Monday, March 5, 2012

One Month Down...Many More To Go...

It's been just over a month since Patrick passed away, and yet it seems like an eternity since I last heard his voice, saw his lively blue eyes flicker, or watched him play so skillfully with his sweet C. It feels so weird to be both a widow and a suddenly-single mom at 33, and yet it feels even stranger that he's gone...for good.

People often ask how I'm doing, and it's hard to know how to respond; it's hard to know how I feel. I guess I'm doing "okay" most of the time. Sure, Patrick's absence hurts like crazy. Sure, I cry at points everyday. Sure, I still expect to see him when I turn the corner, or when I roll over in bed. But, I still get up every morning, drink my coffee, and make sure Cecilia's fed...and on some days, those are three things for which I'm very proud of accomplishing. On other days, I get the sense that the age old mantra of "everything being okay" is true. I don't know what that "okay" is going to look like exactly, but I trust that God will somehow, and in someway, create a new life for us that is still richly steeped in his merciful grace; a new life that is life-giving to us, even in ways we now cannot even imagine.

I have spent the last month trudging through the endless piles of paperwork needed to be filed upon the death of a loved one. I had NO idea how challenging it could be to settle one's estate. Even though I tend towards all manner of organization, I have struggled to keep up with all of the various accounts, agencies and people that need to be notified of Patrick's death, and all the of the subsequent paperwork that needs to be signed, notarized, sent, faxed, faxed back, re-sent, re-signed, re-notarized, etc.  I feel like I could write an instructional book on how to close up one's estate. (I'm sure there's already one out there...perhaps I should have read it.) All of the paperwork has kept me going, and perhaps it has staid off waves of grief that will likely come in surges in upcoming days (and years.)

I couldn't be more thankful that Patrick ended his career with Accenture. Their benefits (in life and death!) have been amazing. Even in his absence, Patrick continues to provide for his family. As his survivors, we are granted lifetime health benefits at the same rate we were paying when he was employed. We're given 2 years of free legal help and 6 months of free financial advice. His life insurance policy is generous, and the monthly social security payments will allow me time to sort through this next season of life, write my book, and get Cecilia into some sort of preschool program before I have to think about going back to work.

As of now, I'm planning on moving us back to Durham, NC, probably later this summer. We still own our townhouse there, which we bought when we got married, and lived in when Cecilia was born. We probably had our happiest (and his healthiest) years there, and it thus seems fitting, and feels like a good thing to return to our community and life in Durham. It also seems like a more realistic place--given the cost of living and pace of life--to live (and thrive) as a single-mom. We have a great church and a wide community of friends there, so I would be returning to a strong support system.

Cecilia is blossoming before my eyes--reminding me more and more of Patrick each day. She loves pickles, and his soccer ball. She loves to "run fast", and is super ticklish like her daddy. She's moved into the "why" stage (I'm hoping this means the "no!" stage is soon over), and is constantly asking me questions. She asks about her daddy periodically - "when will he come home? is he still at the ho-pi-tal?" It breaks my heart to have to remind her that he's not coming home. My standard answer right now is that her daddy was so sick that only Jesus could heal him, so he's in heaven with Jesus; he's not sick anymore, and his hair has even returned! After she asks "why?", and I stumble around for a better answer, she has usually moved onto her beloved trains or dolls. I'm sure I'll be answering her questions about him for the rest of my life, and I know they will get harder and harder, especially as she begins to forget his presence in her life. It breaks my heart that he won't be here as she grows up, that she won't remember how funny he could be, or how much he loved her. I'm thankful that so many of you did know him, and have committed to sharing your love and memories of him with her (and me).

I have slowly begun writing thank you notes, and honestly, it seems like a more daunting task than all of the crazy estate stuff. We have experienced an absolutely astounding amount of support from so many hundreds of people over the last few months. Hundreds of meals, bags of groceries, kind notes and monetary gifts appeared on our doorstep, or in the mail. I have to admit that at some point, when things were growing really intense, I lost track of all of their donors.  So, please forgive me if you never get a thank you note. Know that I am SO thankful for you -- for your love, generosity, kindness, and prayers for us. We could not have survived this horrible journey without you.

I don't really know what to do with this blog now. It seems weird to keep it going under the headline of "Get Well Patrick Kelly". Perhaps I'll start something new, to mark this new phase of life, but perhaps not. I just wanted to send a somewhat final (?) update for any of you who have continued to check-in with us.

So for the nearly 215,000 hits that we've received on this blog, since we began blogging about Patrick's cancer journey back in late August, thank you for being a part of this story. Thank you for your encouraging comments and messages of concern. Thank you for your faithful prayers and your interest in this terrible season of our life. I'm so sad this story had to ever begin...but I'm thankful that you were an integral part of it, even to the very end.

Blessings to all of you, wherever you are, this evening,
(for Cecilia & Patrick)


  1. We love you, Julie. We love you, Ceci, and Patrick. Blessings, friend.

  2. I am dear friends with one of your dear friends, Julie Wright, and she shared your story with me. I pray for you daily and hope you know that you are loved by so many people that you don't even know! My heart aches for you and I hope that over time your journey will get easier. You are truly an example of strength, hope and love.

  3. Love you, Julie. Thinking of you every day. (Steph Haugen)

  4. Julie - Thank you so much for this update. My heart is heavy thinking of your pain and the challenging road ahead, but I am filled with joy over the ways you have been blessed so far. I pray for you daily and hope that the love surrounding you can help ease your burden. Having recently moved to Durham myself, I can understand why this is an area you would consider moving back to. It is a lovely place with a friendly warmth to it - a good place to raise a child. I wish you all the best, and I hope that our paths may cross someday. I will continue to pray for you and Cecilia. Thank you for the beautiful example of hope and strength you have shown to all who have followed your story. I know Patrick is smiling down on you sending you love from Heaven. -Rachel

  5. Julie and Ceci, we love you! Praying for you both every day. And we would love to see you back in Durham. -Andrea, Pete, and Lucy

  6. Hi! I don't know you all, but feel very connected to your story. I am a Duke Divinity student, and last semester took a class on the Church's Care for the Sick. I'm so thankful your church, friends, and family did so much to care for you in this time of suffering and sorrow. In addition, I went to JMU and worked at both Accenture and Booz Allen. Though I never met Patrick, I can imagine he was an incredibly loving, brilliant and fun person. I will remain down here in NC and know that the transition from Arlington will be an adjustment (as it was for me). But know you're in my prayers. And I, also, am thankful for all the benefits you've received from Accenture. What a blessing to have the gift of time for now. Many blessings, Amie Stewart (friend of Bethany and Anthony H.)

  7. Prayers from Mesa, AZ (friends of Anthony & Nicci Kirlew). We have carried you in thought and much prayer for many months...will continue to do so as you find your new normal. I think of you often and always pray that great strength, tenacity for life, and faith will lift you out of sorrow. You are not alone in this- but loved and cared for by so many.

    Kristin and John Merwin

  8. hello to you, julie and cecilia

    i began following Patrick's battle through this blog when the link was sent to me through my daughter's school community, asking for prayers in Patrick's name. i believe it was a friend of Patrick's who had sent it out.

    i have shared some tears with you since then, and smiled as well, and have kept you all in mind.

    i would like for you to know that although strangers we are, i offer you my help. i have signed up/created and acct through lotsahelpinghands, and i hope that you keep me in mind when you need an hour or few to breathe, or tackle paperwork, chores, etc. i stay home with my two little ones (2 1/2 girl and 17 mos boy) in our herndon home, and will gladly come to you and cecilia with or without my children in order to freely give you that time to busy yourself or to play and distract.

    many prayers and blessings to you and the grieving hearts of your family and friends,


    you can also contact me here at my personal email address:

  9. Hi Julie,
    Just wanted to say that we miss you and Patrick and Ceci.
    We are with you. We are for you. We are praying. And we love you.
    Can't wait to see you and Ceci this summer.
    Ben (and KB)

  10. Just wanted to let you know, though you don't know us, we often think of you and Ceci and pray that God brings you peace and joyful moments to get you through this. We live in Charlotte NC and are so touched by your story and your unending faith in the Lord. Please know you have support from people all over-even from many you've never met.
    The Faulkenberry's

  11. Julie,
    You have such a beautiful way with words. They are a blessing. Thank you for taking the time to write about your journey and for the reminder to be grateful and trusting of God's plan. I wish you would keep up some sort of blog. It's a great reminder to Live Large as Patrick would say. It would be nice to do an annual Live Large party. I think of you often and pray for you and Ceci.
    Leslie Schall

  12. Thank you, Julie,
    We're all praying for you guys often. Please consider us thanked for anything you might have thought you needed to thank us for and just be free of that.
    Come see us when we get up to Mass if you'd like.
    Blessings and peace,

  13. Julie,

    I watch the Video on Vimeo. I was in Virgina on that Sunday, interfacing with a potential candidate for St. Pauls Charlotte, but could not make the Funeral on Friday. I am sorry. I wanted to to be there. I am reminded everyday of the great men who have walk this earth, proclaiming the Christian Faith. Standing up for the institution of marriage and family and doing what's right. I never met a man with more zeal for Life and his family than Patrick. I am dumb founded, when I think how lucky all of us were to know Patrick and I am grateful for that. There are no coincidences in life, at least in my book and so I chalk up knowing Patrick as one of those rare opportunities in life. A Gift from God. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your life with us. We would love to see you and Ceci at St. Paul's in Charlotte. Please let us know when you move back to Durham. We are praying for you both. Steve and Carla Shober

  14. Hi Julie,
    My name is Rebecca and I attend your grandmother's church in Richmond. I've been following and praying for you, and have appreciated your words and honesty so much. I know I am not the only one.

    If you decide not to maintain this blog, please include me in any future communications you send out. Your determination to write that book inspires me to finish my long-abandoned book efforts.

    Email me at

    With prayer,

  15. Hi, Julie. My name is Cameron Lee; I've been following your blog because your father-in-law is a former colleague of mine at Fuller. We prayed for Patrick when he was first diagnosed years ago. And I also know families struggling with terminal illness; your blog is an inspiration.

    I wanted to say thank you for sharing your heart so openly. You write beautifully, and I hope your posts will be a personal and spiritual treasure to Ceci as she grows.

    I also wanted to encourage to keep up the blog, even if it means only the occasional and infrequent post. My own experience is that blogging is both a ministry and a personal spiritual discipline; I expect you've experienced the same. Surely you must know how much your words have ministered to others!

    Someone once said something like, "I write to know what I think." You seem to be a born writer--if that's so, I hope you'll keep writing.

    May God bless you richly, abundantly, extravagantly as you and Ceci venture forth into a new season of life together.


  16. Julie,
    I have been checking your blog in the past couple weeks, and I am so grateful that you wrote this update as I have been thinking of you often.
    I also hope that you will keep up some sort of blog, and I definitely would love to read your book.
    May God give you strength and peace, and may you experience his comfort and love everyday in the months and years to come.
    You are an amazing person, and I hope I can meet you someday.

    Manuela (friend of Anne Wagoner)

  17. Hi Julie,

    I am a friend of friends, and have been blessed to be a part of your journey these last several months. Your words have brought both sorrowful tears and deep joy, reminding me that the human heart is capable of so much all at once!

    As others have said, your writing is a gift and I pray you continue to share your thoughts and words with others. I truly believe your words will continue to be used as you move forward.

    May the Lord continue to lift you up and carry you through each day. Many blessings to you!

    Nichole Miller
    Greeley, CO

  18. Julie,
    So glad I checked this...please be in touch after you move back to Durham. We'd love to meet Cici and give you a great big hug or sing around the piano. No hurry or pressure, but we'd love to see you if you have time.
    becca and brenden

  19. Praying for you today.

  20. Julie,

    We went to high school together. I caught wind of your blog from Inga and JD Hobbs on Facebook. I am so sorry for what your dear family has gone through. My family's prayers have been with yours for several months now and you and Ceci will remain in them.
    Your writing is a gift and I encourage you to keep moving forward with your book. You may be able to help others who have gone through-or will go through-the same ordeal as your family.
    Your faith is your rock and it is plain to see that it has helped support you. May the Lord continue to lift you up and carry you through each day. Patrick is in His hands now, healed and happy to be home with the Lord. Someday, hopefully a very long time from now, you will see him again.
    God Bless you and your daughter.

    Amy (Keffer) Raugh

  21. Julie,

    I suppose you could call me a friend of a friend..I had seen a call for prayer go out on FB, read your blog and have kept up every few weeks with it. I lost my dad to cancer a few years ago and know the unique challenges that come with the sorrow of losing them yet the joy you feel that they are released from their struggle and pain. I also have found myself a single mom (through divorce) and can appreciate the challenge of being the only one to deal with the nights, the tempers and the questions. I just wanted you to know that I find your faith and courage a great inspiration and I hope you continue to find comfort and joy in God's grace. Please know that though we do not know each other, you will stay on my mind and in my prayers in the months to come..

  22. stacy fletcher gunterApril 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    hey julie, i was just thinking about you last night lots. i am glad to hear you will be coming back to Durham! we'll look forward to seeing you here.

  23. Still praying for you both!

  24. Thanks for the posted update on wishes to you as you transition to NC! ~Sarah (JMU friend)

  25. I was wondering how things are going with you. Your writing is so exceptional... I'm glad you are writing a book. I don't care what it is about. You have a gift.

    I still pray for you all, and wish I could have made it there to meet you.

    Patrick Soehl

  26. Patrick- just thinking about you today. I tripped over your obituary and this blog last year through a friend of a friend. As you were so close to my age, your story and your family's touched me deeply. God bless you and I am sure you are looking down on your family and protecting them through this tough year. In Christ's name...Amen.


Thanks for your prayers!