Minga Has Died

Today, Tuesday, at around 11am Pacific Northwest time I got a WhatsApp call from Lily, Ana and Miley. Minga suffered a massive cerebral event while in dialysis this morning, and was rushed to critical care where attempts were made to stabilize her, including intubation to support her shallow breathing. Ana was not able to go in to see her. Angel arrived and did go in; he was disconsolate to see his mother unconscious and connected to all manner of tubes and wires. About an hour later, I got the message that Minga has died.

She and I just had a wonderful week together. She got to go to the mall, and to a dinner theater, and to the Amador Causeway. She got new shoes, and scented lotions, and a fancy ice cream. She got fussed over by the staff at the hotel, and treated like a queen. She got to go home to the village this weekend, and sit on her front porch and visit with her neighbors.

She was fine this morning over breakfast, and fine on the way to the dialysis unit and going in. She fell unconscious very suddenly while receiving treatment, and likely never knew what had befallen her.

Minga believed that at the moment of her death, her mother and the Virgin Mary would be there to embrace her and take her to Jesus. I have every confidence that belief was fulfilled.

Even though this was anticipated by her family, Minga’s death is enormously difficult. I ask that you remember her, and them, in whatever way reflects your beliefs and your respect for the passing of a great lady.

Rest in peace, my dear friend.

26 thoughts on “Minga Has Died

  1. So sorry for the loss of Minga to you and her family. Please let her family know it is a loss to her “American” family too. She will be missed dearly. Minga’s family is in my thoughts and prayers and we will be saying the “Misheberach” to bring healing to her loved ones.

  2. I don’t know how to express my sorrow for your great loss, though I know you cherished every day that you shared with Minga, both in Panama and here. And the legacy she’s left to the world is truly amazing. I’m glad I had a chance to know her and I wish comfort and peace to all she’s left behind. Love, Jeannie


  3. This is such sad news, especially since she seemed happy and somewhat stable recently. At least it was quick for her, but hard for those left behind. I’m so glad you had that wonderful week together, with Minga being treated to full pleasure mode, and so happy to be with you and her family. That is a memory to treasure. My thoughts are with her family and with you. You have lost your “sister of the heart” who was a big part of your life. My embrace and love are with you. Phyllis PS: I will call you within 1-2 days, knowing you might want some time to yourself tonight.


  4. Pam, I am so sorry you have lost Minga. Your beautiful written portrait of her, in both your book & blog, are a lasting tribute to her strength, wisdom & love for her family & you. You made her live for us readers who are grieving, too. Thinking of you as you remember & mourn.


    Minga and Pam met when they were in their twenties, a white American girl who had just graduated from a small Catholic womens’ college in New Jersey and a tiny black women living in a small village in Panama who was already caring for five children! Minga called them the sisters of the night and day. Incredibly they developed a supportive bond both personally and professionally in the work of community development. As they two years passed, they continued to strength their relationship. Both had suffered early loss, Pam with her father and Minga with her mother. When Pam left to return home, neither thought they would connect again as they traveled along their life passing! When, forty years later, Pam had a chance to return to Panama, she found Minga and thus became the rebonding of the adult women they had become! Pam returned each year for a few weeks and continued sharing life with Minga’s extended family! When Minga became ill, Pam returned to see her and bought her a pair of new shoes. Minga died a week after Pam returned. I remember a hymn that our friend’s used to sing when returning from bible camp, as children. A part of it said,”I got shoes, you got shoes, all God’s children got shoes and when I get to heaven, I’m gonna to put on my shoes and I’m gonna dance all over God’s heaven!”,,,,,,,,,,
    Dance Minga Dance…….
    For Pam and her sister Minga

  6. Pam….I knew when this day came I would feel bereft over the loss of someone so dear and pure and good. I only met her once but I remember her heart and her smile and her everyday, nonchalant fortitude.

    I am so struck by the timing. The visit you both had and the things you were able to experience brings me to tears. How incredible that you spent her last week with Minga and her family. I know for me it took one moment of looking into her eyes to love her….. and I only met her once. The exigencies of life move us forward and away from the awe of particular experiences. She was an Everest experience for me. I always knew I would feel a tug of sadness and regret. But I believe what she believed and am so happy that she is ultimately home.

    Pam, I hope you know that you have redefined for so many of us the meaning of what it means to be that one true thing….a friend and a member of the family.

    Love and condolences and celebration of a simple, hard life of love lived with charm and always a smile.

    Love, Maria

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Pam, there are no words for a loss so deep. You have shared with those of us who read your words how much she meant to you and you to her…true soul sisters. All passages are painful, but are particularly hard around holidays. I am thinking of you and Minga’s family and the grief you all are now carrying.

  8. A good woman and good mother has left the earth today and God has a new Angel. Minga’s love of her family, both biologic and “of her heart,” friends, and community were extraordinary. Minga’s “Comadre” and “BFF” Pam were a great team, connecting people from around the world in a wonderful life. While Minga’s journey on earth has ended, we are all left with poignant memories, including the vacation with Pamela in Panama City just last week.

    We are privileged to have known MInga, her family, and loving relationship with Pamela. Sincere thoughts and prayers for Minga’s family & BFF.

    Vaya con Dios, Minga!

    Katie & Ron

  9. I am so sorry for your loss Pam. I know minga and her/your family means so much to you. It was great that you both had last week to see each other.
    My love to you.

  10. Pam,

    What a wonderful last week you were able to spend with Minga. She was truly blessed to have you as a member of her family, just as she enriched your life. Still, I feel your tears.

    With love and affection,


  11. Oh Pam… I’m so sorry to hear this. How wonderful for you both that you got to visit before she left this world. Thank you for letting us all get to know her and the rest of your Panamanian family. ❤️

  12. for Bryna: She loved having all of you come, and she would be proud and honored that you are praying for her and for the healing of her heartbroken family. Thank you.

  13. for Jeannie: This is a hard one — death always is, even when expected. I think it’s miraculous that I got there last week, and we had such a silly fun time going to the Mall and such. I’m glad for Minga’s new shoes, and her lotion purchases in Victoria’s Secret, and our lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s and the Haagen Das ice cream we bought on the way out. I’m glad that her death was abrupt, and that she didn’t linger or suffer.

  14. for Phyllis: I’m so grateful that you’ve been such a big part of the glorious Panama experience all of these years, and that you got to know Minga. I remember her coming around the big dining room table to embrace you upon the news that your aunt had died. Very touching moment, and typical of her to offer comfort at such a time. Look forward to talking.

  15. for Eileen: Thank you, and I’m so glad my writing allowed you to feel connected with her too. Life is so fragile, and so precious. Her daughter Ana kept saying “But she was fine at breakfast, and fine while we were waiting in the corridor”. That’s how life is: there, and then not.Loss is hard, even when expected. Helps to have you thinking of me.

  16. for Linda: I love the image of Minga dancing, especially in her new shoes that she loved so much. Wonderful image. Thank you for this. And who in the world did we know who went to bible camp growing up? I remember the song, but not who sang it.

  17. for Maria:”Everyday, nonchalant fortitude” describes Minga exactly. You knew her deeply, even though your time with her was short and several years ago. I’m so glad you and Sharon came — what a wonderful time that was. A friend of mine who knows Minga said “there was no downside to her”. Those of us who live or lived with difficult mothers know the downside. Minga had none of that, despite her hard life. What she offered was a gift, and I’m so grateful to have welcomed that gift with open arms. Friend and member of the family indeed.

  18. for Sharon: the word Lily used when I asked how her mother is doing is “shattered”. For such a tiny person, Minga was a huge presence in the life of her family, and this loss is immense. I’m so grateful to have spent the last full week of her life with her. I think the timing was a miracle. Thank you for your compassion and understanding, my friend.

  19. for Katie: You and Ron had more than one opportunity to meet Minga, and I’m so glad. She was indeed a special person, and I like the idea of God having a new Angel. She firmly believed, as you know, that her mother and the Virgin would be there at the moment of her death. I like that thought. You know, from having lost Linda, how difficult this is. Thank you for your caring and compassionate words.

  20. for J: You would have loved seeing her at the Mall — she had such a good time. I always hoped to get you and your family down there to meet her. But I think you know her from the blog, and know how special she was. This is a hard loss indeed. Thank you for caring.

  21. for Frances: Well, we knew this moment would come — but that doesn’t make it any easier. Minga was a beautiful soul, and her death is an immense loss. Thank you for caring.

  22. for Linda: Have been going through old pics, and came upon the ones of us dressed in polleras, and pics of the mondongo dinner. What a fun time that was. So glad you and Sid got to know her. This is an immense loss, and I feel it deeply. Thank you for these words.

  23. for Ben: I think those of you who’ve read the blog all these years did know her. You would have enjoyed meeting her in person, although she’d have hardly reached up to your chest! She was a tiny person — with a huge heart. Her death is a sad thing for me. We’re never ready, are we?

  24. I’m so sorry for your loss, and it’s our loss, indeed… She was like a family to me though I didn’t know her in person. Life is a journey that we know will end somewhere, someday… What’s precious is to establish loving bonds that will stay forever..

  25. for Vedat: How kind of you to send compassion over all the miles between us. I am very grateful for your kind expression of concern, and love that you felt you knew Minga through the blog. She was a very special person, never bitter over the poverty into which she was born and lived for much of her life. She had little by way of material things, but much love. This was indeed a precious relationship in my life.

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