By Sharon Swing with Joan Kelley and family
Many of our recent oneLife letters have been written by Joan Kelley. She has shared her journey with God through the leukemia diagnosis and treatment process of her 17 year-old son, Will. She has brought many of us powerful insights for living in a way that helps us to recognize and respond to God in our daily lives.
Will Kelley is now with Jesus. This past week, we have mourned Will’s passing and celebrated his life with the Kelley family. I ask that you would please join us in praying for them.
I’d like to share a piece of what Joan, John, Megan, Drew and Mitchell spoke as a tribute to Will at the ‘Celebration of Life’ service in his honor.
"I would like to thank you all for being here today to help us celebrate Will’s life. But, right now in the service Will would be saying 'enough already about me.' He would have rather sat down with each of you and heard how it came to be that your story and his came together. I think to answer that question we have to look at his life a bit.
It’s hard to summarize a life in a few pictures, a favorite quote, or a display of his interests. Will’s life is not represented by the stuff in his bedroom, an ACT score or a well played game of lacrosse. Will’s life was definitely not all about leukemia – he made it clear that we are not to remember him as the cancer kid. Will’s life here on Earth was captured in his smile, his listening ear, his competitive spirit, his love and concern for others – whether friend, acquaintance or stranger.
I remember when we told Grandpa Kelley that Joan was pregnant with Will. He told us, 'Well now you two will have be responsible.' I remember being so offended. I thought we were the most responsible people I knew – we had good jobs, owned a home, and paid our bills on time. And then March 20, 1993, this little boy named William Hugh Kelley entered our lives and I realized that Grandpa Kelley was right – we were now responsible for raising this precious child of God. We somehow snuck home without changing one single diaper at the hospital. I remember them handing us the baby carrier and thinking 'Why are they giving us this child? We have no idea what we’re doing!'
As we drove home and we were turning down Williams Drive, yes, that was the name of the street we used to live on, and we passed a funeral procession. I was struck that day with the brevity of life and how one life was beginning and another one ending.
None of us know how many days we will be given, so the question Will would ask you is what are you going to do with each one you have. What are you going to do tomorrow that tells your unique story, that makes a difference for someone else, and more importantly points someone toward Christ.
And as we thought about Will’s 17 years, we think he lived 'quite a full life in a very short time'. It’s very common at our house to ask questions around the dinner table and so on Thursday we sat down as a family to ask some questions about Will and his impact on us.
The first thing we asked was what did you like to do with Will? Drew is going to let you know what we came up with.
Another thing we talked about was that he was not always a “perfect” brother – I know it’s hard to believe:
We asked Mitchell what was the best thing about Will? He wrote on a post it:
We talked about what Will would tell us about how to live:
So how do we live out these lessons learned in Will’s journey? I think Will would have a list something like this....
We love you sweet William. We are so proud of who you are and how you chose to live your life for God as only you could uniquely do. We are honored to call you our son, our brother, our friend. As you said in a recent letter to us while you were off skiing...”Congratulations Mom and Dad. You have done your part and I’m on the way. So you don’t have to worry anymore. I’m going to have a blast!” And so it is today as well…
See you soon buddy! We know you’re having a blast!"