Keean Scott Austin McElroy was a sunny spark of a boy. He was the youngest of the McElroy family, with a big sister and two absolutely devoted parents. His dimples flashed when he was being silly, and he loved with his whole heart. He made friends with, it seems, just about everyone who saw him.
Keean is my nephew by marriage, though he had passed on two years prior to my wedding. I did not have to meet him to feel his impact; the size of the hole in the world he left behind was enormous. Never have I seen so many affected so deeply by a child. It was not merely the tragedy that befell Keean that inspired the emotions still running strong through his hometown. It was the loss of such an incredibly loving child, an apparent old soul who moved through his day casting sun wherever he went. From the janitor to the principle, Keean loved everyone and showed it in the purest ways he could.
His loss was tragic, preventable, and wholly criminal. The woman held responsible for the car accident that took his life has done her time and, everyone hopes, learned how to be more cautious on the road of other drivers. But it does nothing to assuage the pain of Keean’s loss. At her trial, the gallery was filled with orange and blue, Keean’s favorite colors. In his home, his church, his friends’ and family’s closets, orange and blue are ever present. Orange and blue plants and flowers adorn their gardens.
Last summer, a blue and orange butterfly visited me in our back yard while his parents, sister, and baby brother were in town. Immediately I grabbed a camera and captured it, texting the photo to my sister in law, dubbing it “the Keean butterfly.” (it’s ineptly named the red-spotted purple butterfly)
For Christmas, she requested a painting of the Keean Butterfly. So I adapted one of my photos to include Keean, in spirit. You can see the shadow, cast by Keean in the grass behind him, standing in his trademark wide-set stance, with the faintest blonde fringe and orange tee framing the Keean Butterfly. In a very real sense, it keeps Keean always with us, always around the corner.
Keean’s Butterfly belongs to his parents, sister, and baby brother, representing the boy who loved more in his 10 years than many of us will in our lives.
Keean Scott Austin McElroy
Feb 11, 2005 – Nov 30, 2015