Reflections on a Mother’s Love

by Jay Fadden

Karen Fadden, 1937-2016. Eternal Rest grant unto her, O Lord

With Mother’s Day upon us, I thought I would reflect on losing my mom, a kind and wonderful mother who I miss every day and think of often. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and I look forward to your comments!

My mother … I take a deep breath as I put pen to paper to describe an experience that shook my family to the core. Those first two words are enough to bring tears to my eyes. She is forever gone to us in this world. I need to pause to collect my thoughts and focus on my task. For months, I have attempted to write about the experience, but could not muster the inner strength. It hurt too much; the wound was too fresh. Nothing I write will bring her back or ease the sense of loss. She was the queen of my family, our bright light who was affirming, caring, honest, and loving. She was our mother. This is the story of our last moments together.

To understand Karen Fadden, you need to know only three things about a very complex person. She loved her husband, her family, and her faith. She cared about people, which led to a career as an operating room nurse. Happiness to her was being with her family. We believed in her because she believed in us. She was deeply sensitive and extremely intelligent, with an almost perfect memory. These characteristics made her condition all the more difficult.

In March of 2016, it became apparent that something was wrong. My mother had been fine, but suddenly and without warning, something was different. She was forgetful and her speech was slurred. My dad brought her to a clinic, but they could find nothing to keep her. That they were in Florida made matters worse, since we were up in Massachusetts. Fortunately, my sister Colleen had unexpectedly ended up in Florida from a re-routed vacation, and she met my parents. It was quickly decided to bring my mom home to seek care in Massachusetts. How they got my mother on the plane is one of the many miracles we encountered. I picked them up at the airport and immediately knew that my mom was in tough shape. She could not walk and was in pain.

During challenging moments like these, you begin to think back on the memories that you had as a child. You remember when you she hugged you and thought you were the best thing in the world; when she comforted you or made you laugh; when she told you not to worry because she would always be there for you when you needed her. There were times when it felt like we were the only two people in the world. I remember the trips we took as a family and the long conversations that we had about so many different topics. She was a special person who was now slipping away.

As I sat next to her bed in our last moments together, I held onto her hand and felt the warmth. I watched every movement she made, her shallow breathing as her chest would rise and fall. I could hear every sound in the room. I could hear when the moment overwhelmed people and they would break down and cry, sobbing at the situation we had no control over. The family, her sister and brother, and some close friends gathered around. During this time, a question that was constantly in my head was, did I do enough? It is a question that I can never answer and is haunting.

We were all gathered around my mom and everyone was so tired. My sisters and my dad were by her side night and day. They were wonderful in their care and love. We were all physically and emotionally exhausted.

Every hour was a gift, but they were hard hours. There were so many wide ranges of emotions. It was difficult when the grandchildren called to ask how she was doing or visited. She continued to grow weaker, and I found myself praying God would ease her pain.

My father was devastated. I knew that this would be the last time my dad and mom would be in the same room together. We let everyone have a moment alone with my mom so that they could say goodbye. In these moments, you try to be strong, but you feel so weak. Yet we stayed together as a family to comfort each other as we watched our mother slip away.

Three nights earlier, my mother had been in a hospital and not in hospice. I stayed that entire night to be by her side. She would wake every few minutes with a look of fear on her face. I would reach out, hold her hand, and tell her it was alright, her boy was with her. She would look at me and smile. That smile was such a gift. The fear would leave her face and she would fall back to sleep. I almost became psychically ill wondering if she knew, if she was in pain, why she was so afraid, and if she felt alone. I will never forget that night with my mother. I stayed that night because I just didn’t want her to be in that room alone. When she opened her eyes, I wanted her to know she was not alone and she was loved.

I wondered, how did we get here? We kept hoping she would get better, but we knew she wouldn’t. Still, in moments like these, you hold onto any glimmer of hope.

Now on this Sunday afternoon, my mom struggled to breathe and was getting colder. It was a heavy weight to bear. Mom was dying, and there was nothing we could do to help her or Dad. We hugged, cried, and prayed. But it was my father who suffered the most.

My mother and father’s love for their family was an example for us of how we should put love for others first. They sacrificed, laughed, and put everyone else’s needs above their own.

They did everything together. She would roll her eyes a lot, but boy, did they love each other. It was a love that permeated our household when we were growing up and was present when they visited. After 57 years of marriage, they still held hands, and their love had only grown.

My father now had to say goodbye to his love, to the only woman he ever dated. The last two days were tough. Mom struggled to breathe and did not wake up for 30 hours. Her life was coming to an end as we all gathered around her bed, kissed her, and prayed together. She was leaving her husband and kids.

At the end, my father, with tears in his eyes and holding her hand, said, “Babe, open your eyes.” It was a sad moment seeing a man so in love asking for the impossible, except she did open her eyes, and she looked at him. It was a miracle that no one expected. There was a gasp in the room.

Dad bent over with a smile on his face and said, “I love you, Babe,” and we were shocked when, with a weak voice, she replied, “I love you too.” Then Dad said, “Kiss me,” and she did. Ten minutes later, she breathed her last. It was her last gift in a life full of giving.

There would be no more Christmases together, no more phone calls, which I had made every day. My father was now alone, but his children were there. It does not matter what your age is, a mother is always mommy—and she was gone.

My mom left us with so many gifts that are not material. The greatest was her gift of love. Seven months after her death, my dad died suddenly. He died of a broken heart.

Mother’s Day is Sunday. Please tell your mother you love her, and if she is gone, please rest in the assurances of our faith.


Reflections on a Mother’s Love