With All My Heart

On February 2, 2019 in the Philippines or February 1, 2019 in California, my Lola Eva T. Santiano passed away. With the time difference, I had actually found out while I was in class, right before doing a presentation on the Davos Economic Forum. On autopilot, I did the presentation and when I sat back down, I turned to my group and told them what happened before telling my professor and leaving class. As I walked back to my room, I called into the family group chat and saw you in your bed. I didn't know what I was feeling, it was so overwhelming. I felt empty but at the same time so overcome with grief, sadness, and loss. It was one of my best friends birthdays that day and in true Santiano fashion, as your granddaughter who took after your "never give up" and "always see things through" attitude, I finished making her birthday cake. As I finished the cake, all I could think of was all the things I wish I could say to you.

Dear Lola,

There are so many things I want to say to you, but first, I want to say I love you. I love you for loving me and for showing me so much about the world. You showed me how to love selflessly and wholeheartedly- that’s not an easy lesson to teach or to live by. But you did and you taught so many of us that lesson. I love you for what you did for our family, for mom and her siblings and for us, your grandchildren. All the sacrifices you made and all the time you gave resulted in such a beautiful family. We have our ups and downs as all families do, but there is no doubt in any of our minds that we love each other because of what you’ve shown and taught us.

Thank you for what you’ve done for my family. From being the ever loving and supportive Lola to giving us advice and guidance when we ask, you’ve been our everything for so long. Thank you for coming to California when Mom was sick, so you could help take care of Ate, Tobin, Gavril and I. We never really got to live close to you, so that time period was the most we had spent with you and I cherish every moment we spent together. I’ll always cherish every memory together. Thank you for teaching me how to cook and bake -- mostly how to bake. I’ll never be as good as you, but you’ve shown me your tricks and now I imagine you with every family recipe I make, especially the apple pie. I have yet to garner the courage to make the Sans Rival by myself, but for you, I’ll do it eventually. Thank you for your love; the best sound was hearing you say “I love you” when we would all video chat or when we would visit. It was also the words that made me feel so sad because normally that was how we said our goodbye.

I wish I could have said all these things to you when you were still with us and I’m glad I got to say what I did while we were all saying our goodbyes. I’m so glad I at least got to tell you I got into law school. There’s so much of you in me, I didn’t even realize it until my family and I were all together. You were the most amazing person everyone knew. You multi-tasked like you were born to, you cooked and baked like you were trained right when you were born, you loved and cared for people like you didn’t know how to do anything else. You worked hard and you never gave up, you always saw things through to perfection- that’s where I got it from. I hope I work as hard as you do, that I accomplish as much as you do. You were the most graceful person I knew and I even took ballet classes in hopes that it would somehow start that gene in me. I have the multi-tasking down and I try to love and care for people like I know you did. I know I bake well but cooking could always use work. I know I’ll never reach the level you were at, but it’s nice to know that parts of you will always live in me. You were such a big part of my life and now that you’re gone, I feel a little empty.

But I’m so happy for you Lola. I’m so happy you’re no longer in pain. I’m happy that you’ll get to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Lolo and I’m so happy that you two are together again. I’m happy that you’re at peace Lola, and I hope you continue to watch over us like you always have. I’ll need your guidance while I’m in law school and I’ll need Lolo’s too, so please keep a close eye on me. I’ll always feel your love. I brought the hat you made me to the Philippines to keep you close. I already have plans to name my daughter after you. Even if you’ve left us, you’re still with us in our hearts, in our minds, and in the very essence of who we are. And as I end this letter, I think of the song Supermarket Flowers by Ed Sheeran because it reminds me of you.

“Oh I’m in pieces, it’s tearing me up, but I know a heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved. I hope I see the world as you did cause I know a life with love is a life that’s been lived. So I’ll sing Hallelujah, you were an angel in the shape of my mum. When I fell down you’d be there holding me up, spread your wings as you go. And when God takes you back, we’ll say Hallelujah, you’re home. You got to see the person that I have become. Spread your wings and I know that when God took you back he said Hallelujah, you’re home.”

You’ve held us all up for so long. While our hearts are a little broken, we know that it’s because we’ve loved so much and we’ve been so loved by you. And we will see the world as you did, because there’s no great teacher than you, you life was filled with love even until the last moments and I hope you felt all of our love in those moments. I’m so happy you’re home, Lola. I love you always, forever, and with all my heart.

Your Apoconda (future) Abogada,

Kyla