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Without a Word: How a Boy's Unspoken Love Changed Everything    by Jill Kelly order for
Without a Word
by Jill Kelly
Order:  USA  Can
Faithwords, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Leslie McKee

While many people have heard of NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly (Buffalo Bills), few may be aware of the blows he and his family were dealt off the football field. Without a Word is the story of how a young child (who was unable to speak, eat, breathe or move on his own) exemplified the true meaning of the precious gift known as life.

Born on his father's birthday, Hunter James Kelly entered this world on 2/14/97. Hunter began to have problems by four months of age (ex: rigidity, seizures and difficulty swallowing). He was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy - a fatal genetic disorder with no known treatment. The average lifespan is fourteen months. It is a devastating disease that causes severe and rapid deterioration of mental and motor functions and often leaves the child blind and deaf, before they succumb to pneumonia or heart failure. The diagnosis was heartbreaking, especially since Hunter had seemed destined to follow in Jim's football footsteps.

Prior to Hunter's diagnosis, Jill and Jim's relationship was strained, partly due to the amount of time Jim spent on the road for his job. After the diagnosis, the chasm between them grew, as did Jill's resentment. Jill's biggest supporter, and prayer warrior, was her mother (Jacque).

The reader gets a behind the scenes look at the Kellys' journey. With the aide of her journals, Jill courageously shares a chronological recount of the struggles and triumphs the family experienced. A section called In Jim's Words is scattered throughout to give the reader his perspective and feelings.

Despite Hunter's limitations, he truly was an involved member of the Kelly family. He attended school, went trick or treating, played in the snow and had a best friend (Robert) who truly loved him. Robert's mother was a member of Team Hunter (the occupational therapists, physical therapists, etc. who helped with Hunter's care). In the book, Robert shares his feelings in a sweet letter detailing their friendship.

The reader may find it difficult to withhold the tears when reading about Hunter's final moments (8/5-6/05). The authenticity and unconditional love are overwhelming, as is the strength the Kellys received from God. Jill states that 'the most profound miracle of all was having my son's suffering lead me, Jim and our two girls to the greatest act of suffering ... the cross of Christ ... we have found meaning and beauty in Hunter's suffering.' Jill also acknowledges that 'we learned to trust the One who holds the unknown.'

Appendices include information on Hunter's Hope Foundation (which provides support, homes and screening to those families caring for a child with Krabbe Leukodystrophy), Team Hunter memories and letters, poetry written by Hunter's sister (Camryn) and Jim's Hall of Fame induction speech (where Jim refers to Hunter as 'my hero, my soldier, my son').

It may be hard for the reader to remain emotionally neutral, as it is hard not to smile with Hunter's milestones and cry with his struggles. Hunter truly was a miracle - from defying medical odds to living life to its fullest ... without saying a single word.

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