About Kendra’s Journey
Learn more about Kendra & her journey below.
At the age of 5 1/2, Kendra Keliher was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis (NF1 – Tumors in the Nervous System). Beginning on August 19, 2005, she and her family had to navigate life with a long list of health challenges and surgeries as a result of the NF1. In November 2015, it was discovered that the NF1 had developed into an aggressive cancer (Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors) that was present throughout her body and spreading rapidly. Kendra participated in a clinical trial program towards the end, as options for treatment were limited. She passed away at home on January 5, 2017, at the age of 16 years old. This was also the evening of her brother James’ birthday. Kendra was taking her last earthly breath while her brother was blowing out the birthday candles representing his 14 years of life. Christ be the light! The life and death connection became ever more clear that evening being reminded of how life is a gift – one that will be returned to our Heavenly Father at the end of the earthly pilgrimage.
There were many moments of grace and we learned over the years that God’s grace is what carried her and our family in the midst of the pain. Kendra learned of sacrificial suffering and modeled it during her eleven-year journey. By uniting her emotions and physical pain with that of Jesus, she was able to offer up her suffering in order to help others. It is rare for someone so young to understand what it means to unite suffering with Christ’s suffering. “For I make up in the body what is lacking in Christ’s suffering. (Colossians 1:24)” This did not mean, however, that she didn’t pray for a miracle of healing. She did. Many people prayed for that miracle as well. She wrote about the fact that even though the miracle may not be the one that she wanted – the miracles that happened and are still happening are just as wonderful.
The greatest miracle is the resurrection. While the pain of physical death is so real – we know that there are greater things to come in the resurrection of the body – being that it is not merely flesh that existed during this time, however, a soul – as well. The soul never dies.
1 Corinthians 40-44
“There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another. The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.”
Kendra’s Prayer Life:
Kendra’s deep prayer life was evident from an early age. She loved children and frequently prayed for the safety of anonymous unborn babies. She also prayed for her siblings. When she was 2 1/2 years old she told us that she wanted her baby brother and that we should go get him. We were unaware at the time that we were expecting her brother, James.
When Kendra was about 5 years old, she prayed for a baby sister. When we became aware of this prayer we were concerned. I was concerned because I experienced hyperemesis with each pregnancy, a condition involving severe nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. However, God answered Kendra’s prayer and Elizabeth was born within the year.
Kendra’s passion was life! She loved children and had a special love for the unborn. She would pray for them and eventually had one of her dreams come true of attending the March For Life in Washington D.C. on January 22nd, 2015. Kendra was thrilled to be able to attend the March and while there had the opportunity to pray with a group of about 40 others for a woman who was pregnant and contemplating abortion. The woman decided to choose life for her baby! Kendra was so happy and called home to tell us. This was a significant experience in her life because when she was in third grade she was doing all that she was able to give the unborn a voice and pray for their lives. “The so-called right to abortion has portrayed the greatest of gifts–a child–as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience.” – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Kendra placed a crucifix in one of the holes of her scoliosis brace so that she could look at it while on her bed.
The Lord knows our wants and hears our prayers. Kendra was modeling this for us and we were learning how to recognize the way in which He works. Throughout Kendra’s life, there would be moments when it appeared as though she was reflecting on the weight of the cross while not wallowing in it or indulging in self-pity. Instead, she would connect her pain to Jesus and apply that pain to help others which became a prayer in and of itself. This was particularly true towards the end of her physical life here on earth. St. John Paul II once said “Don’t waste your suffering.” Kendra didn’t waste hers.
By suffering well, she was better able to accept the cross and she was able to help it work for the good of others. St Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” Growing ever closer to Jesus allowed her heart to become one with His while uniting suffering to that of Christ“.