Mom Learned to Embrace All Challenges After Her Daughter’s Horrific Accident and Inspirational Recovery
As part of our ongoing Mother’s Day series celebrating the unbreakable bond between moms and their children, Your Daily Dish is featuring amazing stories that highlight that special relationship. This is a personal essay submitted by Meridith Hankenson Alexander. February 19, 2016 looked like it was going to be an amazing day. It was absolutely gorgeous weather in Tampa Bay! I celebrated a festive Valentine’s weekend at the beach and sales in my business were booming. I had even spoken the night before with my youngest daughter, Schuyler, who was vacationing in Colombia (South America) before starting the second leg of her Yale fellowship in the small town of Cusco, Peru.
In her 22 years, Schuyler had literally already traveled the world — Tanzania, Ecuador, Nepal, Croatia, Spain, Greece, France, Indonesia, Bali…just to name a few. It was part of her question to “change the world.” Her passion was social enterprise, so she had launched Net Impact on the Yale campus as a freshman. By the time that she was a senior, they won an award for being the top branch of Net Impact in the world. She was admired as an adventurer and known for her infectious smile and her “joie de vivre.” At 3:00 p.m., the phone rang and my life changed forever. I got a call that I wouldn’t wish on any parent. While swimming in a grotto during a rafting trip, a random boulder fell from a mountain. It severely crushed my daughter’s face and skull, fracturing her spine and shoulder blades, filling her lungs with blood, fracturing her right thigh and pulverizing her left ankle. The voice on the other side of the line was her friend Dana who told me that I needed to get down to Colombia immediately. It wasn’t likely that Schuyler would survive. I don’t know how to describe the feelings that swept over me as I heard her words. A huge part of me begged for this not to be real. It was as if I was suspended in a perfect storm of all the worst possible emotions. Perhaps the worst feeling of all was the feeling of being able to do nothing in that moment to tangibly help my sweet child. As I tried to acclimate to the waves of tears and shock, I had to look deep inside of myself and decide how this horrific turn of events could be pivoted to make a positive impact on the life and world that both she and I have always held so dear. My oldest daughter flew with me to Colombia. We decided that my son would stay here in the states in case we needed someone on U.S. soil. By the time we got to the small hospital in Colombia, I had come to a place within myself where I decided that I had to be “OK” with whatever would transpire. How would Schuyler want me to honor the woman that she has been so far? Surely not with grief and anger. Her middle name literally means “happiness” in Japanese and that has always been the essence that she has embodied. Instead of meeting the tour guides — who had been with my daughter at the time of the accident — with anger, I greeted them as heroes and reached within myself to provide them with comfort. Within a few days, Schuyler was still alive in a medically induced coma and we were on our way via air ambulance to Jackson Memorial in Miami. With each day, my resolve to face this situation with positivity, grace and gratitude became stronger. Against all odds, miracles had already begun and I would do all in my power to set the scene to allow for more. Because Schuyler’s circle of friends around the world was so vast, we created a Facebook page called Schuy is the Limit. I began to share not only the physical updates but words of joy, hope and inspiration. At first, the reach was only a couple of hundred fans. Before long, we had surpassed that mark. To date, we now have more than 6,600 likes on the page — many of whom don’t actually know me and don’t know Schuyler. They were apparently simply told that our story would inspire them. Today, even though more than a year has passed, Schuyler is still early in the recovery process. She is a true living miracle. Many, many things in my own life have changed dramatically, but the blessings far outweigh the challenges. I am her 24/7 caregiver but our moments together are priceless and full of hope. Her joyful perseverance has touched thousands. I have learned to appreciate each moment of every day.
What this journey has taught me.This journey has also taught me that each of us can have a huge impact on this beautiful planet. Schuyler still depends on me for virtually everything from eating to bathing to getting from one point to another. Life sometimes has a way of showing you that it’s not always about what you can do, but who you can be that is important. From my perspective, there is no question that our future will be bright. She and I have to continue to change the world. I realized as I stood in that ICU in Miami that in her 22 years, she had lived more true to her calling than I had in all of my 50-plus years. This boulder demanded that I change that. I have overcome my fear of speaking and of writing in order to share our love of life. I launched my own site called I Love My Impossible where I share the power of embracing the boulders in life. One would think that this would be the darkest time in my life, but as strange as it might sound, this journey has evolved to be one of the most profoundly rewarding times in my life. I have learned that out of the worst times, one can find the best — not only in others — but in oneself. Rather than succeeding in spite of the boulders in our lives, it is precisely thanks to these boulders that we truly learn what it means to succeed.
Meridith Hankenson Alexander has been successfully running her own boutique performing arts booking agency for more than a decade. Since her daughter’s accident in 2016, she has been doing increased amounts of coaching, speaking and training on a national level specializing in self-empowerment and overcoming obstacles. Meridith honed her writing ability at Phillips Exeter Academy then at Georgetown University. She has recently been certified as a coach and trainer with Success Resources America. She credits her years as a student of the work of Esther Hicks with having inspired her positive mindset during Schuyler’s recovery. In addition to Schuyler, Meridith has two grown children Saya and Linden, who have been invaluable in helping to nurse their sister toward recovery. Special thanks to Help a Reporter Out.
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