Mariana cannot reflect all her grief in the short e-mail she sent me. She announces that "her mommy" is dead. What should I tell her? There is nothing like a warm embrace under these circumstances.

Santana, who played Mrs. Remigia on a popular TV show (San Nicolás del Peladero), was and still is a dear and respected mother. When the famous die, bosom friends usually speak of how close they had always been to them. But I can tell Mariana was always by her side, caring for and pampering her. Last February 4, she phoned me to let me know she was already suffering her loss.

As a journalist, I interviewed Santana, wrote about her performances on TV, and called her up until the day when she did not recognize my name. I understood that. The death of her adored and adoring husband Julio Vega had started to gradually take her away from this world.

She left Mariana, her spoiled daughter; Ramón Fajardo, her sincere historian; and Miguel Barnet, the poet who always admired her. Santana will certainly be useful after passing away. May her life provide an example for older people here and elsewhere!

There are many senior citizens in Cuba, but accepting aging is an individual choice that is either cried out or hidden. Those who were beautiful, intelligent and also applauded wildly exhibit human values that nobody can deny.

Over the years, Santana displayed wisdom, courage and love for her neighbors and her country. Her green eyes were always sparkling. She dressed fashionably, but appropriately. She sang until she could and quit the stage too early perhaps just to look after her ailing husband.

Let's follow her example and close the curtains in time. Aged, wrinkled Santana said goodbye as a diva.

*Cuban singer and actress María de los Ángeles Santana died at 96 last February 7 in Havana.

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