Nov 18, 2009

11/17/09: Beginning the Bear Journey

Yesterday I took the first step in my journey towards being a Sharp Hospice Memory Bear Volunteer. This is something I've been wanting to do for quite awhile but the timing of the training never seemed to work out for me. I took yesterday as a vacation day so I could get the training and get going on my first bear.

What? You don't know about these bears? You can read all about them here Sharp HospiceCare Memory Bears. Basically, they are bears made from the clothing of a loved one who has passed away. Sharp Hospice volunteers make them for the family member who requests them. All experienced local people who sew are welcome to take the free class and begin creating a Memory Bear that very day.

Yes, that's right. There's no practice or waiting time. There's a long list of people waiting for their bear and the volunteers are put to work immediately! It's a little intimidating to think about but it's really a good plan. It's possible to back out at that point, but I doubt anyone has. The volunteers to teach and demonstrate and support the trainees are so helpful and optimistic that one feels quite confident they can do this. 

Pam, who has made over 800 Memory Bears in 8 years, demonstrated how to sew and assemble the bears. Oh my. She made it look easy and assured us that we could do it that easily after we put four bears together. Apparently that's the magic number. Good to know. Her fabric was from a woman's capris, very colorful in spring tones. She put the head together first and that little bear came alive for all of us right then. I got a little teary-eyed looking at that little face, knowing that soon it would be a bear for someone to love. Pam finished making and stuff her bear in an hour, all the while talking to us about what she was doing and giving us helpful hints along the way. Amazing!

When that was finished we were free to choose a bag with a garment in it and get started on our first Memory Bear. I was drawn to a bag with a blue Hawaiian print shirt. When I opened the bag I got a whiff of the person's smell and realized why we aren't to wash the clothing. Then I read the name of the man who wore it and that it was his dad's favorite shirt. Well the tears came in full force at that point. One of the volunteers assured me that was normal and let me be alone with my thoughts and prayers. 

Some people started right in cutting their garments open and ironing them flat, pinning pattern pieces on and cutting away. Not me. I had to sit for awhile with the shirt and honor the man who had worn it and feel right about starting it on a new life. I spent the rest of my time looking at what others were doing and asking questions of the volunteers. I knew I was on another life-changing journey and I wanted to savor the beginning of that with Phillip's blue Hawaiian shirt.


  1. Wonderful Laurie. I can't wait to follow your progress!

  2. Laurie I have a sense of pride and love with what you are doing, it so fits the kind of person you are,,,using every talent you have to help and comfort others....Hugs

  3. Thanks friends. Terry, the bear for your mom is next on my list. I'm already dreaming about how it will go together.

  4. Well done Laurie! I finally got here to see after all my begging for you to put up pictures! I am looking forward to reading and seeing your progress. This is a wonderful thing you are doing.

  5. It doesn't surprise me at all that you took the time to sit with the fabric and honor the person who wore the shirt before setting out on this! That's the part of you I just love!