Rest in Love, our Fearless Leader

These words won’t do Matt Ellefson justice, but it’s the best I can do in the midst of such a monumental loss.

Matt’s tenacity (spiritual, physical and emotional), integrity and compassion are the three qualities that set him apart in my eyes.

He demonstrated tenacity for years by fighting late stage lung cancer. I’ve seen firsthand how Jesus can sustain someone in the midst of the most horrific circumstances. Matt used his platform to love and lead like Christ – something many aren’t able to do as he did. It’s about love, peace, comfort and deliverance that can’t be found in anything but the loving arms of our Creator. The physical component, even with targeted therapies, is no walk in the park. Yet he never complained. In fact, he was known to say, “It’s a GREAT day to be alive!”

His integrity was on display during the many meetings with industry stakeholders where he boldly told them, “1600 people are dying every single day of cancer. We’ve become complacent with this as a society, and that’s not ok. Things need to change.” It almost felt like a father scolding his children but delivered in such a passionate way that you couldn’t help but be convicted (and fired up) by it. I wish the patients and caregivers at SURVIVEiT could have heard who they had in their corner in those meetings. He wanted every patient to have the same opportunity he had. He did the work to get in front of the best doctors to treat his condition, and he did it on his terms.

His compassion evident in devoting his life after his diagnosis to creating SURVIVEiT and mentoring hundreds of patients while battling his own disease. What a selfless man.

Personally, he’s played one of the most influential roles in my life. He ran to the front lines to meet me and my Dad when we were in a state of fear and uncertainty – just as he did regularly with anyone in “battle mode” as he called it. His very spirit was calming and hopeful at the same time. What a gift to be handed when you need those two things the most. He built an organization that the world needs and asked me to be a part of it. It’s been a tremendously fulfilling venture and I’m forever grateful to live out my calling. I knew my experience with my Dad was challenging and it didn’t “seem right” (the struggle from beginning to near end) but had Matt not come into my life, and had SURVIVEiT not existed, I don’t know that I would have been compelled to make the career change. The problem seemed too big to tackle. But Matt built something that’s etching away and making a difference in the lives we are blessed to touch. And last but not least, he’s a significant stone of the beautiful path that lead me to the love of my life, my sweet husband.

This is a gut-wrenching loss. Even with cancer and knowing it’s “coming.” I should know the drill by now, but it’s painful. What dries my eyes every time the wave comes is knowing – with 100% certainty – Matt was reunited with his sweet Savior yesterday and that I will get to see him again.

I know he passed peacefully, so I’ll say:

Rest in love, our fearless leader. You have cultivated a lot of that.

May we all LiVE FEARLESS,


Matt’s obituary