Suzanna Brabant/For the Times Lionel Borders is consoled by the casket of his son, Eli, who died on June 23.

Suzanna Brabant/For the Times

Lionel Borders is consoled by the casket of his son, Eli, who died on June 23.

Hundreds gathered last Wednesday in the Macon County High School gymnasium to celebrate the life of Eli Borders, a Macon County High School student and Westmoreland resident who died following a tragic automobile accident on June 23.

Borders, 17, died following injuries after an accident one day earlier which stemmed from drag racing on a secondary road in Lafayette.

Approximately 500 mourners from around the Macon County community filled the bleachers in the gymnasium that featured Borders' open casket, as well as many flowers, pictures and shirts from Borders' involvement with Future Farmers of America (FFA).

His fellow FFA students sat in the front few rows during the service, close to Eli's family.

Borders is survived by his maternal grandparents, paternal grandmother, parents, two sisters, four brothers and numerous other aunts, uncles and cousins.

Musicians at the service sang popular Christian song, "I Can Only Imagine," and led the crowd in a rendition of "Glory, Glory, Glory, Somebody Touched Me."

There were few dry eyes in the packed audience.

Larry "Bubba" Meadors told the audience about Eli's testimony of salvation and attendance of New Hope Church in Westmoreland, where his father - Lionel Borders - serves as the pastor.

"Eli loved tractors, farming, hunting, fishing and just being in the great outdoors," Meadors said. "What a testament it is of the many people that have gathered the last couple of days to pay tribute, pay honor, shake his family's hands and pay honor to him."

Meadors said he was most proud of Borders for a decision he made in fourth grade.

"It was a Wednesday night when Eli heard the voice of the Lord and conviction breached his heart," Meador said. "It was in that moment he saw the Lord."

His memory will live forever in the hearts and minds of his family and friends, Meadors said.

Jeremy Yorkley, a cousin of Borders, spoke of his love for his parents, siblings and other family members.

Yorkely said he would especially look forward to Christmas, when "the whole family could gather, be together and appreciate each other's company."

Lionel Borders also spoke at the service.

"Each and every one of you are loved, and we thank you for coming today," he said. "The compassion you've shown has touched our hearts. There's no way I could stand here and be speaking today without all of your love and support."

Lionel Borders also had a specific message for his son's FFA classmates.

"You're still ours," he said. "You're always welcome in our home."