This is a piece written by Kate Walker, shared with her permission.
Standing in the kitchen with her mom and a close friend, we shared memories of the favorite character in our story. However, this story isn’t fiction, but instead real life. Elise Cerami was one of my crossfit teammates, and she had a crazy passion for living, you could see it in her eyes. And while her life was taken too soon, I believe that she utilized everyday to strive for her full potential and reach her hundreds of dreams, because, man, did she have a lot. If only we had 1000 lives to fulfill all of these dreams…
We gathered around the whiteboard awaiting the announcement of what workout we were about to suffer through. The coach began to explain it. As everyone continued to complain and wish they weren’t there, I looked over and made eye contact with Elise. People say the eyes are a pathway to the soul, and if that’s true, Elise’s soul was determined to seize every opportunity she was given. Even though the workout was going to be very challenging, she knew it was one more step to reaching her full potential. This is what Elise strived for. She was always shooting for the stars and attempting to be the best “Elise”.
After Elise’s death, I decided I was going to live like Elise. The first thing that came to my mind was her determination. I want to have this aspect Elise had so clearly. After pondering over what I should do for a while, I signed up for two crossfit competitions. The only thing I could think about was that Elise would have encouraged me to compete, and would’ve cheered me on the whole time. This single thought gave me the courage to go out on a limb and take advantage of both of these opportunities, just as Elise would.
Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 was one of the worst days of my life, but also one of the best. I will never forget the broken faces I saw while entering Carroll Senior High for the memorial of Elise Cerami. Every person in the building looked as empty as I’ve ever seen anyone in my life. The saying that eyes can tell a story never made sense to me until looking at other people’s eyes, I was able to see a glimpse of Elise’s own spirit that they now carry around with them. Many of her friends stood on stage and spoke of the memories they had shared with Elise. One by one, a new friend would begin speaking. As they were talking, I realized every single one of them was different, and they all remembered Elise in a special way.
It is evident now that Elise lived “1000 lives”, like she had always wished she would. With every person Elise met, she made a special connection with them, unlike any other. It’s astounding that Elise was able to live a unique story with every person she met. She is a perfect example that friends don’t have to like the same things as you, wear the same type of clothing, or believe in similar things.
Just the day after the memorial, I suddenly felt drawn to reach out to strangers and talk to them. Never feeling this before, I was hesitant to act upon these feelings. Soon after I thought, “What would Elise do?”, and immediately I decided I must go talk to these people. We ended up having a great conversation about each of our teachers, but I’m sure it meant more to me than it meant to them, because this was one step closer to becoming just like Elise.
“My passion is living,” Elise stated. She was so divergent of the stereotypical teenager who all claim “my life sucks” and “I hate my life”. Elise truly acknowledged how blessed and lucky she was, and didn’t take it for granted. She loved her life, which most people cannot honestly claim. Elise forever believed in the fact that “everybody lives, but the difference is how.”
Elise was passionate about every single thing she participated in, and boy did she do a lot. While competing in swimming, working out at crossfit, and thriving in school, Elise managed to do it with such grace, and never backed down from a challenge. She did this because she absolutely loved all of it.
After about a week since her passing, I found myself in another conversation with a stranger. However, this person asked an intriguing question: “What do you love to do?”, I immediately thought about all the many things Elise loved to do. Now, normally, I would’ve responded with an expected answer by saying my friends and family. However, I realized the abundance of things I was passionate about such as crossfit, baseball games, and student council.
Elise Cerami passed away on June 20, 2016. It is no coincidence that Abby Turner, Elise’s long time swim coach and friend’s power in her house went out the morning of the 21st. When Elise left, she left the world in the dark. This is simply because when Elise was alive, she was constantly radiating a light and feeling of positivity no matter the situation. She lit up the room every time she came running in with her contagious smile plastered on her face.
Today, everytime I leave a room, I begin to question if I made an impact on someone’s day. I have forever challenged myself to radiate the light Elise no longer can, and live on her legacy. It takes one person to change someone’s life, and Elise was my person. I will impact someone’s life, just as Elise has impacted mine.