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Eliza Lena Huff

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Eliza Lena Huff Eliza Lena Huff, 17, died December 26, 2009, awaiting a heart/lung transplant at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla. She had been there for over seven months. Eliza was born with congenital heart and lung defects and wasn't expected to survive the night she was born but she fought to live every day because she loved life. While awaiting life giving organs that never came, her heart arrested fifteen times but she battled back. As Katie Kilroy, one of her nurses put it, "Eliza rewrote the rule book when it comes to medical science, determination and life in general and she will not soon be forgotten by anyone at Shands." Nor will she likely be forgotten by anyone who knew her. Eliza became the darling of Tallahassee as an infant when her mother introduced her on her morning radio show. Eliza returned the love of the city and everyone in it, championing it when she traveled near and far. Eliza was full of love - for her family, neighbors, anything Disney, the Muppets and all puppets, anything from the Life is Good company, Harry Potter et al, the Cubs and the Red Sox, fine chocolates, Mandy Patinkin, and Aerosmith's "I don't want to miss a thing," the most played song on her iPod. Eliza described herself as "insanely optimistic." She was a sophomore and a 4.0 student in the gifted program of Florida Virtual School, which she considered the best thing to ever happen to her education, though she relished her formative years at Montessori and Canopy Oaks Elementary. She was self-reliant, self-motivated and innately curious. Eliza was also a news junkie who was favored by a visit from Anderson Cooper one Friday night in a Jacksonville hospital room. The two hit it off immediately and he surprised her with a copy of the New York Times the following Sunday. Because Eliza shone like a star she attracted celestial things and people. The touring cast of Avenue Q, her favorite musical, visited her at Shands and dedicated a show to her. She talked business with Maxine Clark, CEO of Build-a-Bear, one of her favorite places. But everyone was a star in Eliza's eyes. She loved to meet and talk to just about anyone. Eliza was an incredible writer who hoped to be a novelist but her greatest role in this life was as a teacher. She taught us that every single day is precious and we should revel in it and live life to the fullest. Even with a forever failing heart her energy seemed boundless. She greeted each and every day with gusto. Bright and funny with an amazingly quick wit, Eliza never failed to see the wisdom and humor in small things. Recently she wrote 101 Life Lessons You Didn't Think You Needed To Be Taught including admonitions for those of us who are left like: People are important not things, make the best of everything, we're all in this together, there's no place like home, there's no place like Disney, say what you mean, mean what you say, nobody's perfect, carpe diem, it's a small world, after all, You only get one birthday a year, but you get 364 un-birthdays a year so live it up, No one is better than you are, And you aren't better than anyone else, A puppy is a family member you chews, and finally, when in doubt, dance out. Eliza is survived by her parents, Bubba Huff and Sara Michaels; a sister, Emily Stowers; her grandfather, Louis Martin; her aunts, Mindy Martin, Lynn Martin (Joey), Brenda Griffin and Uncles Michael and Edward (Karen) Martin; and cousins, Bob, Erin, Brian, Caitlin, Maggie and Carson. Eliza also adored her distant second and third cousins and all the "friends that are family we choose". In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, Dreams Come True of Jacksonville or Broken Hearts of the Big Bend. Eliza and her parents would also appreciate your considering the greatest donation of all, the donation of your life giving organs in the event you don't need them anymore. No walking wonder like Eliza should be lost to the world again because they died waiting for organs like she did. There will be a huge celebration of Eliza's life at a date to be announced some time in the future. Eliza would not have been caught dead at a funeral.
Published in Tallahassee Democrat on Jan. 3, 2010
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