Oil, Not For Sale
Claire Elliott February 20, 2010 – October 16, 2019
During Thanksgiving week 2018, a week when most of us are remembering what we are thankful for, Claire Elliott, a beautiful, kind, sassy, athletic, fun-loving little girl, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. On that day her mother was told that treatments are rarely effective and that her life span would likely be no more than 8-12 months in front of her.
I did not meet Claire until after her diagnoses, but it turns out that I gained more from her than I could ever imagine. Her face was swollen from her chemotherapy, but she would laugh, smile and sing without care about how she looked or how it sounded. At first, she could walk but not use her right side, and then she was limited to a wheelchair, still she would gleefully pet the farm animals we brought to her. Claire kept petting them until they relaxed their heads in response to her stroking. I heard her tell her mom it hurt to sit upright in the wheelchair yet, she continued on. It was their comfort she was concerned about, not her own.
Her classmates and friends gathered around her throughout her illness. Adults AND children, talked to her, they physically cared for her, they sang to her, they listened eagerly to every slurred word that she spoke. Children visited her regularly and played with her despite her rapidly progressing disabilities. Little children understood much earlier than most, that physical impairments don’t change the person that is within. Her diagnoses sparked conversations amongst families, around the Valley, and even around the Country, about what is really important in life. From young to old, the people that knew of her suddenly became Thankful for their own health and for their families health. Little things mattered less. People started living for today, undertaking or doing things for themselves or with their children that they never would have undertaken before, because suddenly they understood, no matter how old we are, life is fragile.
The mission statement for this exhibit requested us to exhibit a hero. “The hero or heroine is an ordinary character called for higher purposes or mission, who encounters trials along the journey to self- realization” defined exactly what Claire Elliott was for this world.
Her mother showed me a video of a physically tiny little girl aggressively pushing back a little boy in a jiu-jitsu competition “Oh yes, she was FIERCE” she said with a laugh. Claire was also a cheerleader, an equestrian, a karate, a ballerina, a Mandarin, a piano and an art student.
At her funeral her mom Annie stated “I do not wish you to remember Claire as the girl who had a brain tumor, I ask you to remember her as the girl who moved thousands.”
Her Mom would like to bring attention to a charity created in Claire’s honor: Onlysunshine.org It is dedicated to supporting families with pediatric cancers and funding pediatric cancer research.