PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 8:  Champ Bailey #24 of the Washington Redskins looks on from the field during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium on October 8, 2000 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Redskins defeated the Eagles 17-14.  (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 8: Champ Bailey #24 of the Washington Redskins looks on from the field during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium on October 8, 2000 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Redskins defeated the Eagles 17-14. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Hope

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Even writing the word “Hope” in the title causes tears to start falling from my eyes 22 years later.

On December 25, 2001 ⎯my two-year-old daughter Bailey Hope passed away from Neuroblastoma cancer. Whoever said time heals all wounds, never held their child in their arms after they took their last breath.

My face is already wet and I let out a silent yell sitting here in our bedroom even starting down this road again. Ironically, it’s raining outside where we live now in Key West. All of this happened back when I lived in New York when I was in Pro Scouting with the Jets.

A couple of days ago this was placed on my heart to write and to be honest, I have dreaded writing it, but at the same time, I have to.

“Why didn’t God answer our prayer for a miracle,” I asked a pastor standing outside looking up at the stars that Christmas night. “That’s where you guys are wrong. He did answer it. The miracle was she here with us in the first place.”

Why did I have to write this?

For your sake.

Not for mine ⎯while it’s a nice sentiment⎯’I’m sorry for your loss’ has never and will never begin to touch the soul-crushing pain that I carry.

I’m willing to go down this road to let you know there’s hope. Don’t ever forget it.

There’s hope ⎯no matter what.

We live in a cold world with a lot of cold realities that are way scarier than the monsters under our beds or in our closets that we dreaded as children. It’s a world filled with anger, sickness, divorce, grief, addiction, loneliness, depression, and those who talk of wanting to commit suicide and those who have. That’s just in the people’s lives that I know.

Her life

When I think of my daughter’s life it opens the floodgate of tears. It’s not just because I miss her, which I do, more than words can ever describe. It’s really because of what her life meant to me.

From the first time I held her, my life changed. I spent most of her two years working around the clock at the Jets, but ‘Dada’ and ‘B-Hop’ as she called herself, still had our moments. We watched Bear in the Big Blue House and I drew a smiley face on her red sock with a permanent black marker that she loved to put on her hand. She laughed and laughed with that sock on her hand as she was going through her chemo.

Now it’s pouring rain outside as I write this.

Maybe it’s God crying over my pain, your pain, and the pain that’s in this world.

This little girl, this gift from heaven named after the Redskins first-round pick Champ Bailey the year she was born, it was her battle with cancer that led us to live with another pastor and his family. It was there, in that little basement apartment I received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.

He has made all the difference.

Princess roses

I stood there from the podium with Bailey’s casket covered in white princess roses delivering her eulogy. Not for one service, but for two. We had one service in New York for our friends and friends who had become family and another back in Minnesota where I am originally from.

I was 28 years old at the time.

What I remember most was having the confidence to speak in front of all those people. I had been deathly afraid of public speaking, but not anymore.

The undertaker lowered her casket into the snow-covered frozen ground as I watched from the back window of my parents’ Cadillac as we slowly pulled away.

That was the moment of truth.

Either she was going in the ground, or she was in heaven…

I knew she was in heaven.

The dream

Bailey’s mommy, Ruth, my first wife, and I returned from Minnesota to New York and walked into that apartment and saw that bed where Bailey had slept between us the last couple of months of her life.

Her toys, her things, and her clothes were all there to welcome us home.

Then I had this dream one night after falling asleep.

In the dream, I was looking at the cemetery where Bailey’s body had been laid to rest, which was only a couple miles from where I grew up along this road. Bailey had gotten up out of the ground and she was running around.

I yelled, “Bailey, look out for the cars!”

She turned and looked at me and smiled.

I woke up.

I said to Ruth, “You will not believe the dream I just had!”

After I told her all about it, she said to me, “I had the same exact dream.”

Life has led you to this point

I could tell you about the incredible sense of purpose I’ve had in these past 22 years. I could also tell you about a grace that I am finding that is beyond anything I’ve done or ever will do. However, this isn’t about me.

It’s about you.

Remember that hope I was telling you about ⎯

His Name is Jesus.

If you never prayed to receive Him as your personal Lord and Savior ⎯now is the time.

Please pray these words out loud, that come from the Bible scripture Romans 10:9, that’s tattooed across my right forearm.

“I declare with my mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead, Amen.”

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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