On April 26, 2022, Eli got home from school and bounded in the house in his usual way. Emma, Eli’s only sister, would greet Eli, “Hi Bestie Eli!” then Eli would say, “Huggies” and he would give Emma a big hug. The only difference when Eli got home that day was how excited he was with the news that I had finally gotten him the debit card he had been asking me to get him for months. He said, “I am going to take my new debit card to the store and buy some treats with it.”
I urged Eli to wait for me to take him later that night after Emma’s soccer game. In Eli’s independent style he said, “Nope…I’m gonna ride my bike to the store on my own.” That’s how Eli is. He is independent, resourceful and takes care of himself. Eli was on his way home from the store with his treats in hand. He was wearing a helmet (which is pretty awesome for a 13-year-old — he always wore his helmet) and had stopped at a crosswalk to make sure he had the right of way. He did have the right of way…his light was green and the walking indicator was flashing. Eli did everything right.
Unfortunately, the man who hit and killed Eli did everything wrong. He had spent the last six hours sitting at a bar drinking seven 20-ounce beers. He staggered out of the bar, got into his truck, put the keys in the ignition, and started driving. Less than one minute later he hit and killed Eli in the crosswalk. After hitting Eli, he didn’t stop. He kept driving and ran over and crushed Eli’s chest and his internal organs. Then he kept driving. Leaving Eli there to die. He kept driving but stopped long enough to remove Eli’s crumpled bike from beneath his truck and toss it to the side of the road. Then he kept driving. He took one of the best souls away from us at 13 years old.
When Eli died, Emma said, “Everyone should know Eli.” In that spirit let me share a few things about him. Eli was full of quirky confidence. Eli was authentically thoughtful of others while at the same time not giving a second thought to fitting norms or external molds. On any given evening, Eli would be playing Halo at one moment and then snuggling into bed with his favorite stuffed animals the next.
Eli worked hard and was incredibly responsible but could also find great enjoyment in the simple pleasures of life, like delicious (and often unhealthy) favorite foods such as candy, Coke, and pie. He was truly his own person and rose above the surface cares of the world. Eli always included others and let them be their unique selves. Eli knew how to handle challenges, fix anything, and simply figure life out. Eli and everyone around him had confidence in his ability to problem solve and deal with life’s issues. Eli expected great things of himself and so did we.
Eli was kind and fun-loving and had many friends. Eli loved outdoor activities like snowboarding, riding ATVs, mountain biking, camping, video games, and airsoft wars. He was an avid reader which gave him an extensive vocabulary. (Much of the time I was not sure what Eli was saying because he’d use words I’d never heard before.) One of the statements Eli said was, “I am impervious to veiled criticism.” What 13-year-old says that? The best part about it was it was so true. Eli was who he was and didn’t give much thought to what others thought about him. I love that about Eli.
Eli was wise beyond his years. We know we will see Eli again but will miss him every day until then. Since Eli’s passing, we strive to Live Like Eli. We want to embody all the qualities he had and honor Eli by living as he did. We will miss Eli in our homes, in our schools, on our buses, in our churches in our neighborhoods, and riding in our mountains. RIDE ON ELI!