• John McGary, Woodford Sun News Editor

Here’s Johnny!

Sharing pain a blessing

As I’m pretty sure I’ve noted on this page before, sometimes in this biz, you meet people on one of the worst days of their lives. That’s particularly true in television news, where you’re regularly sent to far-flung places to ask strangers if they’d like to talk about a personal tragedy.

When I approached Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift before the May 7 Midway City Council meeting, I’d known him for four years – but he was having one of the worst days of his life. Hours before, I’d seen his moving post on Facebook in which he wrote that he and his wife, Katie, had just learned that their daughter Audrey Grace no longer had a heartbeat.

(The story’s on the front page, by the way – maybe folks who turn first to page two should read it first.)

That day, one day before their daughter would be delivered stillborn, Vandegrift came to work.

Before the meeting, I walked into his office to offer my condolences. Then, perhaps out of habit, I told him that if he and Katie wanted to share their story with Sun readers, to let me know when they were ready.

They’d already been doing so on social media, as a way to let other parents who’ve suffered such losses know that they weren’t alone, and to somehow ease their burden. Still, as I watched Vandegrift preside over the meeting, I realized the timing of my offer was poor, and the next time we spoke, I apologized.

He said he wasn’t a bit offended, and a few minutes later, he and Katie told me what happened during her pregnancy, how they were faring, and how the community support had touched and helped them. We spoke for nearly an hour, most of it while my recorder was rolling. As you’d expect, there were more tears than chuckles that day, though we had a few hearty laughs after the interview when we shared a few “off the record” anecdotes.

Someone far wiser than me once wrote something to the effect of, “When you share your pain with others, you are giving them a gift.”

That’s what Katie and Grayson did for me, and for Dear Readers of the Sun. Any fault in the resulting story has entirely to do with the writer and none with the subjects of the piece.

This thing called life we’re blessed with will end for all of us, usually sooner than we or our loved ones will prefer. If we’re fortunate, along the way, we’re able to love and be loved, to tell the folks we care for that they made our lives better, and to hear such things ourselves.

Grayson and Katie said many moving things when we sat down together last Friday. But I suppose the main reason they chose to do so was to let other couples in similar situations know they’re not alone, and to thank the citizens of Midway and others for their support.

“There’s been so many people who’ve come to me … and just said how inspired they were by Katie just being willing to talk about this.

And they can only imagine how painful that was and how vulnerable you can be to talk about something like that,” Grayson said.

It took courage for the Vandegrifts to sit down with me and share some of the most intimate details of their lives, and to trust me to tell their story in a sensitive fashion.

On behalf of everyone who reads their story, thanks, y’all.

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