Unearned Chocolate Bars

100 Grand candy bar, broken in half - photo by Evan-Amos, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Day 100 after a transplant is a big milestone. It is the day the doctors trust the transplant won’t be rejected. It is the day the patient stops needing 24/7 care. For some, it is the day they get to go home from the hospital. It feels like resurrection. I celebrated my 100th day by getting bags and bags of 100 Grand mini chocolate bars and adding a label to each: “100 Grand Days to be alive and beating cancer!” My plan was to give them out to all my medical team and staff. But then something happened that I didn’t expect.

I had extra bags of labeled chocolate bars, and I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I started handing them out to total strangers, saying, “This is for you, because I am alive today.”

I gave them to people filling up their cars with gas and the convenience-store attendant. I gave them to pedestrians waiting on the corner to cross the street. I gave them to dog-walkers and a bunch of guys working on a pothole. I felt like Snoopy as the Easter Beagle just tossing Easter eggs everywhere. At least some of my personal joy was being shared with these strangers and put a smile on their faces. I didn’t want to convert them to anything or ask for donations. And, maybe, for a split second, they would be reminded of that joy of being alive themselves, enjoy a good chocolate bar, and be grateful to be alive that day too.

Most people looked shocked or confused as I thrust a completely unearned chocolate bar into their hands. Some people read the label and shared their experiences with cancer, and I knew they were pulling for me. Others just smiled and said, “Congratulations,” or, “Thanks.” Still others instantly said, “No,” to be given anything by a stranger—fearful perhaps of what I wanted to get out of them. I went through 150 chocolate bars that day.

That evening in doing my Examen, several revelations hit me. First was how much joy it gave me to give out the candy—to give freely just a little something to make another person’s day. Could I somehow do that every day? Why didn’t I? Giving is such an easy hit of consolation.

Second was that this is how Christ must feel eagerly giving away love and grace completely unearned to anyone who will take it. And yet there are some whose hearts are closed even to a free chocolate bar, let alone love and grace that require relationship.

Third was the phrase, “This is for you, because I’m alive today.” It popped into my head as the easiest way to explain why strangers were getting chocolate bars. I must have said the phrase 100 times that day. Yet for the first time, I heard it said to me, “This is for you—this life, these 100 days, this body being held together with pills and treatments, your family and friends, the natural world around you. This is all for you, because I am alive today.”

The reality of Christ’s presence overwhelmed me. Tears of consolation streamed down my face along with the Suscipe-sense of total surrender. You win, Lord. Your love and your grace are enough for me. I need not beat this cancer. I don’t seek health or sickness, wealth or poverty, a long life or a short one. I just seek this experience of relationship with You and offer my gratitude for an unearned chocolate bar and a whole lot more.

Someone asked, “After Day 100, what is the next milestone in this pilgrimage?”

The answer: Day 101.

Image by Evan-Amos, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Dear Lisa,

    I am moved by your faith and surrender to God.

    I have, like many others, been praying for you, Lisa. I feel humbled by your words.

    May God, continue to bless you and keep you close.

    Love Katy xx

  2. Oh, Lisa, reading this is my chocolate bar. Thank you so much. I am so happy for you and your family and grateful for every word you write. Blessings for every day forward.

  3. Dear Lisa,
    Almost everytime I read your article at Ignatian spirituality .com , i remember your book TWO for JOY , you and your husband wrote. The Book was a marriage gift presented to us, way back in 2000.

    As the ignatian year 2022 motto goes ,To see everything new in Christ, as a newly wed your Book then helped me to see my marriage life, NEW with Christ as its centre.

    The young mother in the book talked to me a lot those days and then again to my surprise and joy , through your writings in this website.

    Dearest Lisa, Thank you for ever following Jesus as a freind ,companion in your life and eagerly sharing those rich experiences with everyone.

    Thank you.

    • Oh my gosh, that wasn’t me! I am also not Lisa Kelly- Ice Road Trucker. But I am so glad you found a book that spoke to you. Having a common name (and two first names at that) can be a double edged sword. Whoever wrote it, you can trust she was being used by God.

  4. As a cancer survivor, I was deeply moved by your reflection. Your words invited me to see anew in my journey of total surrender, how the Lord’s love and grace were enough for me. Christ was present and in relationship with me. I remember my tears of consolation and offering my gratitude and as you say, “a whole lot more” in the days following. A heartfelt thanks for deepening my relationship with Christ. May you have continued blessings on your pilgrimage.

    • We are in this together! Day by Day! My Spirit cheers on yours to find the gifts and goodness this life has to offer and to find peace at its conclusion. A club we never asked to join but one that is special in its own way. Thank you for walking with me.

  5. Lisa, you never fail to move me and more important to make me reflect on my own life and my relationship with Jesus. Today when I prayed the Examen I feel that I missed an opportunity to share with Jesus how I did not loved another the way I’m called to do. And you, Lisa, have been my conscience. Thank you so much. Please know that I pray that Jesus heal you if it is His Will.

    • But you showed up! That’s the key! Not that you weren’t perfect or missed an opportunity here or there, but you showed up and sat with it and let that call to Love pervade you. Huge kudos to you!

  6. Your beautiful and inspirational story made me smile, Lisa. I am grateful for your presence and what better gift than being grateful for whatever presents itself knowing we are loved.

  7. I’m so happy for you and thankful that you have shared your story with us.
    Thank you spreading God’s Light to all of us.

  8. I had to read this reflection because it had chocolate in the title. What a beautiful reflection on
    love and grace! Thank you for sharing. Sending you healing prayers….

  9. Such a wonderful story! I loved the Easter Beagle imagery and tossing chocolate bars. I smiled at people on the street . Amazing number smiled back. Some just rushed by. That’s ok. I smiled big reading this story. Thanks!


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