Through tragedy, grateful for our second chance together

The author, as a young teen in San Francisco,  with her  Lola Loreta

The author as a young teen in San Francisco, with her Lola Loreta

By Tiara Camille Teruel

“Hello? Sino ito?” the question was so comforting. She always said it so softly with an almost angelic gentleness.

“Hi Lola! Si Camille po,” I would respond and she would let out a cheerful cry of happiness. She loved saying my second name. It is sort of her nickname for me.

Calling my grandmother was such a pleasure and somewhat a relief. I loved hearing her voice. So it came as a panic when the phone kept ringing last week. It rang and it rang and it rang. My panic turned into anxiety. Soon I was in tears assuming the worst and trying to breathe calmly. I called again and again for days but had no idea what was going on. Finally, my aunt picked up.

My aunt who lived in the Philippines was there – this was probably going to be bad news, I remember thinking. It was. My grandmother had been hospitalized. She had a heart attack and at that very moment it felt like I just had one too.

My grandmother means everything to me.

Many of you will agree that our grandparents hold an influence on us that has shaped our lives. They’ve been our supporters, inspiration, have spoiled us rotten with love and are the glue that holds the family together. As Filipinos though, our family dynamic is even stronger. Our close family ties are part of what makes us so welcoming and hospitable to other people. I am absolutely proud of this trait in us and the strong love that each of us receives from our environment.

We are taught to put our family first. The feeling of independence is never cramped though, but the sense of “being a unit” is absolutely enforced. The Filipino family is all about respect. Our culture has always highlighted respect for our elders — whether it be grandparents, parents, older siblings and even those who are not in our immediate family. My respect and love for my grandparents is of Filipino standards, for sure.

Lola Loreta is so loving and kind and will do anything for her loved ones. She never shows weakness, even when in pain, and she always chooses love. I remember coming home from school in the times we were living in California, and she would always have goodies, snacks, her adobo or some other special home-cooked food ready for us. She still had it all ready whenever we visited even though it has gotten harder for her to cook with her arthritis.

When my parents couldn’t handle the transition of having no nannies as we first moved to America, she unselfishly left her home and my grandfather for a bit so she could live with us and help us. That’s what family is to her — everything. She is the epitome of patience and sweetness.

Lola is a nurse by profession and a mother to everyone who knew her. She is without a doubt the most caring person I know.

She came to America with my grandfather who is a doctor and was also in the U.S. military. They met in Sorsogon province and fell deeply in love. They had a private practice in Sorsogon, often giving free health care services to those in need.

It was hard for her leaving some of her children in the Philippines and moving to a new country, but she knew it was her duty to be with her husband, and all her children were grown at that time.

My lola has taught me the values and importance of love. I aspire to be like her every day and show more compassion and care to those around me. She consistently shows me what hard work, commitment, and dedication means and is a stellar tribute to the institution of marriage.

She would say, “You will only be able to receive real love if the love you give is real.” Real love. That’s what she and my grandpa had. True love that lasted a lifetime.

After more than 50 years of marriage, including surviving the Bataan Death March and raising 13 amazing children, sadly my grandfather passed away in 2009. When lolo died, I dropped everything I had in New York City and moved to California to be with my grandma. For a few months, I lived with her, helped her with the day-to-day errands and basically just wanted to make sure I was there for her. It was nice and very grounding being with her again. There was no question about it. I just knew that was what I needed to do. It was something that felt right, something that she had also done for us.

After a few months, and after she was better able to cope with the loss of my grandfather, I ended up moving to L.A. Instead of moving back to NYC, I wanted to be near her and stay in California. It was a hard decision to not stay in San Francisco, but more opportunities were available for me in Los Angeles.

The news of her heart attack was heartbreaking for me. The last week has been hell. My strength has been tested again. It also made me realize how we are rarely given second chances at life and how fragile it all is.

I am taking a leap of faith in what’s ahead as I leave my career behind for a bit and now prioritizing family. Here I am. Praying. Hoping. Wishing she recovers fully from her heart attack and that I still get to spend the much-needed time with her. Life is full of surprises and the best ones are the good ones that involve our families.

Even through tragedy, there are some good surprises that come out of it. I am glad that she has survived and although I don’t know what’s in store for us in the future, I am grateful for her second chance at life and my second chance to spend with her.

Loreta and Mario Lim: ‘Real love. That’s what my grandparents had’

Loreta and Mario Lim: ‘Real love. That’s what my grandparents had’

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