Live Like You Are Dying

Many of my friends have heard the news, but in case you haven’t, my cancer has returned. We thought it had been beaten, but alas it is back. It is not super aggressive, but it is persistent. Especially problematic is that it popped up in the same area as before, which cannot be radiated again. I then entered a Mayo trial program with an experimental drug, but it didn’t work on me. So Mary Ann and I remain optimistic that my body will fight this cancer off, but like everyone else, no one knows how long they have left on this earth.

Here’s my take on it all. I’ve had an incredible life so far. I’ve always thought that I’d make 85 or older, based on my gene pool, while acknowledging that a speeding bus (or cancer) could change it all. My goal was to spoil a bunch of grandkids totally rotten and teach them all how to ski. If that doesn’t happen, I’m sure others will take my place. But living while I’m dying has its perks.

If you regularly follow my column, you know that I am a rocker and not generally a fan of country music. However Tim McGraw had a big hit called “Live Like You Were Dying”, which I’ll mimic here.

I had the fortune to be born into a great family. A great Irish family. I had every opportunity to be a kid. Growing up in Knoxville and then just outside of Atlanta, I was a free-range kid. I once, on a dare, ran up 70 flights of stairs at the Peachtree Plaza and then back down. I went to a Yes concert by myself at 16 years old. I suffered numerous concussions and broken bones, including the time I was knocked out at home plate in physical education. I graduated from high school without really trying, which sent me to Georgia Tech thinking I was smart. I wasn’t.

Tech taught me humility, but eventually I made the good Dean’s List instead of the bad one. I went skiing on the first Tech Ski Club outing. I went sky diving. I fell in love with MGBs, an affair that continues today. I was accepted into law school where I mastered the art of gab. I married my first wife and over the next twenty years, we had six incredible children, each one so distinct, challenging, smart, personable and funny that it is hard to believe they had the same parents. I had a couple of jobs out of law school, but my big break was clerking for Judges Buster McConnell and George Nunn. Buster became my mentor and I learned a lot, but mostly I learned not to be afraid of judges or the law.

I was appointed chief magistrate of Houston County, which became a springboard to being elected district attorney. From there I expanded my gift of gab to the point that I had more notoriety than most as I propounded the right of the people to take ownership of their justice system. I endured a messy public divorce but in the end, the struggles made me a far more considerate man and less likely to judge others. After 13 years, I resigned as DA and learned even more about liberty, justice and America as I expanded my circle of friends. I started a Facebook page called Houston County Carries Concealed, now with over 5,000 members who work together to spread the message about the Second Amendment and personal protection.

Along the way I feel in love with a beautiful Irish gal from Alabama. Together we have lived and learned that love is a beautiful blessing from God. Mary Ann has been my rock, my pillar of strength upon which I can anchor myself against the difficulties the cancer has wrought. She fought and kicked and insisted that I have the best treatment out there. We feel so blessed to have had Mayo on our side. We also have met some incredible local doctors too numerous to mention. Whatever happens, we know we gave it our best and that God has made our family better and stronger along the way.

I have travelled to over 40 ski resorts. I’ve journeyed to my beloved Ireland on several occasions. Lord willing, I will do more. I have plunged down mountain faces most of you would walk away from. I’ve stood up to oppression, indignity and racism, but I’m sure I


could have done more. I’ve loved my years as a reader in elementary school, and now that I’ve about lost my voice, my wife and I are beginning a Little Free Library in our neighborhood, one that I hope will continue after I’m gone. To me, there is nothing more important than teaching children to read.

I could regale you for hours with the various stunts, accomplishments, dangers and aspirations I have lived, but the above gives you a glimpse. I love the Lord Jesus for everything in my life. There isn’t a lot left on my list as I feel like I’ve lived a life worth living. There is not a heartache I regret, because it all worked to make me who I am today. And since I’m happy where I’m at, how can I be sad if it is over?

I’ll continue to write as long as I can. I’m not sure how long that
will be, but the fact you have let me into your homes and businesses for more than twenty-five years is humbling. Thank you for every kind word over the years. Thank you now for your prayers. But don’t pray for me to live a long life, pray for my family and that God’s will be done. That is all I need.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your life story.. May God bless your wonderful family and help in this time and give them peace.I will pray for you and let our mighty God show what he can do in people life. Thank you for your service in this Great Town of Warner Robins.
    Blessings to you!!!
    Bobby Harper


    1. Thank you for telling your story! I knew a lot about you but not everything! Praying for you as you continue this journey and our hearts and prayers are with you and your family!


  2. What an inspiration this was for me! I have seen you and your face in WR many times and appreciate your hard work and all you have given back to our community. What a blessing you are to your family and many others. What a legacy and testimony you share. Stay strong and keep trusting and seeking God..You are in my morning prayers.


  3. I am so very sad to hear this. I remember working with you while you were DA on the Houston Family Violence Prevention Council. My prayers go out for a speedy healing from this cancer.


    1. Thank you for sharing your story. You have encouraged me and many others. Blessings and I pray Jesus holds you in His precious arms. 🙏


  4. Kelly
    Reading this is making me feel melancholy. You have touched my life and my family’s life. I consider you a friend and a person I turn to for legal advice. I love you and your family. Prayers will continue…..may God give you and yours the peace that passes all understanding.


  5. Kelly, I am so sorry that I did not know you were sick. I would have liked to have been there for you the way you were from me. You probably don’t even remember but 20 years ago that I too had cancer. You were so kind to me during that very rough time of my life. Your help kept my family going, help me focus on fighting the cancer and not worrying about how we would live from one day to the next, and helped me rest assured that I would be able to return to the job I loved. I still love that job, I only left you for more money. Hahah! I just want you to know that I have never, and will never, forget all that you have done for me. I am here if there is anything I can do for you or your family. You are all in my prayers every day. I do believe in miracles. I was one, and my prayer is that you will be to. Please give your wife my phone number in case there’s anything that I can do for any of you. 478-953-8247. These are not just words. I truly mean that I will do whatever I can to help in any way.
    Grace and peace to you all
    Vicki Willis


  6. Life is measured in moments! Thank you for sharing experiences, wisdom, and reminders to live life to the fullest at every stage. Thoughts and prayers lifted for you and your family.


  7. You and Mary Ann are in my prayers as you continue fighting this beast called cancer. Praying for cures for all who suffers. Enjoy your writings.


  8. Mr Burke, I have never met you, but am grateful a friend shared this. I must let you know that I so enjoyed reading this article. Although it made me sad to know that you are living with a disease that may take your life at some point, it made me happy to read that you are living. Many are existimg without that knowledge. You see, I truly believe there is a distinct difference in living and existing. Unfortunately, most simply exist. I feel there truly is something to be said about the quality verses quantity argument. After my mom passed away last July, it made me think more on my own life and eventual death. It made me appreciate time and less of material things. I have always loved experiences over material things. Traveling and experiencing new things as well as places ranks at the top of my favorite things. Kudos to you for living life. Regardless or what life hands you, sounds like you have learned to find the positives and see the blessings. Some live unusually long lives and never learn that. Thank you for taking the time to enlighten so many and plant the seed of wisdom for finding a way to love each own’s life, even in a troubled time. You truly make a difference and that is triumph.


  9. Kelly you are more than any regular humble man you taught my children well how to be good godly children. You always welcomed them with a open heart and arms. They did grow up and they did exactly what you taught them why because I would be the bad one when the started to act out I would get my keys and put them in the car guess where they were going that’s right straight to you They got good real quick. I used this trick on one grandson after he was introduced to you at the stadium. You gave him a card had your little talk with him hes 19 now and still has that card in his wallet
    I pray he never uses it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you did for my family over the years. You are our hero. Prayers for your family xoxo


  10. A friend shared your amazing post with me and I realized that we live around the corner from you (Clayton and Taffie’s parents). We have plenty of children’s books for your neighborhood library if you’re interested. Sounds like a wonderful idea!


  11. What an inspiration you are to all of us..I am so glad I have had the pleasure to call you our friend..Praying for as you said for Gods will to be done in your life…praying for your family also..Thank You Kelly for sharing your story..😉


  12. Bless you for your courage and standing for your beliefs. Thank you for your contributing to the greater good and being a witness to God.


  13. Thanks for sharing your story My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Miracles happen everyday.


  14. Such inspirational reading. I met you when I managed Ole Times and love your attitude and your love for Jesus. I just found out last week that I have an illness that will eventually send me to see my God and I have the same feelings as you do about life after death. I’m convinced that if people knew what God had in store for us we might not look forward to dying but it would not be something to be afraid of. The day I saw and talked to you in Ole Times was the first meal you had after having your feeding tube removed. I admired your courage that day and do so even more now. I will be keeping you in my prayers and want to thank you for your service. God bless you.


  15. Mr. Burke you were the DA when Piccadilly got robbed. I actually waited on you at Sonnys a few years ago and had a chance to talk to you about the robbery. Thank you so much for all you did for Houston County. My thoughts and prayers go out to and your family.


  16. You are a wonderful human and a blessing. I still have the letter you sent me when I applied for a position with your office, it was very complimentary and I appreciated your words of encouragement. Sending prayers of comfort to you and your family. You are living out loud.


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