January 29, 2013

My Point Is...Celebrating Life

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Looking into the face of a cousin and gathering with family brought back memories as the Bailey family mourned the loss of yet another member last week.

The life of my cousin, Jerry Bailey, has its own special moments for the many people who knew him, just as the passing of any loved one holds.

Jerry was the youngest child of my Uncle Jim and Aunt Betty Bailey and he was an avid basketball player. Jerry was a member of the last graduating class of Hazel Green High School in 1970, where he played on the basketball team. I remember listening to the games over the radio and always cheering when the Bullfrogs along. Jerry, Clyde Ray, and Bradley Stines were just three of the neighborhood boys whose early claim to fame came at Hazel Green High School.

Jerry fought cancer for more than five years, but it didn’t stop him from doing what he wanted to do. For the past several years he accompanied some friends and family on Colorado hunting trips, even when his brother-in-laws and cousins had to devise a battery operated blender for Jerry because it was nearly impossible for him to swallow due to the cancer in his throat. He managed to spend New Year’s weekend with his three sisters who now grieve for the loss of their last brother just three weeks later.

Saying that last good-bye is reason enough to cherish and celebrate the life, and to recognize those who play a vital role in our journey. This past week has been a revelation of that reality and celebrating the joys in life has taken the forefront.

A personal achievement is the beginning of my fourth year back at The Sentinel-Echo. My storied history with The Sentinel since 1995 is a colorful trek of personal and professional evolution. With each of the Editorial staff winning awards the Kentucky Press Association ceremony last Friday, I feel that the ‘prodigal child’ who walked out the doors in December 2001 in search of greener pastures finally found her way home again on January 27, 2010.

That significant date is one I will never forget, especially since it is the birthday of my daughter, LeeAnn. The many challenges we faced as a family in our younger years solidified her resolve to succeed and she has done so with diligence and dedication. While she prefers to keep her life private, I will say that she has faced and overcome challenges when other people might have given up. She rises to each challenge with determination to overcome and tackles whatever trials face her. The pride I have in her accomplishments is immeasurable, the same way I have pride for my son, Rickey.

It is the tribulations and triumphant moments that make life so precious and  delicate. It is the things we hold dear that will comfort us in times of trouble and will carry us through. Life, and those who make it special, should be celebrated at every chance, for there is no guarantee that the opportunity will be given again.

We should never wait until we look into the face of a loved one for that final good-bye to realize all the things we should have said and done.