By Regina Mesiztrano
It was the evening of February 27, 2023, when my mom called me and asked, “are you sitting down?” Beginning to take rapid breaths, my mom proceeded to tell me that Elan Ganeles had been shot and killed in a terrorist attack in Israel. That moment will forever be etched into my memory — I felt myself break into pieces. The schoolwork in front of me became unimportant. I cried. I Googled his name. I laughed and insisted it wasn’t true. I cried more. No part of me could or wanted to accept this jarring reality.
For the past few months, I have been living two realities: my school life and my “Elan” life. At school, it’s almost as if nothing happened. I am surrounded by people who did not know Elan, but when I am with my sister or anyone who also intersects in my “Elan life,” the harsh reality of him being gone comes flooding back in. My two realities box me into a dialectic where I either feel immense sadness or pure denial. My hope is to mesh these two seemingly opposite realities. I often feel disoriented trying to understand my current frame of mind and how to live in the present, as I watch my memories of him feel as though they are distant and fading. But I don’t want to distance myself from Elan, and most of all, I don’t want to let this violent and inexplicable death ruin my memories of who he was and the life he lived.
Let me tell you a little about Elan. I had known Elan for a few years through my sister and brother-in-law. He was my brother-in-law’s best friend. I had heard stories about this “Elan character” for years, but I had no idea what to expect. When I finally met him, he always had a goofy smile and was always willing to have a deep conversation about literally everything, because he knew so much about various topics. Besides his fun-loving personality, he genuinely cared about others. He loved my sister, arguably the same amount as my brother-in-law, and because I was “Rebecca’s sister” he cared for me too in the same way. Last year, one night in the middle of midterm season I got a text from Elan. He had texted me to check in, to see how my exams were going. He wanted to make sure I was okay and reassured me that I would succeed despite the challenges of the end-of-semester anxieties.
Elan gave unconditionally and expected nothing in return. He was full of life and wisdom, and unique ways of connecting with others. For example, Elan hosted and cooked a weekly soup night, where he would make a new soup from a different part of the world. I remember standing in his kitchen and giving me life advice on my path and where my journey could take me. When I take a step back and think about the situation, I realize what was happening at that moment. I was standing in his apartment, he was cooking food for everyone, and he was giving me advice. He was the most giving person to friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. Elan saw people for who they were and celebrated that. He would say things that people were thinking, but would never dare to say out loud. And he did it out of love. Out of kindness. Out of compassion. Out of respect.
I have a lot of questions that don’t have answers I am satisfied with. But what I do know is that life is short. Be your genuine self because that’s all you have. Do things for others without expecting anything in return. Call people you love and tell them how much they mean to you.
Elan, I’ll be honest, I am struggling. I miss you and the people around me miss you. I have been racking my brain trying to figure out a way to honor and remember you. I am lost, sad, and angry, but ultimately I am so unbelievably happy I got to know you.
May Elan’s memory continue to be a blessing for all who knew and loved him.