You Were An Angel In The Shape Of My Mom
My Mom died at 12:44 am on January 3rd. My Mom died. No matter how many times I have thought those words, said those words, and yes, even screamed those words – each time is like a knife is stuck in my heart. My.Mom.Died and this 60 year old daughter has cried and cried and cried. I know that people are saying, “But, your Mom was 84 years old – and you are 60 years old, and you were blessed to have her in your life for so long.” And it’s true, all of that is true. But guys, it’s my Mom – my best friend, my confidante, my biggest supporter, and fan. I was never too old to be cradled lovingly in her arms. I was her “Pammy Sue.” She admonished me for my potty mouth and my bad habit of holding grudges – for years. She didn’t like to show her emotions and sometimes I think she wondered why we were so opposite on the spectrum with that, but she would just wrap her arms around me and hold me until I had let it all out.
For hours after she died, I sobbed uncontrollably in my bed, repeating, “I have nothing. I have nothing.” And my husband was comforting me and reminding me that I have him, and my Dad, and our children and grandchildren and so many other loved ones and friends. “But I don’t have my Mom – I have nothing…”, I told him.
My Mom didn’t have it easy in life – her father died when she was 6 years old and her mother died 26 years later, when my Mom was 32 years old. My Mom had to quit school at the age of 16 to care for her stepfather so my Grandma could go to work. She cared for other relatives over the years.
But in the photos, you will always see her smiling, her brown eyes dancing and sparkling. Her laugh, that wonderful, wonderful laugh, is the memory that so many people have brought up. She married my Dad when they were 2 crazy in love 18 year old kids when he came home on leave after completing basic training in the Air Force. They celebrated 66 years of marriage this past September, they went through joy and sorrow together. They raised three children. She was a stay-at-home Mom. She was an excellent cook and baker – cooking from scratch – oh, her amazing noodles, buns, cinnamon rolls, and donut muffins! She mowed the yard with a push mower and shoveled the snow from our driveway. A coal furnace heated the family home until the early 1980s and my Mom would go down into the basement and shovel the coal and then grab that lever and just shake, rattle, and roll it to stoke the coal.
My Mom may not have been a fashion icon, but she was always glamorous in my eyes. She rocked culottes and tight turtlenecks long before the supermodels on television ever pranced down a catwalk. I can recall her dressed in her “little black dress and Jackie O pillbox hat”. She wouldn’t think of going to the grocery store without being properly attired, with every hair in place.
She organized a Church walkathon to raise money to buy gifts for patients at a local Nursing Home. If someone was ill or lost their home in a fire, she was the one marching up the aisle at the Church to get the collection plate passed around to help those in need.
Growing up, we would have sled riding parties at our house in the winter, and she would zoom down the hill on a toboggan or one of those orange plastic saucers. We went to amusement parks and county fairs and watched fireworks burst through the night sky. There were Saturday trips to the drive-in theater. When my brothers and cousin John were in their teens, My Mom and my Aunt Edna let them skip school and took them deer hunting. They carried backpacks stuffed with toilet paper, Kleenex, and a gourmet lunch. They left their binoculars hanging on a tree branch in the woods and my brother Jack had to go back the next day and search until he found them. She and my Dad took my nephew camping in Dad’s lean-to tent. We visited friends and family just about every Sunday, after Church, something my Mom and Dad continued to do until Mom’s death.
For many years, when they were empty nesters, my parents would jump on their bicycles and ride on the windy backroads for miles.
My Mom was notorious for her lead foot when she drove. We usually had cars with V-8 engines and this tiny 5’ lady would pop in an 8-track tape of either Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra and just put the pedal to the metal. Practical on the outside – she was a romantic at heart. In her younger days, she read Romance novels, listened to vinyl albums by The Bells, singing about a “Moody Manitoba Morning.” For years, she watched several soap operas and every night, after school we would all be sitting around the dining room table, eating supper (not dinner – nope, it was supper because dinner is what we ate at lunchtime), discussing the latest plot twists in the lives of Nancy and Mike Karr and Nicole and the Horton family. My dad and brothers were always confused, thinking we were talking about real people and asking, “Who’s Mickey and Maggie? Have we ever met them?”
She taught me how to “rubber” on the phone when there were several families in the neighborhood who shared a line. She only did this after one neighbor in particular would listen in on my Mom’s telephone conversations, breathing heavily. I tried to “rubber” once, but the conversation was boring, and I couldn’t stop giggling. She shared family secrets with me.
Family and Faith were everything to my Mom, in fact, they went hand in hand. She beamed with such pride when all three of her children graduated high school. She wrote every day to my brother when he was in Basic Training in the Air Force. Her pride and joy carried over to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She attended every activity and birthday party that she could. She didn’t yell when she was mad at one of us kids – she didn’t have to, because the look on her face made us wish that we hadn’t upset or disappointed her. She could be stubborn, we called it “The Stubborn McFadden Pride”. She read the Bible from cover to cover so many times. She wrote notes and highlighted scriptures. She was steadfast and unwavering in her beliefs and no matter how bad that life got, she held onto that Faith.
When the Pandemic hit in 2020 and we were doing the social distancing/quarantining thing, it broke my Mom’s heart. She told me, “I can’t live like this. I have to see my family. I have to hold them and hug them. I can’t live in fear, I won’t live in fear.” And that was something she never did - she never lived in fear. She was so incredibly happy on Mother’s Day in 2020, when she could once again embrace her family.
My Mom was one of the bravest, kindest, and loving people I have ever met. She and my Dad have never stopped doing everything themselves – the shopping, the cooking, the laundry, the housecleaning, the yardwork. With her last words, my Mom was still putting others before her.
The day that my Mom died, my friend Tina sent me a video of Ed Sheeran performing “Supermarket Flowers”, a song about the death of his grandmother. That song has resonated so deeply in my soul. Ed sings, “You were an angel in the shape of my mum” (he’s British). He concludes his song by saying, “Spread your wings and I know that when God took you back, He said, “Hallelujah, you’re home.”
They say a heart that’s been broken is a heart that’s been loved – and I was so very, very loved. Oh Mom, even though my heart is broken, and I have gone through 3 boxes of Kleenex in the past 11 days, I can smile through my tears and say, “Hallelujah, Mom, Hallelujah…”