Against all odds
Morgan county’s bailey family remains hopeful in the face of tragedy
By Kathryn Purcell
T he death of a child, the loss of a job – each makes for difficult circumstances to overcome, much less coupled within weeks of each other.
But the Bailey family– Marshall, Amber and 5-year-old Jake – is holding onto hope that there’s a reason for
their circumstances, and that Someone has bigger plans for them.
Marshall Bailey’s family has been in the business of delivering the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to its Morgan County readership for his entire life. In fact, he dropped out of school at 17 so that he could help deliver the newspaper.
“We moved to Morgan County when I was 9 [years old] and started delivering,” Marshall said. “It’s a seven-day-a-week job. I haven’t had a vacation in 19 years.”
Even through the death of his brother and mother, just 15 months apart, Marshall and his family continued to deliver the AJC, even on the days they laid both to rest.
Marshall eventually took over his father’s route, moved the business of assembling the newspaper from a shed to a warehouse-type space and got Amber involved in delivery, giving her the route through Bostwick. Once Jake arrived, the AJC delivery route officially became a family affair.
“We take the red car to work,” Jake said, quick to explain.
The 160-mile route itself lasts between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. Jake sleeps in the back of the car for most of the trip.
Baby Jessica arrived late this year, and Amber soon found herself having to take care of her rather than taking part in the route; Marshall took over in her absence.
Jessica was three weeks old when she got a cold and Amber took her to the hospital. The infection never fully cleared and, after another hospitalization, was five weeks old when she died.
Marshall was delivering papers the night that Amber called him with news of Jessica’s death. Jake was asleep in the back of the car.
“I didn’t stop; I didn’t have a vacation,” Marshall said. “I just kept on delivering.”
Then came another phone call; it was the AJC informing Marshall that, as of January 9?, there would be no more circulation or delivery to Morgan County. His life’s work had become eliminated, the result of cutbacks due to a flailing economy and company restructuring.
“I got the call the day of our daughter’s viewing,” Marshall said. “Amber had to help me off the floor.”
What’s more, Marshall and Amber are considered self-employed, and are unable to draw unemployment.
“I’ve been through 19 years and 7 days, my brother’s, mom’s and little girl’s deaths [delivering papers],” Marshall said. “I told Amber I was tired.”
Not sure of how they would continue to put food on the table, much less pay their daughter’s final expenses, the Baileys turned to their “family” through Madison Presbyterian Church’s pre-school, where Jake spends many of his waking hours.
Within a week and a half, more than $4,000 was raised through an account opened by an anonymous individual at a local bank; food by the carload was delivered to the Bailey’s residence; assistance was granted in the form of long talks and heartfelt comforting – all a testament to the love and care of a community.
Hope, while never completely gone, was reinforced.
“It’s such a blessing to know that in these types of tragedies, people want to pass on the gifts God has given them,” Deb Smoak, Madison Presbyterian Church pre-school director and Bailey family friend, said. “It’s been a community effort…We’ll never know who made donations to that account. They just did it for the love of the family, the love of Jake.”
“And God bless everyone for that,” Marshall said. “We really needed that.”
With their faith, in God and in people, strengthened, Marshall and Amber hold onto the idea: “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”
Sometimes, it just takes Him a little time to make it across the room.
Published in the January 1, 2009 edition.