"When you've reached the end of your rope, tie a knot, and hold on."
That was the last thing Debbie Williamson posted on social media - an inspiring quote to go along with a Kate Spade knot bracelet she bought for herself as part of her "self-date day."
Debbie was killed the following day in a car accident in Orlando, just a few days after Thanksgiving. She had moved there after college to pursue her dream of creating magic at Disney World after working at Disneyland in Anaheim.
After Debbie's death, so many family members and friends bought the same bracelet, shared photos of theirs on social media with the same quote. One person even got a tattoo of the knot symbol. It is just one way Debbie, also known as "Disney Debs," is being remembered.
"She decided at the age of 14 she wanted to work for Disney, to be in entertainment. Debbie loved to perform," said Renee Williamson, Debbie's mother.
It was more than just a love to perform. Debbie loved to put a smile on other people's faces and bring magic into their lives. It only made sense that she picked a college based on how close it was to Disneyland.
"For years she kept auditioning," Renee said, adding that it took quite a few failed attempts before Debbie actually got a cast member role.
"When she did finally start at Disney and got a chance to hug the little kids and make memories for them, that was huge for her," Renee said.
Debbie's parents added that she especially loved being a part of children's wishes for the Make-A-Wish foundation.
Recently, Debbie moved to Orlando to continue making Disney magic at Disney World.
To get her settled, her father Dean joined her on a five-day cross country road trip, stopping in many places including multiple cities in Texas and New Orleans, where Debbie tried gumbo for the first time.
That road trip would be Dean's last memories with his daughter.
Debbie was killed in a car accident on November 27, just a day after she posted her knot bracelet.
"To have three weeks go by and not have my phone ring and hear 'hi mom,’ that's tough," said Renee, through tears. "Christmas is not going be the same."
Heartbroken, the Williamsons no longer had the spirit to decorate their home for Christmas. But they knew that's not what Debbie would have wanted.
"Debbie loved Christmas. And in her mind, once Disney decorated for Christmas, that's when Christmas was on," Renee said.
This year's tree is only decorated with Debbie's decorations, including some that she picked out for her mom, an annual Williamson tradition.
“Some of those were the most awful,” Dean said, as Renee jokingly told him to stop. “You can tell which ones were Debbie's. The butterfly, the Mardi Gras mask. That's Debbie. She thought they were beautiful. And I did too.”
What Debbie's parents and two sisters, Anna and Laura Jane (her twin), didn't fully realize until her death was just how many people's lives Debbie had touched, from Disney guests to complete strangers.
"[An annual Disney pass holder] decided she wanted Debbie at her third birthday. So Debbie went to her third birthday, and her fourth," Dean said. "She got very close with the family. And they are actually coming up [to Sacramento] for her service."
Renee also shared a story of what a complete stranger told her, just looking through all the posts shared on social media in memory of Debbie.
"She said she had learned about the four 'Ls' of life: live, love, learn, and leave a legacy," Renee said. "She said most people live to 92 and don't get all four of those. Debbie, in 24 years, got it.
Debbie's 24-year legacy will always be kept alive through photos, through memories, through bracelets, and through so many people inspired to live as positively and magically as "Disney Debs" would.
"She never lost her pixie dust," Renee said. "She still has it. To this day."
Luckily, Debbie wasn't wearing her Kate Spade knot bracelet the day of the crash. It has been returned to her family and Renee now wears it, along with a necklace that has the letter “D” embedded on a heart.
Renee said that within a few days of Debbie's death, the knot bracelet was sold-out on Kate Spade's website, and she thinks it was all because of people supporting Debbie.
One of Debbie's former roommates started a GoFundMe to bring Debbie home to her family. It exceeded its goal so quickly that the Williamson family closed it. They will be giving some of it back to the charities that Debbie was involved with while in Elk Grove.
The Williamsons also plan on setting up scholarships in Debbie's name at Deane Dance Center, where she trained, and Elk Grove High School, where she graduated.
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