While this family seems to have so many John Kellys in its genealogy, it is actually the story of this John Kelly’s life that is the point behind my taking the time to write up so much of our Stevens family history in blog form. You see, this John Kelly Stevens—the family always called him, simply, Kelly—was the impetus for a story that someone else has being telling now, and has been sharing for the last ten years. The one who is telling this story, in his older brother’s memory, is my husband, who has discovered that, in sharing this story, he can turn tragedy into something redeeming that helps to turn lives around and, hopefully, avert further tragedy.
While Kelly’s story is not mine to tell, it has become my husband’s. Repeated every spring on the eve of grand, youthful celebrations like proms and graduations, it is a story that urges people to realize the irreplaceable place each of us holds in the lives of our family and friends. Hopefully, this story that has been used to impact so many lives will someday be preserved in book form so that others may benefit from it, too. It’s when we are willing to face the pain of sharing our difficult life memories that we can make a difference, and that is what Chris, with Kelly’s story, has been doing.
My husband, Chris, and Kelly only got to spend nine years of their lives together. Of course, part of the reason for that was the age difference between the two brothers. Kelly was nearly ten years old by the time Chris made his grand entrance as the youngest member of the family.
Chris always remembered Kelly through childhood’s eyes, for that’s the only way he ever knew him. Kelly was the big brother to follow after, to emulate—or to fight with when things didn’t go the way a little brother wanted. When Chris got to be old enough to be able to answer the phone, he remembers his puzzlement when Kelly’s grown-up friends from school would call the house, asking for “John.” What was that—a wrong number? No one at home, that he could remember, ever told him his brother’s full name. To Chris, big brother was always “Kelly.” Young eyes see things so simply.
There is a lot more to tell about this family’s history, and it will unfold all in its own good time. At this point in the narrative, though, upon mentioning Kelly’s birth during the time his father was stationed in England, it just seems appropriate to take the time to stop and reflect on his place in the family story.