It feels so surreal that I recently wrote and shared the following memorial speech at my Lola’s funeral. I’m posting it here so the sentiments can be revisited, and for those who were unable to attend her services.
I am the eldest grandchild of Evelyn “Eve” (Causing Balleza) Leaño Argarin, but to me, she was simply my Lola. I’m grateful we had time to spend with her for her 90th birthday, and she passed shortly after that on Friday, December 2, 2022.
Lola, an only child, was preceded in death by her parents, Policarpio Leaño and Vicenta Balleza, and children, my Uncle Jess Argarin (2019) and Auntie Joycelyn “Neng” Argarin (2007).
It’s unfortunate that we learn deeper histories into our elders’ lives after their passing, but at the same time, it is a neat blessing to hear more about their lives and who they were before they became special to us. I do regret not asking more questions and listening to more stories, but I will forever be grateful for the conversations, lessons taught, and moments that I did get to have with my Lola. She gave of her time to listen to us and call to check in, just to say “hi,” and that she loves us.
Lola taught us about our Filipino ancestry and was born in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, Philippines on November 25, 1932. We learned that she graduated from PWU, Philippines Women’s University, earning a degree in Pharmacy. She also went on to pass the Philippines Board of Pharmaceutical Examiners test and became Board Certified in 1956. In addition to her studies, she was a member of her swim team at PWU. In the final decades of her life I still remember her doing Aquarobics swim classes at 24 Hour Fitness with my mom. I honestly can’t tell you how long they lasted, but I remember her enjoying that time.
My Lola and my Lolo, Esidoro “Jun” Argarin, Jr. were married on March 24, 1956. In 1967, she immigrated with their five children from the Philippines to Stockton, CA, USA, following Lolo, who had immigrated the previous year. Lola gave birth to her sixth child, my Uncle Jeff, in 1968, making him the only American-Born of her children. She was part of the Iloilo Circle, a women’s group who was instrumental in her Hometown, Iloilo, becoming a Sister City of Stockton. She was an active member of the Teodora Alonzo Lodge #123, the Filipino Catholic Association, and the Filipino Women’s Club of Stockton.
Lola retired in 1996, after 17 years with US Borax as a Chemical Research Analyst. I fondly remember visiting her and Lolo in Boron, CA, and even the US Borax plant, when they had family days and activities. My brother and I, and at times our cousins, would spend weekends and summers in the desert with them. We loved playing in the dirt there, and then sometimes we’d road trip in their big van to Stockton to see our Aunties and Uncles. Lola & Lolo also used to drive almost two hours just to visit us on many weekends when I was growing up in Southern CA. Family was important to her. She loved to travel, and aside from the many trips to the Vatican in Rome, she would often enjoy trips with friends to the casino, and Disneyland with me, my cousins and our families.
Lola loved shopping, giving gifts and celebrating milestones, and celebrating Christmas with all of us was a given. She decked the halls and cooked like nobody’s business. I know that many of you have been recipients of her hospitality, and good food! She also never forgot a birthday, often giving us crisp dollars in the amount of our age, and was always ready to party! In fact, I don’t know how many people can say that they had a joint sweet sixteen party with their grandmother’s birthday celebration! My friends had a blast doing the cha cha with Lola and her friends.
I’ll always remember Lola for her strength, faith in God, grace, and love for all of us. She lived a life of gratitude for her many blessings, regardless of the hurt and loss that she experienced. She was quick to forgive, a woman of strength, and showed great perseverance to shine through the dark times that our family experienced, particularly the loss of 2 of her children.
Lola lived showing us the importance of living and cherishing the present moments. She was a huge support in life to those around her, and she was one of my biggest fans as I earned my degrees and supported my family, encouraging me to be creative and share my magic with the world. She was one of my best customers in whatever endeavor I was pursuing at the time, and would buy all the things her grandchildren and great-grandchildren were fundraising for in school or sports. I’m honestly not sure how many boxes of chocolates and tins of popcorn she ended up with over the last 40 years, but we kids somehow got a win-win and were on the receiving end of enjoying those treats when we visited.
There are so many things and moments that continue to come to mind and I know that many of you share in the memories. Please keep sharing with each other and tell us her stories. We love to hear them.
While the past few years her health declined, she would still laugh and smile with all of us. It wasn’t easy to see her lose her spark, and while we miss her terribly, knowing she is at peace brings us each comfort. Words can never truly express how much it has meant to have Lola in my life and my family’s lives. Even though we knew in her final days on earth side that the time was drawing near for her transition into rest, it still hit our hearts hard. I’ll miss her laugh, random phone calls, and hugs. You know, she gave some of the best hugs and always loved to hold onto our arms as we walked. I know that she is holding on to Auntie Neng and Uncle Jess, and I’m glad they are all at peace and together again. On behalf of my family, we thank each of you for your presence here today, as we honor Eve, our Lola, Mommy, and Wife, and lay her to rest. We are appreciative and blessed by your prayers for comfort and healing.