The author of the best-selling novel Eat, Pray, Love confirmed the sad news in statements shared on Instagram and Twitter Thursday. Elias, a fellow author, songwriter and short filmmaker, was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer in spring 2016.
“She was my love, my heart, my best friend, my teacher, my rebel, my angel, my protector, my challenger, my partner, my muse, my wizard, my surprise, my gift, my comet, my liberator, my rock star, my completely impossible non-cooperator, my otherworldly visitor, my spiritual portal, and my baby,” Gilbert wrote along with a photo of Elias happily playing guitar.
“I loved you so much, Rayya. Thank you for letting me walk with you right to the edge of the river. It has been the greatest honor of my life. I would tell you to rest in peace, but I know that you always found peace boring. May you rest in excitement. I will always love you,” she said on Instagram.
In September 2016, just over two months after announcing her separation from husband José Nunes, Gilbert publicly shared on Facebook that she found love again with her best friend of 15 years, Elias.
Gilbert met husband Nunes while traveling through Italy, India and Bali after the unraveling of her first marriage – a trip that inspired the 2006 hit memoir, which has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies. Eat, Pray, Love was also adapted for the big screen in 2010, with Julia Roberts as Gilbert.
“I loved you so much, Rayya. Thank you for letting me walk with you right to edge of the river. It has been the greatest honor of my life,” Gilbert wrote on Twitter Thursday. “I would tell you to rest in peace, but I know that you always found peace boring. May you rest in excitement. I will always love you.”
In June 2017, Gilbert and Elias celebrated their love with a “simple and spontaneous ceremony of love.”
Elias detailed her life as a gay Middle Eastern woman whose family moved to the U.S. at 8-years-old in 1968 in her 2013 memoir, Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair and Post-Punk, in which she also recalled her time as a homeless woman, prison inmate and drug addict.