Haley Scott DeMaria

Archive for January, 2011


Next week, Tuesday, February 1, I am giving a talk at St. Anne’s School of Annapolis called “Journey Through Tragedy.” This is a different title from my usual talk, with a different focus and a different format. The main difference? I will be giving this presentation with my mom.

One of the main themes that is often discussed during my Q&A sessions is the relationship with my mom. For those of you who have read the book, it is a complex relationship that evolves and develops throughout my journey (and continues to), and is one to which all mothers and daughters can relate. So often I hear, “I would love to meet your mom!” Well, if you are local to Annapolis, or Maryland, come meet her!

My mom is an early childhood educator and parenting expert in Arizona. She teaches parenting and runs a workshop on how tragedy affects a family, how to plan for it, how to respond, and most importantly – how to survive as a family when tragedy hits. Because it will hit us all in varying forms.

On Tuesday night, we will combine our stories: as intertwined as they have always been. I will share my journey and she will share her knowledge (first-hand and professional) as it relates to the myriad of tragedies that families face. We’d love to see you there! And I know many of you would love to see my mom!

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  • 9/19

    9/19 is not a date…
    19 years ago tomorrow, January 24, the Notre Dame women’s team bus accident occurred. Which means today is my son’s 9th birthday. The events are intertwined, much as that might not be my first choice.

    I have mentioned before that James’s birthday has been a huge healing step for me; no longer is the end of January a time to mourn, but a time to celebrate and honor the life I have and the life I’ve created.

    This year’s anniversary is a little different – although they all are in their own way. I was 18-years-old when the bus accident happened – 19 years ago. Which means I have been living with this longer than I did not. The accident, my injury and my recovery have now defined the majority of my life, and will continue to do so. In a way, this might be something to mourn. But I choose to look at it differently. I choose to honor and celebrate the life I have been given.

    When you are 18 years old, “the rest of your life,” is a difficult concept to understand. The time frame is too abstract. With some time and perspective, I understand slightly better the idea that I will live with this for the rest of my live. Tragedy doesn’t go away. It changes you. It has changed me. And the changes, I like to believe – or want to believe, are often for the better. But one can only see that with the passing of time, with the healing power of time. It didn’t quite take me 19 years to figure this out; but it took more than nine.

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    Our dog had surgery yesterday. He is fine and recovering well, and with a good night tonight, he’ll come home tomorrow. But it was touch-and-go for a couple of days, and there was concern that organs were beginning to fail. Our dog is just a puppy, only 5 months old.

    Yesterday, as I was waiting for the surgeon to come into the room, one thought kept me calm: thank goodness this isn’t one of my children. Of course, our dog is a part of our family – and many families do refer to their dogs as their children. I get that now. But yesterday, sitting in the room, my only calming thought was piece of mind that my two children were okay at school.

    When the surgeons came in to explain the operation, there were two doctors and only one extra chair (I was seated), so I stood up to listen. About two minutes into the conversation, I started to feel light-headed. Then I started to feel flush. Then I started to feel nauseous. It was hard to listen to the details of the operation that my puppy would soon endure. And then I thought of my mother.

    How did she do it???

    This was my dog – my puppy - but not my child. This was a dog I had nurtured and loved for three months, not my daughter to whom I gave birth and raised for 18 years. It was amazing to me, standing in the consultation room, that I never saw my mom look scared or nervous – even when she was listening to the life-threatening details of a surgery I was about to endure.

    I love my children. And I am slowly learning the depth of that love and what it is capable of overcoming, as noted in the last post. But clearly I am just touching on the depths and the breadth. I hope yesterday was as close as I come to listening to the details of my child’s surgery. Hug your children – they are a gift!

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    I am a little late with this post – the Sun Bowl was last week and I have since traveled to South Bend, where it is, like it was in El Paso, TX, snowing. Snow seems to be following me this winter – although we have yet to encounter snow at home. It has also taken me a bit to process this story.

    The Sun Bowl was a great experience, and certainly the bowl game boded well for Irish fans. But it was an event unrelated to football that was most memorable and had the greatest impact on me.

    A group of us went to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse just outside of El Paso for dinner. Cattleman’s Steakhouse is situated on an authentic ranch, Indian Hills, along the Butterfield Trail – a mail route dating back to the 1850′s, and the Steakhouse begin as a small gathering place for travelers. Since then it has been the site of movie shoots and a location for visitors to get a glimpse of what life was like in the “Old West.”

    But this post has little to do with Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. Although the food was delicious and my children had a blast climbing on the real stagecoaches, peering in the rattlesnake pit and playing on the awesome-looking Old West village-like playground – the story here begins as we were leaving.

    With a group of 15 people, we took a bus to dinner. It was about a 45-minute drive to the middle of nowhere-Texas, and it was nice to all travel together. As we left the Steakhouse to travel back to El Paso, again by bus, it was snowing. There was a fair amount of snow on the ground and it was still coming down; not a blizzard, but enough. It does not usually snow in southwest Texas and I was about to get on a bus. Many thoughts went through my head. The first was disbelief, the second was my concern that the bus driver was not familiar with driving in snow. Then I boarded the bus and saw my oldest son sitting in the very front row. He said very quietly, but with conviction, “Mom, sit here!”

    It didn’t take long for me to realize that my son was terrified – and my heart ached for him and all he was living with because of my experiences. With his fear, mine disappeared. I was upbeat. I stayed positive. I acknowledged the situation as a matter of fact and then we played Connect 4 and Hangman on my phone for the entire ride.

    It was the first glimpse into how my mother handled my experience. I never saw her cry; I never saw her sad; she remained positive for me the entire time I was in the hospital – and beyond. I realized, as I sat next to my son, the strength of a mother’s love and our ability to put aside our own feelings for the benefit of our children. Only once on that bus did I look at the driver and the snowy road and say a quick prayer – the remainder of the time I was truly at peace and focused on entertaining my son to ensure that he was at ease, comfortable and not scared.

    I am not sure – given the choice – that I would get on a bus again in the snow. But sometimes in life you don’t have a choice and you have to make the best of the situation at hand. I was lucky this time: my son made the choice for me. He turned the focus away from myself and redirected the focus of my energy and thoughts on him. It was the way it should be and if I had to ride a bus in the snow – it was the best way for it to happen.

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