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.





  1. I am so sorry for your losses. I’m sure your heart was heavy. Prayers to you during this grieving time- so happy you are safely back with your husband.

  2. May your memories comfort you. How wonderful you all had that precious time with your mother at the end of her life, and what a blessing knowing that she had accomplished her final tasks.

  3. Dear Mona Liza, Please accept my sincere sympathy on the tragic loss of both your brother and your mother. Your mom must indeed have been a wonderful woman to raise such a good daughter. Even when people are sick, it’s always a blow when they go so be sure to be extra gentle with yourself over the next few months as you begin to recover. You have made lots of friends with your blog and I’m sure they all join with me in sending you sincere condolences. Take care — Carol R.

  4. Please accept my deepest sympathy on the loss of your mother and brother. What a time you have had. I love your description of laughing and crying together – that is true family.

  5. Oh Mona Liza what a difficult time for your family. I’m so glad you could be with them and help make your mother’s last wishes come true. She is definitely a remarkable lady and will always be in the hearts of her family.

  6. Hi Mona,

    Please accept my sympathy for your losses.

    God Bless their souls.



  7. What an amazing tribute to your amazing mother. What a beautiful life she lived…and died. Her way. What a blessing you were able to be there. May wonderful memories keep her alive for you as you continue on your journey with Steve.

  8. You were so fortunate to have visited home in the recent past. And though difficult, able to be with your mother during her final days. I am sorry for your loss MonaLiza and wish you peace and healing.

  9. What a force of a woman your mother was! I see her strength in you and for that reason (and many others) a part of her lives on. I’m so sorry for your loss MonaLisa. You couldn’t have written a more beautiful adieu and I know how hard this is, but I’m so happy your mother got her last wish and you were all with her. She lived her life well and has left behind a beautiful family who will carry her memory forever.


  10. MonaLiza, this is such a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to your brother and your mother. I love that you shared the sadness and the laughter — what a wonderful family you have. Your mother was a remarkable woman — I’m glad she was granted her last wish, to die at home. I hope she got her fried chicken and cookie, too.

  11. What a beautifully written tribute, MonaLiza:) I’m so glad you were able to get home and spend time with your mother prior to her passing. What a long wonderful life she had seeing all twelve her children grown. Your mother was a beautiful woman. So sorry for the lose of your brother. So nice to read that he was able to live so much longer with help from your sister. My thoughts are with you:)

  12. So sorry for your double loss, dear Mona Liza. Thank you for sharing your precious photos and memories. Your mother sounds like a woman who really knew what she wanted. I’m so glad that you managed to take her home, so that she could rest in her own bed at the end. What a wonderful gift Joji was able to give to your brother Fred. He must have been so thankful every day, for his new lease on life. Sending you hugs and special thoughts as you grieve. xx

  13. I was rivited hoping she survived the trip home, so glad she was able to be home in her final hours. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your entire family.

  14. MonaLiza, This is a heartfelt wonderful tribute to your mother and brother. So hard for you to have to go through these times. What a blessing you were able to grant your mother’s last wish to go home.

  15. What a wonderful tribute to your amazing mother. For her to want to go home and for her children to grant her wish means she was very much loved. So sorry for your double loss.

  16. I’m so sorry to read of your loss. You’ve had a tough time but you have written a lovely tribute you’ll be able to reread and treasure those words in the future. Thinking of you. N

  17. Wonderful story about your loving mother and family. It is so sad to lose your brother and mother so close together. Wishing for peace and love for your family during this difficult time. I’m glad you got to send time with your mom before she passed. Big hug!

  18. This was such a beautiful tribute to a remarkable woman. I am so sorry for your loss MonaLiza but what a blessing to have had her in your life for so long.

  19. Very sorry for your loss. I so loved reading about your mom and brother. Take good care of yourself.

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