear to her parents if she would live. She had a feeding tube from the time she was four months old and was in feeding therapy for three-and-a-half years to teach her to eat. She's had problems with her bones, and broke both her arms at the same time.
"The fact that they choose Belle without knowing her struggles in life brings tears to my eyes," Geiselman wrote in her post. "They didn’t know that we were back at the place where our daughter surprised us all and starting eating by mouth for the first time at 18 months old, or that this trip was the first time she traveled to Disney without needing a feeding tube for nourishment or an Oxygen mask on the flight. This little gold Mickey Mouse ring will forever be kept as a priceless gift and always cherished."
The little girl who inspired the gift
"She was superhuman in her generosity," David Kolb said about his daughter Rachel. He told the story of "pretend birthdays." Each day, Rachel would declare it someone's birthday so she could wrap up something to give to them as a gift. So perhaps it's not surprising her parents chose to do the same to honor her.
When she was not even one year old, Rachel had an episode where she would have spells of breath holding that caused her to lose consciousness. At first, it was dismissed as something she would likely grow out of. The spells persisted and a recommendation from a family member, who is also a brain surgeon, led to an MRI that showed a brain tumor. She was diagnosed shortly before her third birthday and operated on almost immediately.
"She was intubated for 12 days," her mother, Jen Kolb, told "GMA." She woke up smiling."
Make-a-Wish, Jen Kolb said, sought the family out. The trip to Disney, the New Orleans couple said, "was incredible."
On Splash Mountain, the couple was concerned about the end drop - how would Rachel handle it? She loved it. "She was laughing hysterically," her dad said.
Rachel died on Nov. 2, 2016. It was the anniversary of her death -- which her parents say feels like 10 years ago and last week all at once -- that brought them back to Walt Disney World with the two Mickey rings they had purchased on that Make-a-Wish trip.
"Until this year, I haven't been able to see an animated movie or listen to a Disney song," David Kolb said. And while they've had family and friends supporting them, he credits Jen's 15-year-old daughter, Novalee, as the couple's "rock" and keeping Rachel very much alive.
They chose Belle for the ring, they said, because she "ran right into them." It was a run-in Geiselman called a "divine moment."
After connecting on Facebook, the Kolbs traveled to see the Geiselman family the week after Thanksgiving. Both families told "GMA" they felt instantly connected, and planned to remain friends for years to come.
"It was emotional, but more happy than sad," Jen Kolb told "GMA." "They were the perfect family to have this happen with."
Kara Geiselman said the couples text "all the time," and she knows they will get together and exchange holiday cards. David Kolb's thinking big: he hopes the families will reunite at Disney World once again.
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