Together Until the End

By Rona Fernandez | September 1, 2007 | 0 comments

My Mexican-American friends joke that Mexican families always ride 10-people deep in a compact car. Jokes like that remind me of two cultural traits that Mexican-Americans share with my Filipino-American family: size and togetherness.

I had a powerful experience involving these traits several years ago, when my adopted grandmother fell ill. Mama Hely had first been my babysitter when I was a child, but over the years I stayed close with her and her family. When she was hospitalized at the age of 71 for liver failure, we all rushed to care for her.

One day, I was sitting with my Mama as she slept. I noticed a woman lying in bed on the other side of the hospital curtain, alone. My Mama was never alone. Up to six people would be in the room with her, 24-7. She never woke up alone, never had a stranger feed her, take her to the bathroom, or for a walk.

The other woman was white, probably also in her 70s. Only once did she have a visitor: A few minutes into my watch a man came in, perhaps a son or nephew. He sat with her, watching TV. I don’t remember them talking much, if at all. Half an hour later, he left.

When the doctors hospitalized my Mama, they gave her a year to live, but she lived nearly two more than that. I’m convinced that the care she received from people she knew and loved was a major reason why she lived so long.

As someone who’s struggled with the contradictions between my Filipino and American identities—between the sometimes stifling togetherness of my Filipino family and my American worship of rugged individualism—Mama Hely’s death helped me realize that my hybridized cultural experience is both a boon and blessing, combining independence and tradition. It’s an experience shared by many immigrant groups.

And my Mama didn’t die alone in a hospital room but in her home, surrounded by her husband, children, and extended family, including me. When it’s my turn to go, I want to die like that.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

About The Author

Rona Fernandez, a second-generation Filipina-American, is a fundraiser, activist, and writer based in Oakland, California.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Science of Burnout: What Is It, Why It Happens, and How to Avoid It
International House at UC Berkeley
April 29, 2017
6 CE Hours

The Science of Burnout: What Is It, Why It Happens, and How to Avoid It

A day-long semiar with GGSC Science Director Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., celebrated compassion teacher Joan Halifax, burnout expert Christina Maslach, Ph.D., and UCLA psychiatrist Elizabeth Bromley, M.D., Ph.D.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

How Pleasure Works By Paul Bloom Bloom explores a broad range of human pleasures from food to sex to religion to music. Bloom argues that human pleasure is not purely an instinctive, superficial, sensory reaction; it has a hidden depth and complexity.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement