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Collin Raye: A Loving Legacy

Collin Raye opens up about family joys and trials

Collin Raye is an ACM Award winner with 21 Top 10 hits and five platinum albums under his belt. But when you ask him about his greatest accomplishment, he’ll say it’s being the father of daughter Britanny, 26, and son Jacob, 24, and grandfather to Britanny’s daughters, Haley, 8, and Mattie, 5.

In recent years, Collin has spent much time away from Music City focusing on his family—especially Haley, who has a neurological disorder that to this day has not been correctly diagnosed. By age 2, Haley’s health steamrolled downhill when she began losing her ability to walk, stand, crawl, sit up straight, hold her head up and control her hands. By the time she hit 4, she lost even more functions including being able to speak and eat by mouth.

“It’s by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever encountered because she’s my baby’s baby,” Collin says softly. “It makes it especially tough because I’ve always been the patriarch of the family. If there’s a problem or my kids are going through something difficult, I fix it or help them fix it. This is something that I’ve been powerless to do anything about other than what we’ve done.”

In 2005, Collin sat down with CW to talk about how he took the news of Haley’s health problems. Here’s an excerpt from that very touching interview.

I know you’ve accepted it, but when you first found out about it, did it break your heart?
Oh, it does every day. It kills me every day. There’s a picture on my wall right next to my bed. She went to this pre-school last year for kids . . . and, of course, she was by far the worst off . . . and it was her first school picture, so to speak. You know how those school pictures just kill you anyway. And here was Haley’s. Brittany mailed me a copy of it . . . and I opened it up. And I just started crying. Because . . . she has to be either carried . . . or pushed [in her little wheel chair] . . . or in a walker thing that she can kinda get around in school. And it was really good for her to go.

“God can heal anybody he wants to any time he wants to.” —Collin Raye

But all the other kids are doin’ normal stuff. And they’re all lined up sitting there. You know how they have the kids sitting there with their hands on their laps like this, you know? And the teachers are sitting by her, to make sure she doesn’t fall. She’s right there in line with ‘em. And I get the picture, and I’m lookin’ down through the line, and there she is. And she’s the littlest one. And she’s just sittin’ there . . . with one hand kind of like this . . . and one like this . . . and she’s got this look on her face like, “What am I doin’ here?” [he chuckles]. Oh, it just breaks my heart. It just makes me want to reach in the picture and grab her and just hold her and say, “You don’t have to do nothin’ but this right here. Poppy will hold you . . . till I drop dead. You don’t have to worry about anything.”
It’s not for us. You feel bad for her . . . because of what she’s not gonna get to do. Unless something miraculous . . . it’ll be a miracle. I pray . . . but I’m a realist when it comes to religion, too. And I believe that . . . I was raised in a Baptist church, but I converted to a Catholic church when I was 23. And it seemed to fit me better. I like that way of doin’ it. And, because it was new to me, it was very inspiring. Whereas a lot of cradle Catholics who grew up that way run from it, because it’s so much religion . . . they choke ‘em with it, you know? But it was new to me, and so I saw it from an outsider’s point of view, and it was beautiful. It made sense to me.
But one of the things . . . you know a lot of people say, “You know Jesus, when he was on earth, he healed people.” He didn’t heal everybody. He did that to show us who He was. That He had power over sickness and death. I never believed that meant that everyone in the world was supposed to be healthy. But I also know He can. God can heal anybody he wants to any time he wants to. So I pray, “Lord, I know there’s a reason for this. And I’m with you all the way. Cause you’ve blessed the heck out of me in my life. I’ve had a great life.”
This is the first time I’ve encountered something I had no control over whatsoever. Nothing. So I’ve made a pledge to him, and I’ll make it public right here . . . If he ever does heal her—because it’s not gonna be medicine that does it. It’ll have to be something miraculous—I will never do another public appearance in my life that I don’t tell the whole story.

For more from Collin, check out the April 27 issue of Country Weekly.