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Meet the mom who honors her daughter's memory through dance

Becky Peterson honors the memory of her daughter after her tragic death in 2015 by dancing with her family and living her best life.
/ Source: TODAY

Becky Peterson vividly remembers when she saw her toddler daughter, who was born with half a heart, dance for the first time.

"I never knew that she was a performer, and that was the day when I saw Eva dance in front of people and imitate movements,'' Peterson told TODAY as part of the "Magnificent Mamas" series ahead of Mother's Day.

"It's just something I will never forget."

Eva was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the left side of the heart does not form correctly, affecting blood flow. She had the first of multiple corrective surgeries when she was only 3 days old.

"She came into this world, and to hear the ferocious roar coming from my baby that was born with half a heart was amazing,'' Peterson said. "I knew that anything was possible."

Peterson, 35, became a stay-at-home mom in order to take care of Eva and her older daughter, Elle, 6, while her husband, Kris, worked in Manhattan.

Shortly after Eva turned 2 in 2015, she fell into a coma while undergoing her final corrective surgery. She went into cardiac arrest and died on May 26, 2015, only 13 days after her birthday and just four days after Becky's birthday.

"I held her until her last breath,'' Peterson said while fighting back tears. "And I felt like I had owed that to her because I gave her life and I pushed her into this world and I wanted my voice to be the last one that she heard."

Three months earlier, Eva had been overjoyed to become a big sister to Emma, now 2.

"I felt like I gave her back to God the way that He had given me her,'' Becky said. "And knowing that she wasn't in pain any longer and didn't suffer any longer brought me tremendous joy."

The mom from New Jersey has since become an inspiration to Kris and their two children as she works to preserve Eva's memory.

Writing plays, teaching Zumba classes, living an energetic lifestyle and dancing in her daughter's memory has helped Peterson bring her family solace.

"I did not want the sadness and the grief to undermine the potential for our family to be happy,'' she said. "Because those are the things I felt Elle and Emma were going to remember. Those were the gifts that they would inherit from me."

"I could not be more proud of Becky,'' Kris told TODAY. "She's found outlets for her sorrow. Becky has found ways to reinvent herself."

Dancing with her husband and two daughters helps her keep Eva's spirit alive.

"Eva really inspired me to be the best version of myself and to really live a life with no excuses,'' she said. "How can I with a fully-functioning heart not be physically active? Don't I owe it to her to dance as hard as I know she would have danced?

"And I get to enjoy dance with the girls, which is something that I know that if Eva were here we'd all be doing together right now."