She fought it for awhile -- the feelings, the memories, reluctant to relive the heartache that seemed unbearable the first time around. Would it be even harder the second time? Or would it be the closest to closure she was ever going to get, as it's nearly impossible to ever fully come to terms with what had happened. But ultimately, she knew the story was one that had to be told, was meant to be told. After all, that's why God chose this family to endure the unthinkable -- he knew they could handle it and turn it into good.
So began Jill Kelly's journey that has led to three books filled with strength, comfort and faith. "Prayers for Those Who Grieve," (hitting bookstores in June) "Prayers of Hope for the Brokenhearted" (debuting in the fall) and "Without a Word" (snatch it up in September) interact with one another to form a trio of must-reads for the lost, struggling or those who just need something to believe in. Because the wife, friend and mother of two beautiful girls and one brave little boy knows a thing or two about what it means to overcome the unimaginable and what it's like to walk through the dark to get to the light.
"I became a Christian a year and a half after Hunter was born, out of desperation, a search for faith. I needed more hope and to know there I something real beyond this life I can cling to because this can't be it," said Jill. "I was not walking in Christ when this happened and it is because of what happened that I turned to the Lord, which I find so amazing. Because of my one and only son, I came to know God's one and only son."
"Without a Word" exposes a side of the Kelly family hidden from the media. The personal lives of many NFL players is thrust into the spotlight, almost like it's the public's right to know every little thing about someone who seems untouchable. But they're just people, like you and I, and nothing shows that more than the story held between the pages of this book.
"More than anything I believe that through telling our story, to the fullness that I did, someone else's story will change and that's my heart's desire. I hope someone else will look at what we have been through--and many families go through similar situations--and be encouraged that their story will have an encouraging ending as well," said Jill.
It's clear that "Without a Word" is more than just another book about good coming out of a tragedy. To Jill, it was her calling and to finally complete it is not only satisfying but the highest honor to her son, her family and her own power.
"I feel that I have done what I was called to do. I wanted Erin and Camryn [her daughters] to have an account of what happened because they were young, they're going to grow and I don't want them to forget how God used Hunter," said Jill. "I want them to have something to fall back on, be appreciative of and realize 'we made it.'"
"Without a Word" shares the story of Hunter James Kelly, diagnosed with Krabbe disease at four months and not expected to live past age two. But with plenty of love from his family and friends, the best medical treatment available and as Jill said, with a lot of help from God, he spent eight years on this Earth and will spend many more up above, continuing the mission he was created to fulfill.
It also shares what has never been shared before, never been framed by the media--it offers a vulnerable, stripped glimpse of a marriage that wasn't always so perfect and follows its path to restoration. This, said Jill, is something she hopes provides encouragement and hope to those who feel they have none.
"I think people give up too fast, give up for lesser struggles than what we've been through. I long for marriages to be restored through the sharing of our restoration," said Jill. "For my girls, I want them to see that with everything that happened and how bad it got with mommy and daddy, we're still together. It will tell them those things they couldn't understand at the moment because we protected them and loved on them no matter what. We didn't want them to have to deal with even more but now they have something they can share with their kids."
To reveal more would do a disservice to this book that's so important to so many people. When September rolls around, pick up a copy and take comfort in knowing that even though one woman, one family, was faced with the type of tragedy nobody believes could happen, they made it through and turned it from a tragedy to a blessing.
"God just rescued us from everything and that's the ultimate story. Despite all these things we came out of it with hope, joy and faith in life; the things you wouldn't expect from such tragic situations," said Jill.
There's your teaser, something to spark your interest, wet your pallet and hopefully make you eager for more. When it gets closer to the release date, check back for one more, closer look at what Bills Chick is dubbing "the most anticipated book of the fall." Yep, I believe in my own little world that I'm qualified to say that.
Follow Alyssa Jung on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lysssie