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Lola, this is everything I didn't say

By Bea Alamis Published May 19, 2023 5:00 am

As an 11-year-old kid with no perception of what regret is, I didn’t see it coming.

My family is old school. We love handwritten letters because they’re like physical pages of our love. My mom constantly gives out handwritten letters during our birthdays, recovery notes for our relatives who are unwell, and special cards for occasions like Christmas. She even puts sticky notes with our home-cooked baon for school.

This habit was passed down to me—I love writing random letters to my friends, family and significant other, and I still do it today.

It was gloomy when I was waiting for my parents to come home from the hospital where Mama Lita, my grandmother, was confined. I had no idea what was going on with her; I only knew she was sick despite being health-conscious, and my mom asked me for weeks to write a recovery letter for her.

Courage amidst illness

My parents arrived home late that night and I immediately pestered them into telling me what Mama’s situation was, although I already had a feeling that I didn’t understand.

Things felt different. I remembered Dad telling me, “Go ask your mom,” so I turned to her and asked. Both of us sat down and she told me in words I could never forget: “Mama is already in heaven.”

The brightest star was peeping through our window that night. My heart was beating fast and the next thing I knew, I was crying.

I blamed God for it. I prayed and prayed, as kids do, and I was certain God could make her well instantly. But it didn’t happen and I had no one else to blame, except perhaps myself. I never sent her a letter.

Handwritten letters

I never had a chance to visit her at the hospital, so my mom thought a get-well-soon letter from me would uplift Mama. She said Mama was waiting for it. I had a lot I wanted to say: I was waiting for her to recover soon because we would still go to the mall. I wanted to ask her for a gift because I would be graduating from grade school next year, and I wanted her to be there.P

It’s been over a decade since it happened, but I still ask myself, “What if I’d written her that letter? Would it have given her strength? Would she have known that there were many people waiting for her to come home?”

Writer Bea and her grandmother, Mama Lita

Her presence is still felt in our household. Papa Tony, my grandfather, includes her in everything. From birthday greetings, Viber messages, prayers, to stories, there is always a “Mama Lita and Papa Tony” at the end. He kept her alive throughout the years, and I couldn’t thank him enough.

At some point, it alleviates the regret I’ve been feeling for the longest time. Papa made sure that even though Mama isn’t physically with us anymore, she will always be proud of us, of me. He often reminds us how she’ll be happy and supportive of the things we do today.

I made so many stubborn decisions and mistakes—as what an 11- and now 23-year-old does—but nothing compares to the regret of not sending Mama a letter. I realized I should exert effort in everything I do, whether it’s writing a letter, planning a surprise for my friends or significant other, or even purchasing concert tickets to see my K-idols. Regret turned me into someone who takes risks; my mom would often tell others about my personality: “What Bea wants, Bea gets.” It is remorse, and I will be redeeming myself until God knows when.

I still have unsent messages, but if there’s one thing I learned throughout the years, it’s always to do what you need to do now. Take risks because regret will always come, even after years. Tell your loved ones you love them, and never forget to appreciate and celebrate their lives while they are still living.