A Double Loss – Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines

Like most people, I dread getting phone calls in the middle of the night, for it usually means bad news – especially for me when it comes from overseas.  It happened on Sept. 23rd (our 10th wedding anniversary), when the news came that my brother Fred had passed away.

Fred had actually enjoyed an extended lease on life, receiving a kidney from our youngest sibling Joji in 1999.  He far outlived doctors’ expectations, surviving seventeen years with that “borrowed” kidney.  He lived a good life and was able to see his kids grow into adulthood and meet his only grandson, thanks to that life-saving operation.

Kidney donor and recepient

Sister Joji, mother and Fred during our 2008 family reunion

A few hours later on the 23rd another call came, this time telling me that my mother had been rushed to the ICU due to heart problems.  Right then I decided to immediately fly to the Philippines.  When I arrived and saw her condition in the hospital, all of the siblings made a decision to transfer her to another facility for better care.  During that transition, mom suffered a cardiac arrest, but amazingly survived it.  She still had a strong desire to live, asking for fried chicken and a cookie after her ordeal in the emergency room.

During the ensuing days in the ICU, her doctor informed us that her condition had deteriorated.  It was also at this time that the family had to be divided, some attending Fred’s funeral while I stayed with mom at the hospital.  She began expressing to me her last wishes, one of them to be taken back to our hometown of Moalboal, a difficult 3-hour, 89-kilometer (55-mile) drive from the city.  We were hesitant to do this, fearing she may not survive the trip.  So instead we transferred her to a private room where all of us could gather around her.

Mother was so proud of her longevity.  When the priest performed the last sacrament absolving her of all sins since birth, she blurted out that she was 97 and gave the family a good laugh.  We were saying our goodbyes and last words when she asked me to summon a nurse so her blood pressure could be checked – it was OK.  Then she directed us to take pictures of her surrounded by her family, for she loved family photos.

Mom continued insisting we take her back home, and although we thought she was a goner she continued prodding us.  We told her there were no ambulances or drivers to move her in the middle of the night.  We thought that would be her final night, but instead it became a time of tears, prayers and laughter.  Here was our dying mother directing us and still wielding her power over the family!

The following day was very stressful, as we still couldn’t locate an ambulance to move her. After several hours of brainstorming we finally arranged for our hometown’s ambulance to drive from Moalboal to the city, and then make the return trip to Moalboal.  By now mom was getting agitated and restless, really wanting to get home.

After an 8-hour wait for the ambulance we made the trip to Moalboal.  I rode with her and prayed she would survive the trip.  Indications were that she may not, but she hung in there and smiled when we arrived.  Two hours later she was sleeping comfortably and peacefully in her own bed.

The following morning, on Oct. 6th at 9:23am, she gracefully took her last breath surrounded by family and with all her wishes granted.

Mama Moning an exemplary public school teacher, lived a fulfilling and wonderful life.  Her greatest achievement was raising and educating twelve children by herself.  She was strong-willed and clung to life until the very end to be home with family.

Mama, we love you and thank you all for all the sacrifices and great things you have showered upon us, your children.  We are sad, but also happy at the same time knowing that you will now be with your husband in heaven.

We will miss Fred and Mama Moning.  They may be gone, but they’ll forever be in our hearts.