“In every darkness, there is light.”
I remember the first time Eli came to my yoga class at lil omm yoga studio. She seemed too young for the class, and at 2 1/2 years old she was developmentally behind all of the other students, including her fraternal twin sister Emi. I quickly learned that she had been fighting for her life since infancy, overcoming a heart transplant at the age of 1, spending most of her short life in and out of the hospital.
Despite these roadblocks she was full of determination, strength and a light that shone out of her smile, warming the entire studio. She completely stole my heart. And although she was my student, she ended up teaching me a whole lot more about life, love and inner strength.
Sometimes coming straight to the yoga studio from the hospital, her loving mother would hold her in her arms while singing our silly songs and dancing around the room with scarves and bubbles, trying everything in her power to bring lightness to the heaviness of their situation. Even on days when Eli felt terrible, she would gather up enough strength to do a handstand at the wall or rest next to her sweet sister during sivasana relaxation, the two of them cuddling up on bolsters and propping their feet up the wall, breathing with hands on their bellies.
On the 2 year anniversary of Eli's heart transplant, Whitney came right to the studio from the hospital to tell me about how Eli had shown off her yoga moves to all of her doctors and RN’s. Tears welled up in my eyes as she told me how Eli took such pride in showing off her yoga strength. Eli was a lover, but when it came to her life she was nothing less than a fighter. Despite her failing health, Eli was the strongest child I’ve ever worked with, her inner strength, determination and resilience emanating from her tiny body each time I saw her.
My heart sank when Whitney reached out letting me know why they hadn't been in class for a few weeks. Eli was in rejection, a battle she ended up losing on March 28th at 3 years and 10 months old.
As our community figures out how to cope with such sadness and loss, I felt that a yoga fundraiser to honor her life and joy was the best thing we could all do to begin to heal. And because I know it's what Eli would want for us.
Eli is with me always. Each time I step in to a classroom or on to my yoga mat I will think of her. Each time I need to draw upon my inner strength, or find light in darkness, I will think of her. Each time I remember to choose love while fighting for what is important, I will think of her.
Her short life is a reminder to seize every moment. To fight for happiness and joy. To breathe, dance, play, love and move in your light each second you are alive. Eli's life touched me so deeply. I feel so lucky to have been her teacher and to have danced in her radiant light.
Please consider supporting the Eliana's Light Fund to help in the development of a new holistic and complementary care initiative at Children's National Medical Center that will support children and their families through regular care packages, healing support, and connection to resources available in the community.
After spending so much time in the hospital over the years, her family is dedicated to supporting other children and families in the same situation to help reduce stress, improve the ability to cope with trauma, and promote healing. I hope you will consider joining me in supporting this family and this initiative.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you feel moved, please share with your friends and loved ones.
Love and Light,