Habit 5: Create Positivity

by Cameron McCallie
November 15, 2016

Negativity and divisiveness have been unfortunately difficult to ignore in recent memory. I dare not associate such forces with the name of one of the purest, gentlest souls that I’ve ever had the good fortune of calling a close friend. Rather, I wish to channel Kelly’s sparkling spirit to highlight what it means to create positivity. I confess; I feel a great deal of pressure writing something that is to be released on the anniversary of her passing. I’ve never been particularly eloquent, nor have I ever been good about expressing my emotions—certainly not in written form. But on to the ever-important question: How can we create positivity? I’m a big believer in starting small:

Smile at a stranger. Say something nice to him or her!
Tell someone that you are grateful for his or her presence in your life.
Engage in conversation with and LISTEN to someone that you disagree with.
Bring people together and forge new friendships.
Buy a coffee for the person behind you at your favorite coffee shop.

The ever-quotable Chris Hadfield, who you may know as the astronaut that brought us David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” FROM SPACE, says: “It is not the end goal that changes you, but the summed total of each of the small, daily decisions”. The few examples I’ve listed above are, of course, a very small subset of the infinite number of positive daily decisions we should all strive to make. I won’t lie—I fit the mold of “grumpy New Yorker” quite well. I tend to avoid eye contact, keep to myself, and get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Kelly… not so much. I can’t NOT associate Kelly with being an effulgence of positivity that brought everyone around her up. Even more staggering is that while Kelly excelled at the small bursts of goodness, she also devoted herself towards the long-term cause of social justice for people half a world away. Kelly possessed the rare combination of being both intellectually and emotionally mature far beyond her years — something that has been true ever since I’ve known her. I wish this was something that I had possessed when I had known her. While I spent most of high school perfecting the art of slaying virtual monsters, she was encouraging our classmates think about how to solve important and complex problems through her social justice club. While I was honing my skills as a Dance Dance Revolution master, she was pouring her heart and soul into writing about peace in Darfur, Sudan, and South Sudan. It is rare enough for someone to be so engrossed in the problems of those in distant places, but I could not begin to count the number of times Kelly made herself available to support those around her… myself included! Look no further than this many other blog posts here to see how she has deeply has influenced us all.

In my daily attempts to journal and purge the negative thoughts from my system, there is no person more emblematic of the positive energy than Kelly. Thus, every morning, I thought it would be appropriate to schedule a programmatically generated email as follows:

FROM: Myself
SUBJECT: Write about today! <Today’s date>
BODY: “Remember Kelly. Channel her in everything that you do, and both you and the world will be a better place.”

Kelly fought for justice with unrivaled passion—it is life’s cruelest irony that she, like my mother, was taken from us so abruptly by such an unjust disease. As with all things, however, there is a silver lining. In the words of the great Albus Dumbledore, “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” As Kelly’s great and eternal adventure continues, it brings me joy to think that she must be smiling at how profound her legacy is—how many people her spirit inspires, how much joy she brought to the world in such a short time, and how she will never, ever be forgotten.

Finally, I will end on a quote that I discovered in my own attempts to cultivate a more mindful and positive attitude. I’d like to think Kelly would have enjoyed this, too:

“May my enemies be well, happy, and peaceful; may no difficulties come to them; may no problem come to them; may they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.”
―Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

I miss you, Kelly. I can’t wait to come home and bring you flowers.

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Habit 6: Be a Force for Good in the World

by Irene Dorzback
November 15, 2016

It has taken longer than anticipated to put my thoughts into cyber-words, not because I lack the deep friendship with Kelly that others have expressed, but because I am, by nature and by profession, a “fixer,” and I could not fix Kelly’s cancer. I oversee the Office of Career Services for NYU School of Law—I create, counsel, console, make calls and I occasionally “cure” a problem—but not this time.

I knew Kelly as a performer in the NYU Law Revue show—I was simply an audience member who observed the wingspan of her arms and legs that stretched seemingly the width of the stage. “Who is this woman? I asked myself, and looked up her resume immediately upon getting home. “Kansas? No way—she is pure New York, comfortable in her own skin, dancing/singing with confidence, a public interest soul trapped in a private sector body—so NYU Law,” I mumbled. I know talent when I see it (a dancer, albeit 40 years and 40 pounds ago), and Kelly was the acting, singing, and dancing triple threat. I would return to see her perform again—her broad wingspan, clear voice, and crisp dance moves stayed with me.

I did not see Kelly after her 3L Law Revue and I did not know that she was ill until five days before her passing. I learned of her prognosis through her law firm partner, Michael Grohman, who asked if I knew anyone with a connection to Justice Ginsburg. Yes, of course, and I put the wheels in motion for Dean Morrison to get the note from RBG that he delivered to Kelly personally the day before she passed. Does the family need lodging? I can get arrange that. Host a memorial service? No problem. Photo montage and audio clip? Clueless—but I’ll find a millennial and get it done. Plan B I could control. Plan A I had not yet accepted.

Kelly’s memorial service was in a beautiful room, with a very high arced ceiling. As I moderated the service, I looked up and felt it was the only place large enough for Kelly’s wingspan to embrace everyone in the room—family and friends from Kansas, an extensive network of class and alumni soul mates, and Duane Morris colleagues. They shared memories of Kelly’s childhood, accounts of her outreach and inclusion of others, commitment to public service, messages from teachers in Kansas, praise for her legal skills, and testaments to her fortitude. We closed with Kelly’s performance of “Hungry Heart,” and photos that captured how fully she lived the years she had with us. I felt a spiritual presence in that space that could only have been Kelly (and Mark, at 65, I may now have to rethink religion—oy vey!).

Ultimately, Kelly is the “fixer.” That she penned a personal mission statement to guide and choreograph our actions is remarkable. Following Kelly’s ten principles will not only serve to enliven her spirit, but her blueprint for life will help to heal each of us, and help to heal the world—in the end, isn’t that quintessential Kelly?

Let us all live “The Kelly Way.”

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Habit 10: Spread Love to Everyone

by Michael Grohman
November 14, 2016

I didn’t actually know Kelly that well.  I didn’t know Kelly that long.  That did not stop Kelly from leaving an indelible impression on me that I will never forget.  While Kelly passed away a year ago, there has not been a day when I have not thought about her and how she spent her life simply bringing out the best in everyone else.

Among the moments that I think about most frequently took place last October 27th, her last day at work.  On that day, she found out she passed the New York bar, her Royals beat my Mets in game one of the World Series and the biography of Justice Ginsburg came out.  Knowing her love of Notorious RBG, I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy for her and for her first year colleagues, Stephanie and Phil, not knowing that her lyrics were contained in an appendix.  When I handed her the book, she opened the book directly to the page containing her lyrics, without really looking.  I will never forget her wry expression when she showed me.

So much has been said and written about Kelly over the past year that I feel there is little more I can retrospectively say at this point.  Listening to Justice Tom’s remarks were surreal.  Kelly even made an impression on the court.

What I can confirm is that Kelly will live on in my heart and in the hearts of everyone at Duane Morris.  Every time we think about doing good for others, we will think of Kelly.  Every time we think we are having a bad day, we will think about Kelly to give us perspective.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my affection and appreciation for Jimmie, Mark, Clay and the entire Cosby family.  Maybe Kelly even had something to do with Clay attending my other alma mater, Brooklyn Law School.  Maybe she didn’t realize that I would continue to stay in regular touch with her family, doing our part to make sure so many more learn about Kelly’s life and what mattered to her, so it can matter to everyone else.

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Habit 9: Be in the Moment

by Beth Gavin
November 14, 2016

As I sit down to write this, it is November 9th, 2016.  Yesterday, our country held its first presidential election in over 50 years in which voters took to the polls without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.  As I sit here, I have no idea to what extent that may or may not have affected what happened in the election.  But it feels appropriate to reflect on how it may have here, because it was the gutting of the Voting Rights Act that formed the backdrop to the summer that I met Kelly.

It was June 2013, and Kelly and I were just a few weeks into our time as legal interns at the Global Justice Center when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg walked out to the bench, wearing her now-infamous embellished jabot reserved solely for disagreement, and delivered her scathing dissent in Shelby County v. Holder.  “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA,” she admonished.  This, and other fiery one liners, about throwing away umbrellas during rainstorms and the past being prologue, caught the attention of lawyers-in-training like Kelly and me.  Justice Ginsburg was closing her record-breaking term of reading dissents from the bench, quickly her “Notorious” title, and progressives and advocates were paying attention.  Progressive millennials wrangled their anger in the way they do best and before we knew it, 80 year-old, 5′ 1″, Jewish grandmother RBG had exploded into an online pop culture phenomenon.  Shana, Kelly’s classmate at NYU, created her Notorious RBG tumblr and “Notorious RBG” t-shirts were being sold everywhere. Kelly and I, angry about what we fundamentally felt was the destruction of vital protections that progressives and advocates before us had worked so hard to achieve, each wanted one.

We agreed to wear our shirts to work on the same day.  Upon seeing Kelly and me at the office, Janet Benshoof, President of GJC, immediately suggested we parody a Notorious B.I.G. song to honor our revered Justice.  Kelly and I initially laughed at the suggestion but Janet doubled down.  “I’m serious.  Do it and I’ll send it to her. I have her address.”

Kelly, Mat, and I spent the next work day rewriting the lyrics to “Juicy.”  We then recorded the song and, along with the rest of the GJC staff, created a music video.  “I feel so goofy!” Kelly exclaimed in between takes.  She blushed and giggled at herself as she stretched out on our office couch that was draped in gold lamé for the occasion (still not sure how or why our boss Akila happened to have gold lamé handy).  But once the camera was rolling she shed her pride and belted out the chorus of our song.

“I love it!” Justice Ginsburg exclaimed in an email two months later.  “Crew really did their homework.” The video was now on Youtube and had accumulated thousands of views, though, in all likelihood, most were from my dad.

Kelly and I spent the next two years bonding over our love for RBG (and our evil feminist agenda in general.)  We sent each other articles, attended RBG events, and spent multiple happy hours gushing over our icon and the efforts of those like her, and discussing how much more work remained for equality and justice advocates.

In late October 2015, Kelly and I planned to attend the release party for Shana’s new book, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”  A portion of our lyrics had been included in the book, and Kelly had just found out she passed the New York bar exam.  It was a day of good things. But also, Kelly was in the height of her radiation treatment, and she was tired.  I had told Kelly if she didn’t feel good she should stay home and get some rest.  But that was not an option for Kelly.  When Kelly arrived, I watched her cheer as Shana took the stage, rooting for her fellow progressive advocate and RBG fan.  She enthusiastically introduced me to her many NYU students classmates who were in attendance, and excitedly told a friend about the new immunotherapy treatment she was about to start that week.  Kelly fluttered with optimistic energy.  I watched her in awe.  Life was trying to kick Kelly’s ass and Kelly was kicking the shit out of it right back.  Despite all the time Kelly and I had spent discussing why she looked up to RBG—both as an advocate and as a cancer-survivor—as far as I was concerned, the hero in the room was Kelly.

The day before Kelly died, the dean of NYU law school visited Kelly in the hospital to personally deliver a hand-written letter from RBG herself.  “Thinking of my favorite rapper with appreciation and affection,” she wrote.  The photo of Kelly reading Justice Ginsburg’s words brought me to tears.  I knew how much that moment must have meant to Kelly, and my heart was bursting with pride and joy for her.

It is no secret that Kelly was passionate and firmly believed in the fundamental right to equality, and she was dogged in her determination to pursue this throughout her life.  But what truly made Kelly unique was the grace and love with which she approached her efforts.  Kelly was a compassionate champion, treating everyone around her with an unbelievable amount of civility and dignity, no matter who you were or what you believed.  No exceptions.  Kelly would fight you with kindness, and change your heart.  That takes a big person, but that’s who Kelly was.  When Kelly said she wanted to be a force for good in the world, she meant it.  She lived it.

Today, now almost a year since Kelly’s death, the day after an excruciating election that has left so many of us wondering where all of the efforts for equality stand, Justice Ginsburg walked out to the bench wearing her infamous “dissent” jabot.  The Supreme Court wasn’t scheduled to deliver any opinions today.

Kelly would know how to channel our disappointment and move forward in a such a way that we can be a force for good. But something tells me that in the meantime, Kelly is right here with us, very strongly dissenting too.

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Habit 9: Be in the Moment

by Rohini Chakravarthy
November 13, 2016

In a world that revolves around preparing for the future, how do we learn to be in the moment?

21 years of education have now come down to 182 days.  182 days from now, I will add the most humbling, yet terrifying letters to my name…the infamous M.D.  I think it is safe to say that I am a pretty goal oriented person.  I would not have come this far without the years of obsessive planning, diligent studying, and tenacity.  However, I struggle with taking time to enjoy the smaller day to day moments around me.  But Kelly was able to do this with such grace under every circumstance.  She had her eye on the future but was always able to live in the present.  To master this perfect balance something I continue to strive for each day.

I always felt a special connection to Kelly because we both continued our education to pursue professional degrees.  She understood what it meant to make sacrifices for our careers.  And she was always there with plenty of words of wisdom when the stress of school was getting to be just a little too much.  I remember confiding in Kelly when I was originally waitlisted for medical school.  She comforted me through my disappointment but made sure to remind me to not worry so much about the future and focus on the present.  She told me to appreciate my successes thus far and just try to make the most of each day.  The rest will work itself out.  She said the little moments are what I will remember 20 years from now.  I know very well to never doubt Kelly, and here I am getting ready to graduate as a doctor.  Kelly has always been wise beyond her years.  She was able to learn to be in the moment as life was happening around her.  To have grasped such a concept and applied it to her own life is to be commended.

It is all too easy get caught up in trying to reach goals and get to the next step, that we forget to slow down and soak in the small moments that make up our lives.  Learning to be in the moment lets us live a purposeful life without regrets.  It allows us to clear our mind of trivial stresses and focus on our own well-being.  We are great at planning our lives, but we need to learn to actually live.  Years from now, I won’t remember the stress of studying for tests, but I will remember the very normal Sunday afternoon coffee date Kelly and I had in August of 2015- unknowingly the last time I would ever see my dear friend.

I hope we can all strive to actually live our lives rather than just plan them.  Take a moment to enjoy that warm cup of coffee in the morning before tackling the day.  Take a break from the “to do” lists for a day and do something fun for yourself.  Wake up on Saturday morning to watch the first snowfall of the year blanket the earth.  If we can live by Kelly’s virtues, we can have the same rich, fulfilling life she had.

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Habit 2: Be Compassionate

by Micah Melia
November 13, 2016 

In August of 2015, Kelly wrote the blog post, “Life Isn’t Fair”.  In the post, she processed her melanoma diagnosis in the context of the privileges she had been afforded in the other areas of her life.

Much like Kelly, I have been afforded so much privilege. I have grown up white, upper-middle class, heterosexual, cis-gendered, able-bodied, Christian, and in the United States.  Life isn’t fair, but I am on the receiving end.  When Kelly died, it felt at first like that changed.  Something wasn’t fair, and this time I got the short end of the stick.  In the wake of her death, I sat with similar questions to what that Kelly posed on her blog.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate, privileged, had everything handed to me. I’ve never had to go through anything very difficult. Does that make this less fair, because I’m less equipped to handle adversity? Does it make it more fair because I’ve had everything else so easy?”

Even as my mind whirred with these thoughts, I had the wisdom Kelly shared just after that paragraph.  She knew that wrestling with how life is or isn’t fair wasn’t the right approach.

Cancer isn’t fair. Neither is it fair that people, children and adults, are murdered for being black. Murdered for being trans. Murdered for being gay. Terrorized for no good reason because some privileged person has decided they are inexplicably less than humanLife isn’t fair, and to get caught up in the unfairness of my diagnosis is to ignore what happens around me every day.”

I have tried to apply that same sentiment in grief.  Losing Kelly has been hard. It’s still hard.  But in the year since Kelly’s death, I have been overwhelmed by the number of people around me that are also struggling with loss or the fear and sadness that come with a cancer diagnosis of a loved one.  I just had to start paying attention and caring more deeply for the people around me.

I recognized this first in the week after Kelly’s funeral.  I returned to a tutoring program I volunteer with weekly during the school year.  My tutee, Alex*, came to tutoring out of sorts. After some coaxing, she revealed that her cousin had been shot and killed.  As she found the words to share this with me, tears rolled down her cheeks.  Soon she stopped talking and we sat together while she cried.

I knew how to sit with Alex and feel the pain of loss that night.  Alex reminded me that I wasn’t alone in this experience.  But even in our mutual grief, there were stark differences in the losses we suffered.  Alex is a ten year-old, African American child.  Her cousin was murdered.  As I walk through the world with white skin, I will never know the pain and fear that Alex shared with me at tutoring that night.

It is not a coincidence that Alex and I have markedly different childhoods. African American children are more likely than white children to live in poverty and less likely to have a mother with a college degree.  These differences translate into real educational and health disparities.  Despite living in the same nation, African American and white children face drastically unequal realities—the same amount of effort does not yield the same opportunities.  That isn’t fair.

I don’t always act in a way that recognizes and works towards rectifying these discrepancies.  It is a goal I strive towards, to show compassion for the struggles of others. I am going to have to work at it each day.

Kelly’s words are on the bulletin board of my office.  For me, they are a prompt each morning to be more compassionate than I was the day before.  Her mission statement challenges us all to do the same.

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Habit 3: Give to Others

by Brian Israel
November 11, 2016

I’ve been struggling with writing this post for too long and frankly, it’s much overdue. Literally. This was due over a week ago, and I put it off, and then I put it off more. I suppose the primary reason for this is fear. Not long ago, I remember speaking with a friend of mine who happened to be a teacher. This friend was up late on the internet and as I asked what he was doing, he mentioned that he was writing a letter of recommendation for a student and that it was stressing him out. The reason it was stressing him out was because he thought there was no way whatsoever that he could encapsulate how brilliant this kid he was writing a letter for was, and how if the readers at Harvard, or Yale, or wherever this letter was being circulated didn’t understand that, it was his fault. That’s how I feel now. I fear, and for very good reason, that I can never encapsulate in a writing how incredible Kelly Beth Cosby was. How incredible she is. Kelly made my life better, and to be blunt, she made me better.

At Notre Dame, where I attended law school, there is a small cave full of candles called The Grotto. The worst part though, is that much of the beauty of the Grotto came from the flickers of the flames and candles within it, unfortunately, no still photo can capture this. To describe this place as beautiful would be about the equivalent of calling New York City a shanty town, or Michael Jordan “decent at basketball.” It does it no justice. For that reason, I’ve never shown anybody who hasn’t already seen it a picture of The Grotto, I don’t want them to be stuck with this idea that it’s only as good as can be captured in a given photo. It’s the same way with Kelly.  Unless you’ve met her, you don’t know how amazing she is, and I don’t want to be the one that gives you a much more mild description.  Perhaps, however, The Grotto is an apt metaphor for Kelly, because much of her amazing beauty can’t simply be captured from a writing, because it was and is in the form of a flame within her soul. A flame, that thanks to the Cosbys has been articulated into a number of “be the light habits.”

With that being said, here’s a meager attempt to honor Kelly; it starts a long time ago.

When I was younger, I was an opie-dopey little kid; many would suggest that I still am still opie-dopey, but that’s another story for another day. In my gawky youth, I got bullied; as many people know, middle school children are some of the worst people on the planet. (Disclaimer: Kelly would not approve of that sentence). As a kid, I got picked on for number of reasons, chief of which, I believe involved cooties. Looking back, it’s actually amazing how much grief this fictional ailment caused me, but that was okay, because like most kids going through my struggle, my parents gave me the cliché advice that “It’ll get better when you’re older.” So, I waited until I got older, hoping that one day, I’d find happiness, and people who accepted me. So, I spent my middle school years biding my time until high school and waiting for that promise to come true.

Fast forward to 2004. I enter high school. I didn’t know a lot of people going into high school, but one of the first to greet me was Kelly. To try to describe Kelly briefly, she’s essentially what you get when you combine Audrey Hepburn, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Ellen DeGeneres after she’s taken a couple shots of NyQuil (note: this reference to Nyquil is really less of a commentary on Kelly and more of a commentary on Ellen’s energy…I digress). Upon meeting Kelly, I actually had to ask somebody near me if she went to the same feeder school as me, because she just started talking to me like we had already been best friends for years. Kelly very possibly could have been my first friend in high school, and she was always there for me. If I needed a kind word, she gave it to me; If I needed a hug, she embraced me; if I needed a reality check…she was there for me.  If you were trying to cast a “John Hughes Coming of Age Film,” and were looking for somebody to portray the high school best friend, Kelly Cosby is literally the image that comes to mind.

As high school went on, I started making friends and finally felt like I fit in in a way that I never really had before. Unfortunately, at that point, I had to go off to college. I attended Creighton University, and during my first year there, I honestly hated it. I wanted to transfer, and I wanted to leave; I felt like I was losing every single one of my friends back home, friends I had worked so hard to get. It’s hard to really articulate how a kid feels when they spend their middle school years feeling like an outsider, then four years feeling like somebody on the inside, and then feeling like that’s been torn from you. It sucks. I wanted to be with my friends. I had decided to transfer and had filled out applications to do so. Not long after, I got a phone call from Kelly inviting me to go to the KU/OU game in Oklahoma with her and a few other friends. I jumped at the chance (before I even realized these were front row tickets). This may not seem like the biggest deal now, but for me then, it was this act of kindness that convinced me it was okay to be away from my friends, and that I wouldn’t and wasn’t losing them. Kelly, in large part, is why I never transferred from Creighton, and in larger part is why I am where I am now.

That’s who Kelly was. For all I know, she may have not thought twice about that gameday in the fall of 2008, but to me, that changed my life. That’s kind of Kelly’s game though; she changed, and continues to change, lives without even thinking twice about it. Kelly gave me hope that I could get through college and confidence to stay at the institution that gave me the passion to serve others, leading to my year of service, my attendance at Notre Dame Law School, and ultimately making me the lawyer that I am today; Kelly gave me that.

As an aside, and it may be worth noting that until this moment, I’ve only shared the following with one other person: On the morning of November 15th, prior to hearing of Kelly’s death, or even that she was sick again, I thought, “I should really text Kelly and tell her how much she means to me.” Unfortunately, I got busy, and I didn’t. I’ve just recently gotten over that, but that’s another thing Kelly has given me. I now tell my friends, as frequently, and as often as I can, no matter how busy I think that I am, how much they mean to me. My life is better now that I do this, much like it’s better for having had Kelly in it.

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Habit 7: Keep Promises to Myself and Others

by Megan Adams
November 11, 2016

Like anything else, grief affects each of us in different ways. For me, coping with the loss of Kelly has given me what seems to be a form of spiritual vertigo. Not only has her loss catapulted me back in time, but it has also inspired me to look far into the future, much further than I’ve been able to in recent years in fact. Between all the looking back and all the looking forward, I’ve found clarity, and perhaps even some peace, that I can only attribute to Kelly. And in this journey, her mandate to “keep promises to myself and others” has been my north star.

I’ll start by going backwards. Despite attending high school with Kelly, we didn’t get close until college. She was the decorated, bubbly choir star and I was the girl that never left the debate room. The common thread was our desire to leave Kansas and one day attend law school to help make the world a better place.

Not achieving the first of those wishes ended up being one of the best things to happen to the both of us. After a light dose of mutual commiseration, we decided to live together in the scholarship hall at KU that we had both been accepted into. Looking back over our lengthy Facebook messages from that summer before college is such a treasure, and I dearly miss the time when our biggest stresses were what color rug to get and whether or not we need a whiteboard (we didn’t).

We spent those first few weeks gushing about how much we loved our classes, debating about the 2008 election, and excitedly signing up for every pre-law and social justice organization KU had to offer. Even then, I could tell Kelly would leave a real mark on me. She had a unique ability to bring up especially controversial topics (for Kansas), such as the need to end capital punishment or protect LGBT families’ ability to adopt, without ever offending anyone. Together, we started college in this shared flurry of all-consuming idealism and soaring ambition. That never faded for Kelly… ever.

Eventually, the newness wore off and both Kelly and I began to encounter the realities of college: over-caffeination, exhaustion, and the allure of new directions. While Kelly continued to diligently attend pre-law meetings, absorb every LSAT material, and meet with her advisors, I veered off the path we had collectively attached ourselves to only months earlier. Along the way, our friendship began to fade as we went our own directions. Occasionally, we’d have classes together, coffee dates to catch up, or just write joint op-eds in the student newspaper as a way of reconnecting. As we both left Kansas, we tried our best to keep in touch and I shamelessly kept up with her every move in life out of awe and admiration.

Fast forward to today. Losing Kelly has made the arc of her life all the more clear to me. This was a girl that had an unshakeable determination to follow through on the goals she set for herself and the obligations she felt she had for those around her. Whatever challenges she faced – moving, break-ups, hard classes, incredible losses – the goals that she so diligently journaled about every night that first year of college remained as her guiding lights.

The strength that shined from her very core is deep on my mind these days. As I think about my next professional steps and what I want my soon-to-be marriage to look like, I crave for the strength and follow-through that Kelly had in all aspects of her life.

Especially as we head into the next four years, I feel the need to do what Kelly did in her blog, in her journal, and in her daily life: take stock of what matters to me most, come up with an action plan for how I am going to protect those values, and then make promises to myself and others.

Like I said, the past year has been a dizzying back and forth of reliving early college and then assessing where I stand now. Leave it to Kelly to have these incredible powers even after she is no longer with us.

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Habit 1: Do Everything With Love

by Samantha Steinmetz
November 10, 2016

“I’ve never felt myself to be a particularly good writer. I often joke that’s why I’m an actor—the words are already given to me. I just fill in the spaces.

Kelly was alive for 25 years and I knew her for about 10 of those years. I loved her more than I can say. And still do. To say Kelly did everything with love would be a huge understatement. Kelly was love.

Kelly’s whole family was love. They have taken me in and treated me like a daughter and I will always and forever consider the Cosbys a second family.

Anyone who knew Kelly knew how full of love she was. She was everyone’s biggest champion. She saw every play of mine (three, four and sometimes five times) and would always wait for me in the theatre lobby and throw her arms around me as soon as I emerged from the dressing room, immediately showering me with praise and love. I remember one day, I was understudying an actress in an off-Broadway production of Saint Joan and found out I was going on thirty minutes before the show started. I texted Kelly with the information and low and behold, she was at the theatre with a ticket in hand ten minutes before curtain. She did all of this, mind you, while being a grad student at NYU.

Kelly and I did many shows together in high school- often playing the mothers of the other characters (I guess we had a “mature” thing going on). We bonded in our rehearsals and cast parties. We would drive each other to call time for our shows and sing show tunes in my Chevy Malibu (which I so appropriately named Liza Minelli, Liza for short) for hours. We reconnected when Kelly moved to New York to go to law school at NYU. I was always so proud of her. I would introduce her to everyone as “my amazing friend who was going to law school to change the world” and I really meant it too. We were each other’s biggest fans.

I chose this prompt because Kelly absolutely did everything with love. She treated everybody with love. She lived life with unprecedented, unparalleled love.

Especially in this time of fear of darkness in our country, do everything with love. Treat everyone with love. Live life with unprecedented, unparalleled love.

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Habit 8: Appreciate Life

by Anna Nelson
November 9, 2016

“I know it doesn’t seem that way, but maybe it’s the perfect day.”
–Ron Sexsmith, “Gold in Them Hills”

Much of the beauty of the Be The Light habits that Kelly crafted is their combined simplicity and difficulty. “Appreciate life”—it seems so obvious that we should find a way to be grateful for each day and for each new experience, and yet so many people fail to do exactly that.

Kelly was not one of those people.

Living with Kelly while we were both students at KU taught me one lesson very quickly: Kelly Cosby could pack more into one week than eight other average human beings put together, and she could do it with a frenetic sort of grace that only she seemed to possess.  She somehow juggled a daunting schedule and an impossible number of other activities while still managing to be the best kind of friend to everyone.  Unlike so many others, Kelly seemed to always be able to appreciate the moment, even if she was dashing from one student organization meeting to the next, and she always had time for the people she loved.  Always.

For Kelly, appreciating life was synonymous with appreciating others. Sure, her schedule was busy and she found great joy in the meaning of her academic, professional, and other pursuits, but her deepest joy clearly came from being with, helping, supporting, and interacting with others.  Her interest in appreciating life allowed her to appreciate the lives of others in the purest of ways – when something good happened to someone she loved, she celebrated if it had happened to her, too. I admire so much about Kelly, but that genuine selflessness that allowed her to be the champion of everyone she knew and loved really blew me away.  She never seemed jealous of others’ opportunities or experiences.  She never seemed inconvenienced by what others asked of her or wanted her to do. She was just happy to be a part of their lives. She appreciated them.

I felt this many times in my friendship with Kelly, probably most of all when I got married.  Kelly was also good friends with my husband, Jeremy, since we were dating while Kelly and I lived together at KU, and when I texted her to tell her that we were engaged, I could feel her excitement radiate all the way from New York City. I worried that Kelly may not be able to take the time out of her busy law school schedule to attend our wedding in KC. I shouldn’t have worried, of course—she told me so sincerely how much she loved both of us and how she wouldn’t miss it. She took time away from law school and her busy schedule to be there for us.

When I think back to walking down the aisle, I remember a sea of smiling faces pointed in my direction, but you can probably guess that Kelly’s stood out among the rest. I remember making eye contact with her and I remember her beaming at me in the way that only Kelly really could, her eyes bright and happy.

She felt the beauty of that moment, of my journey down the aisle on my wedding day, right along with me.

In the spring of 2015, Jeremy and I were traveling to the East Coast and planned to spend a few days in NYC at the end of May.  When I texted Kelly and asked if we could spend a day with her, I received the usual enthusiastic reply—“YES PLEASE COME TO NEW YORK I’M SO EXCITED I WILL BE SURE THAT I’M FREE THAT DAY I LOVE YOU GUYS SO MUCH YOU ARE MY FAVORITE PEOPLE I CAN SHOW YOU SO MANY WONDERFUL PLACES TO EAT YAYYYYYYYY!!!”

Or, you know, something along those lines.

But she’d been sick for the past few weeks, and when we arrived, we had to change our plans. She had gone to the doctor and she already knew that bad news was waiting for her, that her cancer had probably returned. Instead of a day of adventuring, we sat in Washington Square Park with Kelly and her lovely mother and then we had gelato together around the block. We talked about Mad Men and traveling and our younger brothers, and everything felt pretty normal.

Except it wasn’t, of course.  The next few days changed everything for Kelly.

But that was who Kelly was.  Yes, she was always so positive and optimistic about her illness, but I can’t even imagine how she was feeling that afternoon, glancing at her phone and wondering if it was about to ring and deliver terrible news. In spite of all of that, though, she hugged us fiercely and laughed and chatted with us like she always did, eager to hear about what was new in our lives. So many people would have just told us that they didn’t feel up to socializing that day.  Not Kelly.  She took the opportunity to spend time with us, in what would ultimately be the second-to-last time we ever saw her.  She let us make another precious memory from a short afternoon in the park, and she chose to appreciate her time with us rather than waste the day worrying about the bad news looming on the horizon.

This was true again when we saw her that August, when she was sicker, really, but feeling pretty good.  I marveled at how normal she seemed, sitting there grinning at us in her Royals t-shirt. She confidently told us about her cancer treatments with her usual energy and enthusiasm, and that was that – the evening was about the three of us having fun together, not her illness.

I never imagined for one second that I would never see her again.  Her positivity seemed to make that an impossibility.

Now, as we remember her, I marvel at just how much Kelly continued to appreciate her own life and the lives of others, even when it would have been so easy for her to be angry and bitter and hurt by the way her body betrayed her.  That wasn’t her nature, of course, and through it all, she was an example to all of us.  She showed us how even in the worst of circumstances, there are people to be loved and moments to be enjoyed.

I teach high school English, and my juniors recently read an excerpt of “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau.  In case you haven’t brushed up on your Transcendentalist philosophy lately, Thoreau was a big fan of appreciating life. He writes in “Walden” that he “wished to live deliberately … and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

Kelly did this.  She did all of these things even when she could have easily ‘practiced resignation’ or lost sight of the positive—even when her world was darkening, she shone brightly.

So here I am, my life continuing after Kelly’s, and I’m trying to learn from her example.  I chose to write about this Be the Light Habit because, as much as I believe in it, this is something that can be difficult to for me. When I face big changes or challenges, I can suffer from pretty severe anxiety. When I tackle my own busy schedule, I do so by obsessively planning. I’m not lying when I say that I know exactly how many papers I need to grade each day for the rest of the semester to be sure I stay on top of everything at work. I write in my planner like my life depends on it. I get caught up in setting goals for myself and trying to prepare and calculate and predict what is coming as if it all were some sort of certainty.

In pursuit of the Next Big Thing, I forget to appreciate the quiet moments of right now.

I know I’m not alone in this. We can all look to Kelly as a model.  Losing her has been a painful lesson in reaching out to others now, not waiting because today we just feel too busy.  For the rest of my life, I will wish that I had devoted more of the past six years of my life to Kelly. Living halfway across the country from each other made it hard to see her more than a few times a year, but I will never stop telling myself that I should have called her more.  I shouldn’t have worried that she was maybe too busy for me. This is true for all of my friendships, though – for all of the friends I have scattered across the country today. I need to call them more often, need to plan the time to connect with them in my busy schedule.  For all the goals I set for myself, nothing makes me feel more fulfilled than time with the people I love. I need to put the same level of energy that I put into tackling my daily to-do list into planning to appreciate life and the lives of others. Kelly understood this clearly: the best way to appreciate life is to appreciate the wonderful people who fill my days.

Beyond appreciating others, I’m committing myself to appreciating my routine and busy days.  My dear friend Melanie recently introduced me to the movie About Time (if you haven’t seen it, you are missing out) – the entire premise of the film is that each day deserves to be remembered and treasured, even if it feels tedious or routine.  We can so easily miss the beauty of today by only seeking the reward of tomorrow. I’m trying, though. When I feel too tired to schedule plans with friends after a long day of teaching, I will think of Kelly. I will remember how she was never too busy for anyone, and I will see all of the people that she loved so deeply and that loved her so much in return that stand as a testament to her ability to spend her time and energy on things that mattered deeply to her.  Appreciating life is more than stopping to smell the roses.  It’s building a web of connectedness; it’s showing the people that you see everyday that they are appreciated and worthwhile and loved. It’s seizing opportunities in your own life, but it’s also celebrating those opportunities as they come to the ones you love. I’m confident that if we all try to do this a little more often, we will make Kelly proud.

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