For people with disabilities, life doesn’t always come easily. Many of the things able-bodied people take for granted are a big struggle, and more than any difficulties with daily tasks, differently abled people often have to face a lack of comprehension and compassion from a world that wasn’t designed for them.
When Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty’s daughter, Jillian, who has Down syndrome, was married a few years ago, Paul Daugherty wrote an incredible letter that showed just how proud he was of how far his daughter had come and how she had defied all the odds with the power of love.
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For Paul Daugherty, the revelation some 30 years ago that Jillian had Down syndrome was a tough moment. As he told WKRC in Cincinnati, as a parent of a disabled child, “you grieve a little bit, you cry a little bit, then you strap your boots on and get to work.” For Daugherty and his wife, Kerry, “she was our daughter, and we were going to make Jillian the best Jillian she could be.”
While not everything has been easy over the years, he wrote in Uncomplicated Life (2015), a memoir of raising his daughter, that the day of her diagnosis was “the last bad day.” From that time on, the Daughertys encouraged Jillian to do anything and everything she wanted to do.
https://twitter.com/NickLachey/status/674389352848297984A thumbs up for An Uncomplicated Life from @Nicklachey
As Daugherty told WKRC, when he and his wife, Kerry, started out raising Jillian, there were few resources and a great deal of antiquated ideas about people with Down syndrome. “We like to think that we did a lot of work on Jillian’s behalf that now helps other parents with kids with disabilities.”
While Jillian has had her share of adversity, she’s also had many triumphs as an adult, including graduating from Northern Kentucky University in the Greater Cincinnati area, becoming the manager of the basketball team there, and most specially for her and her family, meeting the love of her life, Ryan Mavripilis.
The two were married on June 27, 2015, and Paul Daugherty wrote and read a letter to his daughter that expressed his love and support for her on that important day. The heartfelt letter left everyone in tears and stands as a moving tribute to the power of people to accomplish anything they set their minds to as they long as they have a loving family behind them.
The letter was published on The Mighty and has an incredibly inspiring message for everyone. Daugherty asks his daughter, “do you remember all the stuff they said you’d never do, Jills? You wouldn’t ride a two-wheeler or play sports. You wouldn’t go to college. You certainly wouldn’t get married. Now… look at you.”
Describing how happy he and his wife, Kerry, were when they met Ryan, her dad lets her know how excited and supportive he is for the next part of her journey. “Now, you and Ryan are taking a different walk together. It’s a new challenge, but it’s no more daunting for you than anyone else. Given who you are, it might be less so. Happiness comes easily to you. As does your ability to make happiness for others.”
Paying tribute to his daughter, who never stopped trying to learn, to grow, and to connect with other people, her dad can’t help but feel blessed. “I don’t know what the odds are of a woman born with Down syndrome marrying the love of her life. I only know you’ve beaten them.”
Her dad concludes the letter with moving, “uncomplicated” words, just like his daughter’s incredible life. “My little girl, all in white, crossing the threshold of yet another conquered dream. I stand breathless and transfixed, utterly in the moment. ‘You look beautiful’ is the best I can do.”