The Shutterfly ornament with pics of me and Minga on each side came from friend and regular reader Katie, who has been to Panama twice and knows Minga. I’m not surprised, Katie has a gift for picking just the right thing, and for noticing when someone is sad.
These two pictures are the bookends for Minga’s dialysis experience, and for the last year of her life. Lily took both pics. In the one where Minga and I are sitting, our heads touching, we are in the restaurant of the Crown Plaza aeropuerto, Minga had just gotten out of the hospital — November 2017. She was desperately ill when her son Angel went to get her in the village and drive her to the hospital in Panama City. Once admitted, she was given dialysis several days in a row to bring her numbers back into ranges that were life-sustaining. At this point she had just learned that the only dialysis spot available was in the city, which would mean leaving her home for most of the week and staying with one of her daughters. The one she was with when this photo was taken lived very far from the hospital, three crowded bus rides and probably 90 minutes or so on top of the already grueling dialysis regimen. I believe Minga had not yet decided whether she could, or even wanted to, continue living under such difficult circumstances.
I had Minga stay with me in the hotel so we could talk, without her strong-willed daughters present, about what she wanted. Out of those conversations I was able to do four things. One was simply offer comfort for the difficult decisions ahead, which is what you see here. Another was to help engineer a change of living arrangements so that Minga moved to Ana’s apartment — closer to the hospital, and a calmer space. The third was to make the case to her daughters, quite forcefully and on more than one occasion, that Minga had lost her kidneys but not her mind, and they could not usurp her decision-making power about her future. Finally, Minga wanted to try to go home to the village after each dialysis treatment. I figured out how much that would cost for Minga and someone to accompany her, and left a fat envelope of small bills in her hand. The 2 hour trip after long hours in the dialysis suite proved to be too hard, but it was Minga making that decision — which restored her dignity and her sense of being in charge of her own life.
The other picture, in the lobby of the downtown Crowne Plaza, is November 2018. We’d just had a wonderful week, including the Mall excursion. Lily went out to check on the arrival of the Uber car that would take her and Minga back to Ana’s. I was leaving very early the next morning for the airport. Minga sort of leaned into me, and we had the moment you see here. I had no inkling that it would be the last time. Indeed, I was thinking how much stronger she was than the year before, how well she was doing. We didn’t speak. Minga simply rested into my body until Lily came back in to say the Uber had arrived.
A moment later, Minga was on her way.