How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

“How do you want to be remembered? The man that gave into his OCD? Or the man that fought and made a difference?” John Cleaver Kelly wrote these words in a journal he kept through high school, college, up to the point when OCD would take his life in March of 2011, just days before his birthday.

John was diagnosed with OCD when he was in 7th grade. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder that is manifested by repetitive actions or thought which are performed to relieve anxiety, but more often than not, these compulsive behaviors can have a negative effect on the life and mind of the person suffering, causing them to have fearful thoughts. 

On November 15th, the Active Minds chapter at Manhattanville College welcomed the JCK Foundation’s John Tessitore, a close friend of John Kelly’s, as well as John Kelly’s father Doctor Kelly.  Active Minds welcomed them into the East Library for a night of inspiration, hope, and love.

John Tessitore was a few years younger than John Kelly, their families were close, and the two became close friends. In the 7th grade John Tessitore was diagnosed with OCD as well, and John Kelly took him under his wing, becoming an OCD mentor for John.

John went into details about his OCD with the Manhattanville community that most people usually don’t want to tell their friends. He opened up to us about his struggles with suicidal thoughts, constantly needing to repeat behaviors because he felt as if he was going to hurt someone by not doing it correctly, but most of all John talked about hope. He reminded us that even on our darkest days we can be the light in someone else’s day, and we can be the hopeful few.

John talked a lot about how he remembered his friend John Kelly. He remembered John as the kindest person he knew. He described John as selfless, always lending a helping hand to his friends, and even those he didn’t know.  John Kelly’s OCD made him believe that he wasn’t doing enough for those around him, it made him believe that the smallest mistakes he made would negatively affect everyone he loved. Once he blamed himself for the death of a friends father, making odd connections that no one but himself would’ve ever gotten.  Even in the depths of his darkness, on the day of his suicide, he considered what his actions would do to others, leaving a note to whoever found him that there were toxic chemicals in his car, and to contact a hazmat team before entering the vehicle.

When John Tessitore talked about his experiences losing a friend to the same illness that tried to consume his own life, it was moving. The passion and drive behind the man could move rivers.  It was wonderful to talk with someone as open as John, and as passionate. He’s one of the rare people who truly cared about the people he met, whether it was for a minute or a week that he knew you, he truly cared.  “I want you to know you are not alone,” he told the audience numerous times, giving out his email at the end, encouraging everyone who wanted to to reach out to him, especially in their times of need.

The night concluded with Doctor Kelly talking about the JCK foundation. The JCK foundation hosts an annual softball game in honor of John Kelly, travel across the country telling John Kelly and John Tessitore stories, and most importantly, spreading hope.

If you’re interested in learning more about the JCK Foundation please check out their site below, and please consider donating to their cause!

If you’re interested in join the Active Minds Chapter at Manhattanville, please contact their advisor Melissa Boston at [email protected]