Minga’s kidney disease appears to be advancing. She told her daughter Rufina, Lily’s mother, that “something has taken over my body”.
Minga is not a reflective or introspective person. I doubt she’s spent 10 seconds ever in her life thinking about the meaning of it all. She’s simply gotten up every day, and done what she needed to do to support herself and her nine children — and now, to serve as the matriarch of a large extended family. She’s done that with great dignity and courage and with a remarkable absence of self-pity for the few resources that life saw fit to give her. Nor is Minga an educated person. She is entirely dependent on what the doctor tells her to understand the progression of her disease, and the options open to her. She doesn’t have the skill set to go on a computer and do research, and find out things for herself. She believes what they tell her. When she reported the symptom of itching skin, the doctor told her it was simply dryness and she should use a moisturizer and not worry. Actually, in kidney disease, itchy skin can be a bit more ominous: it means toxins are not being cleared from the blood. She has been firm with her doctor that she does not want dialysis; perhaps he thinks there is no reason to worry her by saying that her disease is getting worse.
But Minga does know how her body feels, and her body is telling her it does not feel good.
Lily tells me we have to trust in God, which is truly their last resort. With very few aspects of a health care or other safety net available to them, the villagers who remain Catholic hold on to the belief that God will not abandon them, and that somehow their faith will see them through.
I moved up my trip by a few weeks to go in mid-January 2018, and I’m hoping that Minga holds out until then. I have no idea how fast kidney disease progresses, and I’m sure it varies from person to person.
I have been present with Minga in life, as she has been with me, and whether I am there for her actual death or not is not the most important thing. But I have a deep longing to see her again, so we’ll have to see how that plays out over the weeks and months until January.