For centuries stuffed toy animals have been hugged, kissed and played with. Theyâ€™ve been fed pabulum and sticky candies, been dressed and undressed, tucked into bed and tossed into corners. Theyâ€™ve listened to secrets, absorbed rivers of tears, been hugged to sleep. At Christmas time especially, these cuddly friends make their way to houses and arrange themselves under holiday trees awaiting the children who will love them in the same way.
When I was a child, the stiff-jointed, stuffed bear assumed the role of the Teddy Bear that we know and love today. It was a stiff and unyielding fellow â€” the color of A. A. Milneâ€™s Winnie the Pooh, not at all like the wondrous soft and squishy fellows tucked into the arms of todayâ€™s children, but I loved it none the less.
I didn't receive my very own soft Teddy Bear â€” a Daytonâ€™s Christmas Bear that wore an Irish knit sweater and hat with a tassel and was very soft -- until I was a very, very grown-up child that counted my years by the dozens rather than by fingers.Â My youngest granddaughter Cassie loved it too, but she preferred it undressed. As soon as sheâ€™d arrive to visit, sheâ€™d strip it down and lug it off to her bed.
Now I want to tell you a story about another toy bear â€” the bear I bought my daughter on Sept. 18, 2001 to welcome her move back home. Iâ€™d gone shopping that day, and while paying for some over-the-counter supplies at the drug store noticed a little Winnie-the-Pooh beanie baby sitting next to the register.
Francesca would love this, I thought, and bought it not realizing that my daughter would never see this little fellow, that sheâ€™d been killed the night before and that Iâ€™d be burying it with her ashes.
One of the most painful losses in my daughterâ€™s sudden death was that I wasnâ€™t allowed to hold her in death. Knowing of this grief, my cousin Betty Ann offered to make me a huggable Teddy Bear from an article of my daughterâ€™s clothing. Francescaâ€™s terry-cloth robe was large enough to make a good-sized bear and it still carried her scent.
I gave this robe to Betty Ann and asked if she could make a little pocket over the bearâ€™s heart for the ring Fran was wearing when she died.
When the bear arrived, I was moved to tears. For the past six years I have clasped this bear to my heart every morning before beginning my day. Sometimes I hold it while praying and, when my husband Bill is traveling, â€œsheâ€ comes with me to bed.
Memory bears are catching on. I recently read an article about a nun who makes such bears for bereaved persons. Touched at this nunâ€™s efforts, I sent the article to Betty Ann, telling her again how much I loved the bear sheâ€™d made me.
She replied with this message: â€œMy prayer while making her was that you and Francesca would be able to speak to each other and love would flow between you while you caressed the bear made from her clothing.â€
The memory bear Betty Ann made me is a year-round-gift of comfort, especially during festive seasons like Christmas when â€œmissingâ€ carries a sharper edge.
adapted from Beryl's column posted in the Cook County News Herald, December 6, 2007
The Minneapolis Star Tribune named Beryl as a "Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors."Â Her book The Scent of God Â was a â€œNotableâ€ Book Sense selection for April 2006. Win one of 5 free signed copies of this book by clicking on the "Win Book Link" in my website.