Kelly Clark

It’s hard to believe that this week marks two years since our friend and colleague, attorney Kelly Clark, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 56.

 

Two years. 24 months. 104 weeks.

 

730 days…

 

On some of those 730 days, even recently, the loss and the sadness have felt raw, like it all happened just days ago.

It’s impossible to capture any human’s spirit or essence with words – and that’s particularly true with Kelly.  Kelly was an extraordinary person. He was a teacher, a mentor and a friend to me.  To others, he was their advocate, their encourager, and their champion.  And the list goes on and on….

However they knew him, Kelly had a profound and lasting effect on many of the countless people he came in contact with over his 56 years. Since his death, we have received phone calls, letters, emails and cards from people all over the country (and some beyond) expressing their condolences and feelings of true loss.  These included not only his friends and family, but his former clients, colleagues, and adversaries (including attorneys he battled against at the courthouse).

To acknowledge that Kelly was extraordinary is not to say that he was perfect or without flaws. Kelly would have been the first to correct that notion.  He was a flawed human being like the rest of us;  but unlike many of us, Kelly strove to reflect honestly upon his shortcomings, to be vulnerable about them with others, and to demonstrate how to put aside shame and draw strength and healing from that process.  Kelly described it this way:

I am a deeply flawed and broken guy.  But, in spite of all that—or, more precisely, because of all that—I am a spiritual person, by which I mean that I see and understand the world and my life primarily in spiritual terms, brokenness and healing, death and resurrection, darkness and light.  Both my religious faith and my program of recovery from addiction teach me how to do this, and there is a lot to be said for it as a way of life.  Trying to live according to spiritual principles gives me hope and joy in the everyday, in family and friends, in sunsets and snowstorms.

~ Excerpt from “The Thing about White Horses: the Spiritual Dangers of Fighting Child Abuse.”

This approach to life was particularly influential in Kelly’s efforts to bring freedom from shame and the hope of recovery to two groups of people: victims of child abuse and those struggling with addiction. For these people especially, Kelly was a bona fide champion.

Those are big picture truths about Kelly from which we often draw strength and inspiration. Kelly Clark set a high standard in his commitment to advocating for the vulnerable that we at Crew Janci LLP strive to continue.

But, still, on other days, the finer lines in the memories about Kelly are harder to recall. For those of us who knew him, focusing only on his impressive accomplishments can make it feel like a lifetime ago that Kelly was here among us.  We can start to forget that we are part of the story — that we worked together to advance a movement of child protection, that the story isn’t finished, and we still have much work to do…

In those moments, I sometimes find myself recounting tiny details about Kelly …

Like the fact that he loved brownies, tootsie rolls, and chewy “orange slice” candies (the kind that come in 2-for-$1 clear cellophane bags in gas station minimarts); and that, otherwise, his taste in food left a lot to be desired.  For a long stretches, he seemed to live on oatmeal and the blackest of coffee.  And when he got tired of that routine, he would drag us to lunch at a particularly awful café near our office where, no matter what you ordered – the beef stew or the chow mien (the menu included both) – it all looked and tasted the same…

There’s the smell of cigars and golf-course-grass clippings that would sometimes trail his late arrival at the office on a summer Friday…

Or his well-worn brief case overflowing with Latin and Greek textbooks that he poured over most mornings, often before dawn, studying ancient words of wisdom from Scripture, church fathers, and philosophy (in their original languages)….

There’s the sheepish shrug and grin he would shoot our way — after exiting a meeting in which he was supposed to be terminating our representation of a client– because he had once again changed his mind and decided we would keep trying, even though the challenges looked daunting…

Or how he would greet me as “Rook” (short for “Rookie”) even after I had been working with him for nearly a decade…

Disjointed and random as they are, these are the types of details that help remind me that Kelly was and is more than just an inspiring story of a well-recognized champion for justice.  These details remind me that he was a real guy who really did work in the office next door. And that means that it really is possible for my colleagues and I to continue the story, to keep fighting the sometimes-disheartening battles to make kids around the world safer . . . and to win.

As Kelly put it:

Those of us who are privileged enough to do this work must also remember that it comes with a high responsibility to stay conscious and to stay humble. For we are all broken and capable of great evil, but we are also all children of God and capable of great love.  We have a daily decision as to which parts of our soul we bring to work each day. Much depends on our choice.

~ Excerpt from “The Thing about White Horses: the Spiritual Dangers of Fighting Child Abuse.”

To say that Kelly Clark was “special” sounds trite and cliché – but it’s true.  We continue to miss him. If you knew him, you’ll know what I mean. (If you didn’t know him, read his Christmas story here to get a sense of him.)

So, this week, we at Crew Janci LLP take a moment to pause and remember Kelly Clark: to celebrate his strengths and accomplishments; to appreciate what he taught us; and to allow his memory to encourage each of us to do our part to help others — one person at a time, one day at a time — to make the world a little better.

Peter Janci

About Peter Janci

Peter has represented more than one hundred victims of sexual abuse over nearly a decade.  ...