LOS LUNASWhat is the measure of a person? Is it the years they live? The achievements they count? The accolades they earn? 

For many that may be so, but for one young woman it was her bright, shining light of a personality that left a mark on Valencia County. 

After 20 years of living with purpose and passion — on her own terms — Eliana Alderete, 20, died quietly at her Los Lunas home on Saturday, March 9. 

Submitted photo
Eliana Alderete passed away earlier this month after living 20 years with pulmonary hypertension. Her family was initially told she wasn’t expected to survive to see her first birthday. Her mother, Lyndsi, said her daughter defied the odds, and knows Eliana is now at peace.

Eliana lived more years and had more experiences than she was ever supposed to, according to doctors. Riding four-wheelers and jet skis, attending prom and her Sweet 16, running and jumping into a swimming pool, making trips to El Paso with her mother, Lyndsi Chavez, to visit her older sister and nephews.  

All those experiences and more were never supposed to happen for a girl doctors didn’t expect to live more than a year. 

At 6 months old, the 2023 School of Dreams Academy graduate was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. The condition causes high blood pressure in the lungs, which constricts the pulmonary artery and all the vessels in the lungs. After her diagnosis, Eliana wasn’t expected to make it to her first birthday; the average lifespan for someone with PH is about five years. 

“If she was here, she’d tell us to enjoy life, don’t stop fighting,” said her older sister, Eliyah Perales. “She didn’t take things for granted. She was also very bold in her faith. She was not afraid to ask people if she could pray for them.” 

Every year that ticked by for Eliana, her doctors kept adjusting her life expectancy upwards until they just finally stopped, said Lyndsi. 

“When she was in the hospital, I never let them speak of death around her. I always took them out of the room and told them there wasn’t going to be any negativity around her,” Lyndsi said.  

As Eliana got older, like most parents, Lyndsi discovered shenanigans her daughter had gotten in to without her knowledge. Shortly after her passing, a video surfaced of Eliana running and gleefully jumping into a swimming pool while spending time with her grandfather, Leroy Chavez. 

“She was just determined,” Leroy said. “All the other kids were lined up. She wasn’t going to back down.” 

Leroy noted Lyndsi and Eliana are very much alike — stubborn and strong willed — which he feels prepared his daughter to care for Eliana.  

“Everything was to prepare you for caring for her 24/7,” he said to Lyndsi. “Eliana could not have lived these 20 years without a strong mama, a determined mama.” 

Now that her daughter is “free,” Lyndsi says, she isn’t quite sure what she is going to do with herself. Last week, the power went out briefly one morning and her immediate first thought was, “her oxygen.”  

“I know she’s at peace with God and her grandma (Camille Chavez). She missed her so much, so I know they just ran to each other,” Lyndsi said. “She’s breathing and running, doing all the things she couldn’t do here.” 

News-Bulletin file photo
Eliana Alderete was able to walk the line to receive her high school diploma from School of Dreams Academy Superintendent Mike Ogas last May.

A year ago, Lyndsi said it looked like they were going to lose Eliana. The family gathered at the house in Los Lunas and waited, but Eliana rallied. 

“She wanted to do it on her own time. I don’t think she wanted everyone around watching her,” her mother said. 

So they got another year and before she died, they had the best week. Eliana was a guest on Albuquerque radio station The Peak’s annual radiothon, which benefits the UNM Children’s Hospital. Then she and Lyndsi went to El Paso to visit Eliyah and her two boys, who came back to Los Lunas to spend quality time with auntie Eliana. 

“She loved being an aunt. She didn’t think she’d get to do that,” said Lyndsi. 

After her passing, there has been an outpouring of love for the family from the community, she said.  

“Everywhere you looked on Facebook it was Eliana, Eliana, Eliana. It was like it became Eliana-book,” her mother said. “The community has always supported us and their prayers have always carried us. I want to thank the community for loving her.” 

Sitting on the sofa in the home she shared with Eliana for 20 years, listening to the silence of a child now gone, Lyndsi strokes a small, pinkish gray, 12-inch square flannel blanket lying over her knee. It was Eliana’s comfort, her “mimi.”  

When she was helping Lyndsi make plans for what was to come when she was gone, she told her mother she wanted it to be hers. 

Lyndsi breathes deeply. 

“Man doesn’t number your days. God does.” 

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.