Since the ‘twittersphere’ reported that Jim Kelly will not require any further treatment for the squamous cell cancer that invaded his upper jaw bone, the first thing that came to my mind was this family’s legacy of gratitude, grace under pressure, and spiritual enlightenment. That, along with modern technology being an amazing tool of active surveillance, shows some serious benefit from technology in medicine.
However, from my view it’s the Kelly family legacy that represents the heart and soul of what makes WNY the kind of place where people come together in a special way. There are those who will choose to view WNY today as more of a reflection of the larger national culture of self-absorbed, over worked or stressed people. I don’t see it that way, and still believe that the ‘old culture’ of WNY is alive and well.
Growing up in WNY and then moving to different regions of the country made me appreciate my roots. That was the case even more so when I saw the outpouring of love and concern for the Kelly family as they withstood the next BIG challenge; Jim’s diagnosis of cancer. The road has not ended, and follow up road still lies ahead, as anyone who was ever diagnosed with cancer completely understands.
People diagnosed with cancer often naturally become concerned about whether or not the cancer will recur. That is a normal and healthy emotional reaction. Sometimes it can overcome some individuals to the point where it becomes a challenge for maintaining a healthy emotional state.
This is where Jim’s next function (which I do not doubt he will take on with unbridled fury) could be to serve as a role model for anyone going through a sudden and scary diagnosis of cancer. The Kelly family are always propelled by the grace that is Hunter’s life, and once again there will be another beacon of comfort for many whose lives aren’t played out in the media, but might be touched by cancer.
It would seem the Kelly family legacy includes living life as role models for others, which they have always done with grace and dignity since Hunter’s life touched us all. No matter what flavor of spiritual enlightenment people choose (or don’t choose), living by example is a gift for all those whose lives are touched by these special people.
Having had the privilege of working with families whose lives are affected by cancer for nearly 40 years has provided me with the rare opportunity to study how people effectively face this enormous challenge. The Kelly Family legacy is one that shows the importance of graciousness under enormous scrutiny.
We as fellow citizens want to reach out, show our love, because it connects us to these wonderful people who have graciously shared their most heart wrenching moments during their lives with us. Hunter’s work lives on in us as a prescient example set by his incredible life.
Jim Kelly’s response to his cancer diagnosis is classic “Hunter doing his thing.” Just because his physical presence is not among us does not mean his life doesn’t go on in each of us whose lives he touched, knowingly or unknowingly.
Sometimes we think in one direction about parents teaching children how to deal with life. In reality, sometimes we learn as much or more from our children. The Kelly Family’s recent challenges reflect how much Hunter’s life goes on in all of us, and allows us to become better people should we choose to express Hunter’s life purpose in our hearts.
In my opinion, that is what each of us should continue to focus upon; learning how to be better people in this wild and crazy world. The experience of cancer is a life-altering event for almost anyone who has dealt with it, directly or indirectly.
Jim will find a way to incorporate this experience in the exact way Hunter would want him to do. The gift of Hunter’s life is the gift that keeps on giving. Hunter’s life crystallized the Kelly Family legacy.
Those of us who are fortunate to know them, whether from a distance or close up, have an opportunity to learn an important life lesson. Learn to be grateful for what we have and what we face, regardless of the nature of the challenge.