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ANN BAILEY: So long and Godspeed

For the past six years, besides reporting news and feature stories for the Herald, I have written a weekly personal column, sharing my family, farm and faith life with readers.

Today will be my last opportunity to do that. The Herald has made a decision to no longer run my column. I respect the decision and know that businesses have to do what they believe is best for their bottom lines and their customers.

I want to be clear, though, that I will greatly miss writing the column, not only because I enjoy writing, but because I thought it was a way to touch people’s lives in a different way than reporting news and features.

Though I wrote about my own experiences, I tried to choose topics that readers could relate to: the grief we feel when a parent dies, the ups and downs of living in an old farmhouse and the adventures that come with owning an incorrigible yellow Lab, two other dogs, three cats, a flock of chickens and horses.

Writing adventures

Writing columns for the newspaper sometimes was an adventure in itself.

When I wrote columns, similar to when I wrote stories, I never knew exactly how readers will react to them. Sometimes, columns that I thought were my best work got no reaction from readers and ones that I was less fond of, readers loved.

Writing about finding mouse droppings in the frying pan after I started cooking scrambled eggs, for example, proved to be one of my most popular, judging from the feedback I received.

Conversely, a column I wrote about a salesman at a kiosk in the mall who tried to convince me to buy expensive nail care items, offended a reader to the extent that she wrote a lengthy letter to my boss detailing the reasons he should fire me.

Sharing

Without a doubt, though, the columns that touched people the most were the ones I wrote about my daughter’s leukemia. In those columns, I shared with readers our family’s devastation at hearing the news of Ellen’s cancer, her determination to beat it, the challenges she and our family faced during her two years and two months of chemotherapy and her eventual victory over the disease.

I frequently still run into people who ask me how Ellen is doing and tell me that reading about her inspired them on their own cancer journeys.

Inspiring people was another one of the things I aimed to do in my columns. Not only when I wrote about Ellen, but also when I wrote about my sons, Brendan and Thomas, and my husband, Brian. I tried to show a glimpse of healthy family life; kids who still like to play outside in the woods and build tree forts, teenagers who are learning life lessons through participation in wrestling and other sports and adults who love each other and their children and are dedicated to bringing them up with a strong work ethic and faith in God.

I don’t think our family is all that unique, which is why I thought highlighting our family life was important. From reading the news pages, it would be easy to conclude that all kids and teens are obese and do nothing but play on their iPods and married couples constantly fight with the kids and each other. I believe that many families are strong and stable and that should be celebrated.

I also believe faith in God should be celebrated. I know many people have strong faith and that God is the most important thing in their lives. Stories about the Christian faith — unless they are about people who have made a major mistake and done something very un-Christian — also are pretty scarce in the news pages. I tried to show faith in a positive light, how life can be cruel and harsh, but, how God is always with us as we face challenges.

Godspeed

I’ll never really know whether I accomplished all that I set out to do with my column, but I am grateful I had the opportunity to try. Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, it seems appropriate that an Irish Catholic column writer should say goodbye to her readers with this traditional Irish Blessing:

“May the road rise up to meet you.... May the wind be always at your back.... May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Reach Bailey at annb08@dishmail.net or (218)779-8093.

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