Panama 2019: Thinking about Minga

A dear friend has just returned from visiting her 96 year old mother-in-law. The elderly woman has had pneumonia, but is recovering. Her doctors say that for her age, she’s in quite good health and can indeed recover her energy and quality of life. But all the woman wants to do now is die. My friend went in an attempt, mostly unsuccessful, to help her mother-in-law recover the will to live.

The story made me think about Minga. Before I went in November of 2018, I’d had intimations that Minga was growing tired of her dialysis regimen, and the attendant pains and indignities that went with it — like the severe leg cramping that made it hard to walk even a few steps. Who wants to be carried to the toilet, and carried back to a chair or bed? I suspect Minga would have thought that giving up on life was a sin. But I also suspect she was wondering with no small amount of apprehension what the next months and years, if she lived that long, held in store for her.

When I arrived in Panama City, I found her ebullient, happy to see me and eager to be part of whatever I proposed. She seemed full of energy. As regular readers of the blog know from pictures, we went to the mall. We visited Amador Causeway to see the ships ready to transit the Canal. We went to a dinner theater with folkloric dance. We took a drive around Panama City to see all the new buildings and neighborhoods she hadn’t visited in years.  We went to the roof deck of the hotel, with its gorgeous view of Panama City, and talked while Miley and her friends splashed around in the pool. We savored the hotel buffet, with more of a variety of foods than Minga was used to, and a dessert table with bite-sized sweets that seemed manageable even on her restricted diet.

Then I returned home, and five days later she died. I don’t think for a moment that Minga caused her brain bleed. But I’m wondering about the arc of her reportedly growing tired and listless, the big resurgence of energy, then death.

Maybe, like my friend’s mother-in-law, a body knows.

One thought on “Panama 2019: Thinking about Minga

  1. I just got back from five days in NJ visiting my dearest friend who I met during our first week at college. We have been life-long friends. We were in each other’s wedding (maid/matron of honor) and godmothers to each’s forst born. She was widowed at age 49, but was incredibly strong for her children. And went back to work. Had been a stay at home mom and an amazing volunteer (president of school board). She has had pulmonary fibrosis for a few years now and is allergic to both of the drugs they now have for that condition. On oxygen 24/7. She broke her femur just before Christmas and has been in and out of hospital (infections) and rehab since then. We were away overseas for five weeks, but I was able to Face Time her every day. She got home from the hospital two weeks ago, with a 24/7 health aide, and I went up a couple of days later. First few days were fine, but her lung disease has progressed, she was bedridden (hadn’t walked since December and was not allowed to put weight on bad leg until mid March) and was beginning to be confused. Family got her into wheel chair on Sunday, she ate a bagel (told me it was hard to chew) and we were all feeling very optimistic. Turn for worse that night and hospice became involved. Son who lives in CA took red eye and arrived Wednesday. Daughter enabled us to FT. I got to say all I wanted (which I had done the week before when she was still aware) but she never opened her eyes. I talk to family every day and it looks like today will be the day.
    That arc – what a dismal future she faced. Lung disease preventing PT (not enough energy), bedridden, never going to get better, terrible pain from the horrible arthiritis throughout her body. I went to bed that first night at her house and wished that she would just not wake up in the morning. Maybe her mind was thinking the same thing…………it was time to go. And, like you said, maybe a body knows.

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