Whitney Victoria Lindelof was born a fighter. She met the world with a blue hue but despite all odds and expectations had an immeasurable will to live. Just a day after being born with a severe congenital heart condition, Whitney was adopted by Vicki Lindelof and John Wallace. Vicki became her champion through countless hospital visits and surgeries, her confidant and guide through the tough years of adolescence, and her rock and best friend as she grew into an incredible young woman.
Physically, Whitney’s condition was limiting as only “diluted” oxygen flowed through her bloodstream. After multiple surgeries, a pulmonary artery was transplanted in 1997. For the first time her blood was fully oxygenated, and Whitney lost her blue hue. To the outside world, the immense amount of work it took to keep this little girl alive would have seemed burdensome and in some moments entirely hopeless. To Whitney and her family, nothing was impossible. She embodied the spirit of an old soul. With an incredible team of relentless doctors at UCLA, paired with her own fierce determination to live, Whitney spent 31 beautiful years touching the lives of people and animals alike.
Other than her delicate frame and the large scars she proudly wore, you would never have known that Whitney lived with physical limitations. She held her own with her five siblings: Jake, Luke, Mack, Buck, and Raleigh, who loved, teased, and defended one another while developing fierce bonds of family. Alongside them, she met her match in her feisty yet devoted Uncle George. Her quick tongue and sharp humor appeared as quickly as her first words and greatly influenced her no-nonsense approach to life. If Whitney had an opinion, you were going to hear it, without sugarcoating. She relished moments where an aptly vulgar or brutally honest statement could evoke a little discomfort. She was a girl with no apologies, perhaps because life had given none to her, at least physically. But Whitney never faced her circumstances with fear, bitterness, or regret. From this unbridled honesty came an even greater capacity for empathy, compassion, fearless adoration, and gratitude in everything she did and toward every living thing she met. Whitney spent her years with a clear understanding of the possibility of a short life, thus living a bigger and bolder one than most.
At a very young age, animals found their way into Whit’s heart, and she was devoted to helping and nurturing them. From creating her very own pet-sitting business, Whit’s End, to volunteering countless hours at ASAP (Animal Shelter Assistance Program), Whitney never stopped advocating for all of her furry friends. She adopted a special-needs cat, Romeo, as a brother to her Bubba, and these two fur babies gave her countless moments of joy, fully depicted in countless Facebook posts of their every move. She also took on the important task of caring for neonate kittens requiring round-the-clock care. Despite the physical and emotional exhaustion, as some didn’t survive, Whit committed herself to them with the same strength and resilience she displayed in every step of her own journey.
Throughout her bold life, it was no secret that Whit enjoyed and often demanded the spotlight. Her love of attention was one of her most endearing qualities; it was never rooted in selfishness but instead in the intense desire to experience and embrace everything available to her. Her outgoing, magnetic personality eventually led her to the stage doing improv and stand-up comedy and hosting many unforgettable karaoke nights around Santa Barbara. She was a spitfire; a gingersnap; a firecracker; Big Red; the feisty, crazy cat lady. She even dyed her hair in a fierce, vibrant red that matched her spirit. It was her signature.
Whit was a force of brilliant, blazing, uncontainable light and fire who refused to be limited by a difficult, big heart within a very fragile body. Instead, Whit approached everything in her life with intensity. Her physical abilities may have required her to walk instead of run, but any physical shortcomings were overshadowed by her unwavering inclusiveness. It was seen in the way she loved her family and friends with complete abandon and in the way she welcomed new people into her world. I have never met anyone who lived their life with such awe-inspiring authenticity. Whit was extraordinary in every sense of the word.
On July 22, she passed away suddenly at home, without fear, only anticipation of the wonderful day ahead. After a hard journey but a fully cherished life, her big heart couldn’t fight any longer.
In the months that have passed since that day, the overwhelming outpouring from people sharing the ways in which Whit touched and influenced their lives has been one of the greatest gifts and comforts. Whitney will be missed every day, but her unfiltered messages of thankfulness, love, honesty, and perseverance will continue to live on in the hearts of the many people and animals that had the brief privilege of knowing her. Whit would never have settled for anything less.
A celebration of her life will be held Saturday, November 4, at Butterfly Beach, beginning at 5 p.m. All are invited to join in honoring this incredible human. As Whitney would have said: “Thank you, all you beautiful people. Remember to live in love and gratitude, always.”
If desired, donations can be made in Whit’s name to ASAP.