Four years ago, Bailey Heard got some lemons; not just a couple of lemons, or a basketful, or even a pickup load—she got a whole orchard full of lemons.
On July 26, 2013, Andrew Heard– her husband of six-years and father to their then two-year-old daughter, Ellie—died, following his year-long battle with stage four terminal lung cancer.
It was his second battle with cancer. He had fought Hodgkin’s Lymphoma into remission during his senior year in high school and went on to play football at Texas Tech University. He then attended Truett Seminary in Waco, before he walked on the field to play at Baylor University.
It was at Baylor that the couple met, then married in 2007.
“I’d been a student and cheerleader at Liberty Christian and after we married, we both worked at the school,” said Heard. “I coached and Andrew taught Christian Humanities for seniors and was also an adult pastor.”
In 2008, he worked at the Prestonwood Church in Plano; and, in 2011, the couple’s daughter, Ellie was born. Andrew served as a student minister at Park Cities Baptist Church in Highland Park.
In 2012, he was re-diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
“I had a newborn and he was depressed,” said Heard. “He got pneumonia when he was at
MD Anderson [Hospital], so we made the move down to Cuero [Texas], his hometown, to be near his family. It was the right thing to do.”
At the time, Heard was uncertain that the small town of only approximately 7,000 people would be enough support for what the family was facing.
“I was so wrong,” she said. “Andrew’s father is a physician and he was there to go through every step of the way. And, the whole town held fundraisers and raised $100,000 to help with our medical expenses.”
After Andrew passed, Heard moved back to North Texas to be near her family in Highland Village for support as she worked through the grieving process. As she dealt with the loss of her husband, she reflected on how he had handled his battle against cancer.
“My life was transformed by the courage and character of my husband,” said Heard. “Until the very end, Andrew wrote books, traveled and spoke to thousands of people about keeping the faith, even during life’s most difficult situations. He had studied all different religions and had questions that went from viewing faith as only black or white, to ‘A Gray Faith;’ the name of the book he wrote before he died. His first book, ‘Your Best Life Later,’ was written after his first struggle with cancer in high school.”
Heard said that watching him live his life to the fullest, even when speaking to people and signing copies of his book in his hospital bed, was a wake-up call for her.
“I was completely and deeply inspired by his desire to make a positive impact and forever-changed by his courage,” she said. “In fact, he wrote a child’s book for Ellie [‘The Ellie Project: A Children’s Guide to Building Character from the Final Words of a Loving Father’] and would read it to her when she was in his hospital bed with him.”
For the letter “C,” he wrote: “Cat [with his drawing of a cat] and Courage—Ellie: Courage doesn’t come because you are big, strong, or without fear. Courage comes because you aren’t big, you aren’t strong, you do fear, but you don’t give up! Love, Daddy”
Heard said it was remembering Andrew and his goal to be a positive role model—initially through sports and later coaching—that changed her future path toward being a speaker to share Andrew’s and her outlook for a positive future.
“Journeying through a loss can burn away what no longer serves us, leaving us primed to tap into what it means to live our lives to the fullest and be ready to make our dreams a reality,” said Heard. “To have a piece of what Andrew studied and learned shifted me; the big ‘why,’ to make a difference in somebody’s life. I always said that in our relationship, I was the heart and he was the head.”
The Highland Village widow—at only 28-years-old– and mother became a certified life coach and has a successful life-after-loss coaching and speaking business. She travels the country speaking to groups large and small, sharing Andrew’s books and their story.
As her business has grown helping others, she found it was fulfilling for her to be able to express herself. She found that talking about the past to inform the future helped motivate people to create the next chapter of their lives– one that is full of hope, inspiration, authenticity and passion.
“I’m a storyteller,” said Heard. “If I go back to my childhood, I found I’ve always been a storyteller and by sharing my story I’ve learned to be grateful; to wake up and be healthy.”
If she travels overnight for a speaking engagement, Andrew’s Aunt Betty from Paris, Texas, comes down to stay with Ellie. If it’s a local engagement, Ellie might attend the event.
“She has interesting memories of her Daddy,” said Heard. “She remembers his Gatorade, bald head and talks about Heaven. She holds the hope to be with him one day. She has an awareness that bad things happen and that Mommy may not come back after we’re apart.”
Heard said that Ellie’s grandmother died and while her cousins left the hospital room at the end, Ellie climbed up on the bed and laid down next to her grandmother.
“She can go to those ‘scary’ places,” said Heard. “It’s not scary for her.”
The lines between Heard’s coaching and speaker schedule is becoming more blurred into a new entity; as each has informed the other over time.
She was approached to apply to be part of a TEDx speaker program on Friday, April 7, at Marcus High School.
Heard’s next speaking engagement is the Feb. 14 Argyle Chamber of Commerce meeting at 7:30 a.m. at Lantana Golf Club.
For information about Heard, her blog, her speaking schedule or life coaching group, visit: www.baileyheard.com or email her at: [email protected].