In typical dad fashion, fathers will often do anything for their daughters in their times of need. From building a custom video game controller for a daughter with disabilities to bringing trick-or-treating 30,000 feet above ground, dads are gonna dad. When the tables turn and it’s a dad’s time of need, it becomes the daughter’s turn to step up. And that’s exactly what Elizabeth Santiago did.
According to the touching story Santiago shared with Humans of New York, her stepfather, Domingo Santiago, came into her life when she was five years old. He encouraged her creativity, celebrated her successes, and even built her very first bike from scraps. Domingo was an extremely talented artist but put his creativity aside to pursue a more stable career as a police officer. Before putting away his paint and brushes for good, he painted one last painting – a copy of an album cover, depicting a portrait of Sting. He dreamed of one day returning to his art, holding onto the hope of “when I retire”.
Sadly, that distant dream of retirement never came. In 1998, Domingo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS is a disease that impacts your nervous system as well as your brain. Symptoms vary, but it can cause things like chronic pain, vision loss, fatigue, and weakness. Domingo’s symptoms began to worsen over time until eventually, he was unable to stand. In his final days, Domingo and his family were faced with the difficult task of sorting through his belongings. Domingo gave instructions for each and every item, dictating where it should go and to whom it should be given.
Upon rediscovering the old Sting painting in a dusty box, the question was posed again. Where should this go?
Elizabeth Santiago recalled, “His response was immediate. ‘Give it to Sting,’ he said. All of us started laughing. But Dad grew very serious. His eyes narrowed. He looked right at me, and said: ‘Give it to Sting.’ So I guess that’s my final assignment.”
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“I was five when he became a person in my world. I didn’t know exactly who he was. I just knew that there was someone around that was making my mother smile. I had to look way up to see him. I’d never met someone so strong. He’d tell me to hold onto his wrist, and he’d lift me into the sky with one hand. He worked at an auto shop, airbrushing designs onto the side of vans. I think he dreamed of being an artist. But he needed something more stable. So after he decided to marry my mom, he became a cop. He never lost touch with his creative side. He was always building things around the house—making things look fancier than we could afford. He built my first bike from scraps. He encouraged me to read. He encouraged me to write. He loved giving me little assignments. He’d give me a quarter every time I wrote a story. Fifty cents if it was a good one. Whenever I asked a question, he’d make me look it up in the encyclopedia. One day he built a little art studio at the back of our house. And he painted a single painting—a portrait of Sting that he copied from an album cover. But he got busy with work and never used the studio again. He was always saying: ‘when I retire.’ ‘I’ll go back to art, when I retire.’ ‘I’ll show in a gallery, when I retire.’ But that time never came. Dad was a cop for twenty years. He was one of the good ones. The kind of cop you see dancing on the street corner. Or skateboarding with kids. But in 1998 he was diagnosed with MS. First there was a little weakness. Then there was a cane. Then there was a wheelchair. It got to the point where he couldn’t even hold a paintbrush. We did his hospice at home. He seemed to have no regrets. He’d been a wonderful provider. He’d raised his daughters. He’d walked me down the aisle. During his final days, we were going through his possessions, one by one. He was telling me who to give them to. I pulled the Sting painting out of an old box, and asked: ‘What should I do with this?’ His response was immediate. ‘Give it to Sting,’ he said. All of us started laughing. But Dad grew very serious. His eyes narrowed. He looked right at me, and said: ‘Give it to Sting.’ So I guess that’s my final assignment.”
Mickey Sumner, Sting’s daughter, saw the heartbreaking story. She immediately knew what she had to do. Sumner got in touch with Santiago, and soon enough, the painting was held by the very hands it depicted.
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#Repost @humansofny ・・・ THE EAGLE HAS LANDED. Thanks so much to @sumnermickey for helping get our precious cargo to her father. She’s also teamed up with Elizabeth to create a fundraiser in Domingo’s memory. All donations will benefit the National MS society, and aid in the fight to end Multiple Sclerosis forever. So let’s keep the party going! Link at @humansofny
Sting’s official Instagram page shared a picture of Sting and Domingo’s painting side by side with the caption, “THE EAGLE HAS LANDED”.
Two daughters united to make a dedicated father’s last request a reality. The pair also started a fundraiser for the National MS Society in memory of Domingo, which has raised over $40,000 so far. Santiago was faced with a seemingly impossible task that ended in the most beautiful, unlikely way. Ok, so maybe not EVERY little thing she does is magic, but this is pretty dang close.