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