Talking with Minga

Minga’s granddaughter Janelys — Lily’s cousin — brought Minga home on Wednesday after her Tuesday night dialysis. Lily was also there, choosing to go to Rio Hato on her day off to bring medication to her mother and check on Minga. Lily was able to set up a video call between me and Minga on her phone.

After all she’s been through, I thought Minga looked and sounded quite well. Rufina cut Minga’s hair and colored it, which made her look like herself. She can no longer wear earrings, she told me — risk of infection, perhaps? She doesn’t like that, feeling it makes her look plain. I told  her she looks beautiful.

She reminded me that she promised to be there when I come in January, and she is fighting this battle to keep her word.

She said two really interesting things, in addition to providing more copious detail about what her dialysis is like — exhausting, but not painful or especially difficult. Minga is not reflective, but she is very good at describing accurately what is happening for her.

The first interesting thing is that she was very frightened on the day that Angel came to take her to the hospital. No matter how resolved we older people may feel about death in the abstract, the actual moments before death are apparently as scary as heck. Minga said a great trembling came over her body, one that she couldn’t stop. Her vision got dark. She saw flashing lights, which she thought might be stars, even though it was early in the day. She felt a great sense of dread.

That must have been one long car ride into Panama City. The two hours must have felt like an eternity. I believe it was just she and Angel, and he was driving. She had to get through that dark experience on her own.

The other interesting thing is that although we have always called ourselves Sisters of the Heart, my love for her now feels to her like a mother’s love. She feels that I am protecting and comforting her, like a mother, even from this distance. I find that fascinating because she was motherly toward me during the Peace Corps years, even though we are only four years apart in age and she had six young children to actually mother. Then, after our reunion nine years ago, we felt like sisters. Now, in need of mothering herself, she has reframed our relationship to give herself what she needs. I think that shows great resilience and resourcefulness. I’m glad relationships can flex in this way.

Minga also said she is hoping that as the machines clean her kidneys, the kidneys will start working again and she can leave dialysis behind. Even if such a thing would be a miracle, she believes that God may grant it to her. She asked for your prayers that this will happen, and I pass her request along as she made it.

I am very happy to have been able to talk with her, see her, get some sense for myself of how she is doing. Kudos to Lily, always attuned to doing just the right thing.

4 thoughts on “Talking with Minga

  1. What a touching story….how special that you got to have a direct interaction with Minga, and that she accepts mothering and support from you. I remember her warm embrace of me when my aunt died when I was in Panama. She deserves the same from all of us.

  2. for Phyllis: Yes, she does. I think she had several changes of caregiver as a little girl — went to her grandmother at five when her mother died, then grandmother died, and I think there were at least two other households in the picture after that. I think she was never without care, but perhaps without enough warmth. Now, at this difficult and frightening time in her life, I’m wishing her to have warmth and comfort in abundance.

  3. I am so glad you got to speak with Minga. I am sure it did her a world of good to hear from you too. It sounds as though the family is rallying and figuring things out. I hope Minga stays near the facility that is treating her, even though she is missing home.

  4. for Jackie: I think she’s tolerating being in the city — and they are trying to get her home as often as possible, even if it isn’t for more than about 36 hours. I’ll tell you, she’s one tough cookie. She sounded much stronger than I expected. I do think, though, that her near-death experience was terrifying. She seems to really believe that her kidneys might start to work again. I don’t think that’s what end stage renal failure means, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.Living in hope may give her the fortitude to continue longer with this difficult regimen. I think her family is doing the best they can, piecing it together week by week.

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