Pall bearers carry the casket of Eleasha Wesley who was killed in a hit and run collision on Thursday, May 3 on Hwy 1 near Valley Ridge, just inside Calgary's city limits, into the Recreation centre at Morley, Alberta, on May 10, 2012.
Credits: MIKE DREW/QMI AGENCY
And as Thursday's funeral for the 10-year-old killed in a hit-and-run began, a flower-covered coffin draped with sparkly, pink taffeta was pushed up to the front of the gathering where it was standing-room only.
Family, including the Grade 4 student's parents and her older sister who survived the crash along the Trans-Canada Hwy. last Thursday, were among mourners along with staff and students from Exshaw school, strangers from nearby towns and First Nation communities many miles away.
Police continue to hunt for the culprit who drove off as the family's car rolled into a ditch -- but at the funeral the heartbroken were urged not to harbour hatred.
An uncle, Mervin Lathlin, said from the time the family was left crying at the hospital -- where doctors made a frantic bid to save the child -- to when they went to pick out a grave at Chiniki Cemetery, there was no talk of it.
"There were no words of anger or animosity spoken by the family," he said. "We are not like that."
"You can't empower anger and hate, you can't let that flourish in your life."
That graciousness in the face of the tragedy, he said, epitomizes how Eleasha was.
"She had unconditional love and acceptance," he said. "She radiated that, we have to strive to be like that."
He thanked all those who have offered support in the tragedy's aftermath including police, paramedics and "the people who stopped on the road to help a family."
At the nearly four-hour service -- where babies cried and impatient children played, too young to comprehend the gravity of the gathering -- Eleasha was remembered as many things.
She was artistic, sweet, could be silly and sunshine on a cloudy day.
"She was a good student, a great friend and a talented artist," Exshaw principal Paula Hanson said. "She had so much potential and so much talent."
While her parents, Evan and Betty, and sibling, Sarah, were all belted in and spared injury, police have said Eleasha was not buckled up.
A relative addressed that reality in the hopes it might offer a life-saving lesson for others.
"Every time you enter a vehicle, fasten your seatbelt in memory of her," Duane Wesley told mourners. "Lisa's legacy and your life will be saved."
While Eleasha's devastated parents are left to "cherish those 1O beautiful years" they had with their "beloved child," several speaking at the service said all children are but a temporary gift from God.
"Our elders say the children we have are not ours," Henry Holloway said. "They are loaned to us by the creator."
As Eleasha's classmates, Chief Bruce Labelle and council stood nearby, the casket was opened and the crowd lined up for a final viewing.
The funeral's heartbreaking conclusion saw people lined up holding flowers as steady drumming, like a heartbeat, played and the coffin was put in the hearse.
When it stopped, the only sound breaking the silence was that of a women crying.
Police need help to make an arrest in this case, urging witnesses or those with information to call 403-567-4046.