Update on Minga

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.

Minga and her daughter Mari.


10 thoughts on “Update on Minga

  1. for Katie: It’s hard to get an accurate read on how long she’s been diagnosed, or how fast her disease is accelerating. But something clearly feels different to her, which is worrisome. I was actually in Panama the week Gloria’s father died of kidney failure, and without any palliative care or medical intervention, it was a grim week indeed.

  2. for Phyllis: I will always carry in memory that moment when she came and embraced you when you heard of your aunt’s death. Very moving. In the absence of shared language, she still grasped the depth of your sorrow.

  3. I’m so sorry, Pam. Hope you get to see her and hope that palliative care somehow becomes available. Sending hugs.

  4. for Ada: You have no idea what Gloria’s father went through — 11 days is a very long time to die when you are suffering. I’m much aware, in terms of Minga, that the people I’ve relied on to be emotional anchors in my life are dying off, as we become the “elders”. We now play the role of anchor to those younger than we are, but without our own web of support. I suppose that’s what aging means.

  5. for Linda: She is. I always find it remarkable that two people with such a different place in life found our way to each other.

  6. Yes. Becoming elders! I remember when Bob’s aunt died at the age of 101………she was the last. That generation was gone and now we were the elders. Only one of that group has died and she in a tragic automobile accident where a woman on drugs ran a stop sign, but we know that there will soon be more. In my family, on my mother’s side, my brother and I are the only ones now. On my father’s side, his generation is gone and of my 17 cousins, 5 are now gone. I suppose that’s life, isn’t it?

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