To the point week of 5-26-11


SUNDAY MARKS A PRETTY SPECIAL day for our family. Along with her fellow classmates of the Switzerland County High School Class of 2011, my youngest daughter, Hilary, will graduate from high school.

We have three daughters, and when Hilary finishes her high school career this Sunday, suddenly our family moves to a whole new phase of life. We laugh and acknowledge that only my wife, Jacquita, is the only one left in Switzerland County schools (She teaches first grade).

I have a great deal of pride in Hilary, as I do with my other daughters, but perhaps because she’s the youngest there are special emotions here.

If you know Hilary, you know that she is truly a very special young lady. She’s worn hearing aids since she was three; and as we considered how wearing the aids might impact her personality. In fact, the doctors said that she may not have as strong a personality as she might – we are thankful 15 years later that her personality isn’t any stronger.

When some children might want their hair to grow longer or hold a certain style in order to hide their “disability”, Hilary demanded that her hair be cut above her ears so she could show them off, and they were complimented by brightly colored ear molds.

The hearing aids were part of her, and she didn’t mind who saw them. In fact, there are adults walking around Switzerland County right now with hearing aids because Hilary prodded them into going to the doctor about their hearing loss.

Through the years as we have dealt with Hilary’s hearing loss, Jacquita, Hilary and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to very special doctors who have taken the time to make sure things were just right and that Hilary had every opportunity to excel.

Dr. Karen Johnson was the first, and I truly believe that she saved my daughter. When Karen moved her practice to Los Angeles, she hand picked Hil’s new doctor – Cathy Miller. To this day Cathy is a huge part of Hilary’s life. She is more than her audiologist, we are blessed that Cathy is Hilary’s friend.

She is patient and she makes sure that each and every aspect of Hilary’s hearing is dealt with, and she comes in when she isn’t scheduled because that’s the type of person that she is, and she has always placed Hilary above herself.

We can never repay that. All was can say is thank you.

But the hearing never slowed Hilary down. In fact, we laugh that - at one point of her life – Hilary was on a first name basis with the county.

As she got older, she didn’t grow taller, and that became a point of issue for her. She wanted nothing more than to play basketball, and she poured her heart and soul into it. We went to camps and we learned skills, but the one thing we couldn’t do was make her taller.

I remember being at work one summer day and my phone rang. The caller ID said “Bailey, Damon”. Hilary was at the Damon Bailey Basketball Camp, but I couldn’t figure out why the Indiana legend was calling me.

“Hey dad, it’s Hilary,” the conversation began.

“What are you doing using this phone?” I demanded.

“Oh, Damon said I could use it to call you,” she continued. “He doesn’t mind.”

That was her.

When she got her athletic physical as a high schooler, she couldn’t believe it when her doctor listed her height as 4′ 11 3/4″ – couldn’t she just get that last quarter of an inch?

As people got taller and she didn’t, basketball began to slip away. A sport she loved turned into a painful experience that she couldn’t control. She played for the final time as a freshman, and then turned the page and moved into other directions.

That direction became her life’s calling.

As a child, Hilary had a particular interest in music, and when Switzerland Baptist Church hired Mark Lee as its youth minister, God began His plan for her life.

Mark taught Hilary how to play the guitar; and she attacked practicing as aggressively as she attacked basketball. She was focused and she was dedicated and she was in love.

When she would get a little stressed, she would retreat to her bedroom and practice and play. She didn’t know how to read music, so she learned songs “by ear” (yes, the hearing impaired child plays by ear). Soon, her list of songs began to grow, and she moved from playing in her room to playing on Sunday evenings with great mentors at The Chord Coffeehouse.

Whomever she came into contact with took extra time from their days to teach her and help her along with her music. As she learned and practiced, we soon knew that music would be a huge part of Hilary’s life.

But, along with music, you can’t know Hilary and not know of her first and true love – her love for God.

Hilary is probably one of the most spiritual people that I know, even if she is my daughter. Her faith is not something she practices, it’s something that she is.

It’s not part of her – it is her.

From church camp at Westport as a small child (which continues to this day as part of the camp’s praise band); to helping at church to trips to Big Stuf camp in Florida in the summer, Hilary maintains a strong faith and is not ashamed or embarrassed to share what she believes with others.

That has caused some interesting dynamics as she’s moved through high school; but again – it’s who she is.

This fall, as she attends Huntington University, Hilary will “marry” those two loves.

She will be a part of the Class of 2015, where she will study worship leadership and music ministry.

As she’s found her niche in life; I truly believe that she’s also found the school to continue to nurture her growth.

Huntington is a special place filled with special people, and I am very proud that she’s going to be a part of the Class of 2015 there in the fall.

Sometimes being the youngest and the smallest can mean difficulties; and when you throw in physical limitations, it could prove to be overwhelming to anyone, especially a young child. Hilary is different. She is strong emotionally and she is strong spiritually.

This Sunday, she will perform at the graduation ceremony. She will play her guitar and sing, and then she will go over and sit down and go through commencement with her classmates.

“Commencement” means that something is about to begin; and in Hilary’s case, I truly believe that what lies ahead is a great and wonderful life filled with blessings and accomplishments. She is about to “commence” the beginning of her life.

And what a wonderful life that’s going to be.

I love you, Hil. Keep the faith and stay the course.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

- Jeremiah 29:11