Haley Scott DeMaria

Archive for July, 2018

ST. LOUIS

I am not sure there are adequate words to describe my trip to St. Louis.
A few months ago when I was asked to speak at the Notre Dame Club of St. Louis Raffle/fundraiser, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.

It was a short trip, just one night, and the fundraiser was awesome. I always appreciate the opportunity to share my story; and a Notre Dame crowd is a fun audience. There were familiar faces, and new friends who shared with me their stories of hardship and hope.
The best part of the evening was connecting with a Notre Dame classmate. He lived in the dorm next to mine, so I knew him as a fellow South Quader. We’re Facebook friends, so I have followed his life, family, and career; and if I would have seen him on campus, we would have hugged, said, “hi,” and caught up briefly. But last evening, we shared a conversation that, at least in my mind (and heart) connected us forever. He shared with me the very emotional and powerful events of the bus accident as it related to his life. He was careful to say, “it wasn’t my accident,” but truly, it was. He was so sincere in his words, and I could feel his genuine emotions. He lived through this too, in his own way, in a very different – but very meaningful – way than I did. And I was so grateful to share that with him.

That was the best part of my night.
But the best part of my trip was the afternoon. The reason I was so anxious to visit St. Louis, a place I had never been.

Colleen Hipp was from St. Louis, and she is buried in St. Louis. I have visited Meghan’s grave on campus many, many times. But I have never visited Colleen.

When I knew I was going, I reached out to Mr. and Mrs. Hipp. We spoke a few times before my trip, and Mrs. Hipp connected me with one of her friends, Sandy. I had never met Sandy (although she is now programmed in my cell phone as Sandy “Hipp” – not her last name, but I don’t even know what it is!) Sandy and I shared one of the most meaningful afternoons I have had in many years.

Sandy drove me to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. (Colleen’s father was a Colonel in the Army.) She had picked up three roses for Colleen’s grave: one from me, one from her, and one from the Hipps. We drove to the section (SS) where she is buried and we walked quietly together until we found her final resting place.

I kneeled down and was overtaken with emotion. I knew I wanted to visit her, but until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much I needed to be there. I sat and cried, and stared at her name, and touched her headstone, and was flooded with so many thoughts and emotions. 26 years of thoughts and emotions.

Mrs. Hipp told me it was a peaceful and beautiful location. She was right. It is. Colleen is at peace, and there is a part of me that, having now been there, is too.

It won’t take 26 more years for me to return.

Colleen's forever view.

Colleen’s forever view.

Colleen's final resting place in St. Louis, MO

Colleen’s final resting place in St. Louis, MO

Colleen Marie Hipp

Colleen Marie Hipp

 

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  • SUMMER OF CHANGE

    This is a summer of change for us. My younger son graduated from 8th grade and is leaving the school that has been our home for 13 years. It was bittersweet, as we will miss seeing our St. Anne’s friends everyday, but he is also really excited to join his brother in high school.

    My older son gets his drivers license next week. As I picked him up this afternoon, I was keenly aware that our time in the car together is dwindling. I cherish those minutes (hours sometimes, as we drive to baseball tournaments), but I know he is excited for this next level of independence; and I am excited for him. Scared and nervous, but excited for him.

    But there are also some changes in my personal and professional life. Personally, I am learning to live with a spinal cord injury (SCI) that is 26 years old. On the outside, and for about 95% of my days, I appear “fine.” And honestly, I am more than fine. But in reality, I live with the long-term effects of a spinal cord injury, nerve damage and a host of other health- and accident- related issues that aren’t that fun.

    I don’t usually talk about this. But they affect me daily. And as I age (with another birthday coming up), I continue to learn how to navigate this very strong, very capable, but very complicated body. 95% of the time, I am fine. But during that other 5%, it knocks me out – or lands me in the ER.

    When I wrote my book, I decided to be open and honest with the raw emotions that one goes through as they navigate tragedy. I knew I wouldn’t be helpful to others if I didn’t share how hard it was for me to endure the physical and emotional challenges. I have decided to continue to take that approach with the long-term affects of an SCI. I am no help to others living with a spinal cord injury, if they think it’s easy. It’s not easy; it’s draining. Sometimes it’s painful. And it is always present. I am aware, multiple times a day that I live with an SCI.

    Professionally, I continue to learn and grow and evaluate how I share my story….through the written word, on social media, via my talks, and on the big screen. These are all a work-in-progress, and I am excited to share the news and changes as they unfold.

    This summer of change is really a summer of growth, and of learning. My children are growing and learning to be independent. I am growing and learning how I can best contribute to this world that needs all the hope and prayers we have to share.

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