Without a Word

Without a Word is a riveting memoir that blends remarkable achievement with passion, sacrifice, love, pain, and human interest. It takes the reader into the lives of a celebrity couple, pro football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and his wife, Jill, to reveal the Kelly family’s private struggle and how eight years with their severely disabled, terminally ill son, Hunter, unfolded in a redemptive and transforming manner. The light of Hunter’s love through his brief and silent life shone into the shadowed corners of Jill and Jim’s lives, resulting in Jill’s believing that Jesus Christ was authentic, her learning to forgive Jim for past indiscretions, and finally resulting in Jim’s seeking and finding God. Lessons gleaned from Hunter’s life and death, and Jim and Jill’s struggle to save their marriage during tumultuous times, make this a compelling and inspiring read.

Intro Video

Why I Wrote “Without a Word”

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700 Club Interview

Excerpt from the Forward

Jim and Jill Kelly are some of the most courageous people we know. Their work through Hunter’s Hope on behalf of terminally ill children living with Krabbe disease is as legendary as Jim’s NFL career—and even tougher. Like the McGraws, the Kellys are all about the things that really matter in life: faith and family…

We were profoundly moved by the courage it took Jim and Jill to be so agonizingly honest. It is rare to find people willing to be vulnerable enough to bare their souls and open their lives to all of us so completely. Yet they would admit that it was Hunter’s courage that strengthened them, and his love that made them willing to risk loving deep enough to take us behind the closed doors of their marriage and family life…

Tim & Faith McGraw


“We know through our own experience of having a son with Autism, that challenges also present many blessings. We admire the fact that Jim and Jill have been willing to share both their struggles and successes with the world. This story is a tribute to Hunter James Kelly. Hunter’s short life transformed the Kelly family, and through the work of Hunter’s Hope, the foundation that bears his name, his life will touch countless other families. Reading this book was like watching a miracle unfold. ”

Dan & Claire Marino
Former Miami Dolphin and NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback

“Jim and Jill Kelly were always headed toward greatness. Who knew that a Hall of Fame career with the Buffalo Bills would be dwarfed by their son, Hunter? This is a story that refuses to detail a sadness that would seem only natural. Instead, it is an uplifting tale of courage, hope, and love. We are proud to call the Kelly family our friends. You will, too!”

Chris Berman
Sportscaster for ESPN and ABC Sports

“The story of the Kelly family is painful, but it is not a story of pain. It’s a story of redemption, grace, reconciliation, and the powerful activity of the work-all-things-for-good God. I found myself left without a word as I read it – humbled by the courage of Hunter, the love of his sisters, and the indescribable way that God demonstrated His love to Jim and Jill. Their story has served to enflame my faith, and it will yours as well.”

Dr. Jerry Gillis
Lead Pastor, The Chapel at CrossPoint, Buffalo, NY

“Every now and then you read a book that goes so deep it leaves you a different person when you’re done with it ─ or maybe I should say when it’s done with you. Without a Word is that book. It didn’t just challenge me, inspire me, or touch me: it changed me. Deeply human, Jill Kelly’s raw honesty draws you between the lines of her life with absolute abandon feeling things you didn’t know you could feel and seeing things you always wanted to believe were there. But even more overwhelming is the intensity and sheer reality of God’s love unleashed in the Kelly home beyond anything religious through a little boy who changed their lives, and mine ─ without a word. Closing the cover, all I can say is that this is not just a book; it’s more like an event or an experience. And reading it, I have never lived as deep.”

Rick Kern
Freelance Writer
Kern & Alexander Productions, LLC

“Jim and Jill must be commended for sharing this heartfelt story. Their bravery and courage is unsurpassable. This book has given us a different view of the Kellys. We always knew them as part of the extended football family, but now we see them as a family with real struggles…a family who used their faith in God and their love for one another to press on! We will forever look at them in a different light. The Kellys are amazing parents, but off the football field Hunter was the true warrior!”

Brett & Deanna Favre
Minnesota Vikings Quarterback

Without a Word is Jill Kelly’s moving personal account of the struggles and heartbreak of caring for and ultimately losing her terminally ill son. Yet because of Jill’s unceasing faith, she is able to experience faith in spite of fear, hope in the midst of deep despair, joy in the midst of intense suffering–and unexpected blessings in spite of loss. Her story is a powerful, real life testimony of how God used the short life of her only son, who never spoke a word, to forever change the hearts and lives of all who loved him. You too will be changed after reading this book. I was emotionally drained but inspired when I read Jill’s book. God’s timing was perfect. This wonderful book helped me to see my own ‘trials’ in a completely different light.”

Denise Jackson
Author of #1 New York Times Bestseller, “It’s All About Him”
Wife of Country Music Icon Alan Jackson

Without a Word was more than a book to my husband and I. It was an education on faith. We could say being personal friends with the Kelly family gave us a inspirational edge but we would be lying. This book takes you far beyond the confinements of friendship and even family. Jill Kelly embarks with you on her journey of love and heartache. The heartache that only a mother blessed with a terminally ill child can take you on, yet you remain inspired through her pain. Jill masterfully engages us with her words and is able to act as a literary surgeon of sorts. She performs the feat of opening your heart and then proceeds to place her innermost feelings right inside you. She then beautifully sews you back up so you’ll never lose the experience that the two of you just shared, nor feel pain from the wounds of her story. Needless to say, you will never be the same. These words have changed your heart forever. Jim and Jill Kelly unselfishly invite us all to have our hearts changed by Hunters precious life, to be devastated by his early departure and finally, to be restored by the faith he left us with.”

Thurman & Patti Thomas
NFL Hall of Fame Running Back

“When a disability — or in the Kelly’s case, a terminal illness — nearly rips apart a family, the last thing they expect is to be healed and strengthened by it. That’s what happened to Jim and Jill. Their powerful story of hope and courage will surely touch every couple, and they have their little son, Hunter, to thank for it. The book you hold in your hands is a real winner.”

Joni Eareckson Tada
JAF International Disability Center

“Jim and Jill Kelly have lived every family’s best sports dream and every parent’s worst nightmare. They’ve also faced every couple’s greatest challenge. In Without a Word Jim and Jill open wide the doors of their home and their hearts and invite the rest of us inside to share the joy of having Hunter, the heartbreak of losing him, and the beautiful healing God has brought to their lives.”

Nancy Guthrie
Author of Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow

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