Lessons from my first memory

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1997

The St. Louis Post Dispatch

Important events, even as babies, can be stored in our brains indefinitely. We don't get to choose our first memory, sometimes they're insignificant but 1 in 4 people's first memories are either traumatic or life changing events

The first memory I have is of my mom closing her car door as I sat in the backseat next to my sister. I was 2. I remember there were loud sounds and my mom was crying.

At 23 I roughly knew the backstory behind this memory, but I decided to do further research to better understand it and important lessons I could learn from it. What I found was, this story really is the closest thing to a miracle I've witnessed and I should listen to my grandma's advice.

The Story

In 1997 my grandma had been feeling sick for a few days and acting differently, but wanted to still go to work as a teacher at an elementary school. My mom was concerned, so decided to trail behind her car to make sure she arrived safely. Everything was normal, so my mom stopped for gas and assumed she'd catch up with grandma at the school. 

When my mom arrived at the school however, my grandma's car wasn't there. She didn't assume the worst...but shortly after, fire trucks blazed past the school and my mom felt her heart sink. She prayed and tried to reassure herself that there was another explanation, but my mom followed the trucks.  

She parked and wound up near a pond in a park where a small crowd had formed with emergency vehicles. 

My mom told my sister and I to stay in the car, my earliest memory, and overhead a bystander telling an onlooker that a woman had driven into a pond, became trapped in her van, and died.

Devastated, my mom cried and frantically ran towards the pond in disbelief and I'm sure time stopped for her in that moment, until she spotted her mom, wet, but alive and sitting at the edge of the pond with the van bobbling in the water. 

What happened?!

When my mom stopped for gas, my grandma had a seizure and blacked out. As she lost control, her van started swerving and brushed up against a few cars. Her car took a detour towards a park and she narrowly avoided a tree and an outhouse before driving into the pond. Onlooker, Charles Rouse, A Catholic priest followed the van and miraculously a retired firefighter Marciano happened to be in the area to see the events unfold. Both of them, alongside others, jumped into the pond to assist my grandma out of the van as water began to fill in quickly.

You heard that right, a Catholic Priest and a retired firefighter were at the right place at the right time and saved my grandma. 

Incoherent and dazed, she followed Marciano's voice and exited the vehicle in confusion about the events. There were no casualties, my grandma saw a doctor, and she had to find the strength to move forward with her life. A miracle happened and this story changed the lives of everyone involved.

There were a lot of important takeaways from the entire ordeal that have helped me find strength in my own personal struggles. I went through a life changing experience recently and went home to surround myself around family in St. Louis. When it came time for me to go back to California, I didn't want to get out of the car at the airport. I wanted to stay with my family and not have to go back and face my "mountains".

I was so worried about what people might think and if people would judge me. Ironically my grandma stood outside the car and yelled at me

"GIRL GET OUT THE CAR AND GO GET ON THAT PLANE".

Who would know better than my grandma when a person should get out of a 'car' and continue on with life. If she could overcome that as a survivor, so could I and so can you. And now onto The takeaways: 

First, trust your gut.

Sometimes, like my mom, our intuition is screaming at us and its up to us if we want to listen to it or not. My mom had several gut feelings that day and followed them. I believe humans innately have the ability to sense when something seems off, its in our biology. If you're spiritual or religious, you can interpret that gut feeling as a higher power or the universe trying to tell you something. Trust your gut and those feelings that make you think "something just isn't right". You might not know WHAT it is, but trust your instincts. 

You can't change someones perception of you

Recently, my grandma told me how some teachers at the school gossiped about her, called her crazy, and made up rumors that she drove into the pond on purpose. She had to go back to work with eyes on her and walk into her classroom regardless and do her job. Sometimes its incredibly hard to go back to normal life after a traumatic or life altering event, especially when people might think negatively of you because of it. Don't let people not understanding the full picture or judging you get you down and stop you from continuing on with your life. Focus on what you can control, you, your healing, and your growth. You don't have to explain yourself to anyone.

There aren't coincidences

Yes, sometimes there are things that happen at the right place at the right time, but I honestly believe sometimes we're shown things or experience things at a certain time for a reason. My mom, bless her heart, had to stop at the gas station. If she didn't, she would have seen my grandma swerving through traffic and may have done something drastic to stop her. Also, I wouldn't want that image of my grandma's car driving into a pond to be in my moms memory. Thankfully she just so happened to stop to avoid seeing things she didn't need to see. Just trust when things happen, there's a reason. 

I hope my grandma and her story inspire you to think about what's important in life and give you the strength to overcome your challenges in life. Sometimes the weirdest, confusing, and scariest things happen in life, but I promise it can strengthen you if you allow yourself to heal and get better. 

Read about my grandma's story covered by The St. Louis Post Dispatch Here