Bear Hugs

It’s been well over 2 years since Dad moved on to his heavenly home, but some days the grief is still fresh…as if it just happened.  Even after all this time, on occasion, I think of something I need to call him about…but oh yeah…I can’t pick up the phone and call him anymore.  On days like that, I spend a little time with a bear, remembering those bear hugs.

Dad was born on August 3, 1933…he would be turning 86 if he were here.  I still wish for more birthdays to celebrate…favorite meal, chocolate cake and candles, ice cream, sitting on the front porch… and big hugs before heading home.

When he passed away, we planned a Celebration of Life at the memory care home.  I wanted to do it this way so all the caregivers could attend if they wanted to…without disrupting their work schedule…and also for all his friends in the home, as well as their families.  The residents changed often, but when one passed away, our grief became a lighter load to bear when the next one moved in.  All this to say…we grew to love these people…even if the faces and names changed often.

The Celebration of Life was casual with a delicious meal of roast, potatoes, carrots…plus all the delicious sides you would expect to find, along with warm, homemade rolls and yummy dessert.  There was no speaker; instead, I shared memories of Dad in written form for everyone to take home.  We had beautiful country music (Dad’s favorite) thanks to Cooper Wade.  (Do you know him?  Look him up!)  I wished Dad were sitting with us, tapping his foot to the beat of the music, listening to Cooper play the guitar and sing those old, beloved songs!!  It was so “Dad”…he would’ve loved it.

After lunch, one of the caregivers pulled my husband and me into the office.  She often told the story of the day she applied for a job at the memory care home. She said Dad was sitting in the office when she walked in. He did this often…I think he believed he was the “boss”…some days he even sat with his feet propped up on the desk. She said that as soon as Dad saw her, he jumped up, said “Hey Guy!” and gave her a big bear hug she would never forget!    She loved him so much, and her heart was broken when he passed away. 

With tears in her eyes, she handed me a gift bag, and when I saw what was inside, I joined her in a good cry.  She had gone to one of the bear workshops where children can “build a bear” with whatever clothes and accessories they choose.  She had taken one of Dad’s shirts and had it cut down to fit the bear.  Along with the shirt, he wore blue jeans and boots…and even had a heartbeat we could feel if we hugged him tightly.  Wow…this bear was a miniature Dad!!  I tucked a little note inside the bear’s shirt, telling his story…just so someone, someday, didn’t think he was just any old bear and toss him into the garage sale pile. 

What a precious gift this was, one of the sweetest, most thoughtful I have ever been given….a real family treasure. I love imagining fingers I haven’t even met, one day holding this bear, reading the note, learning about this man who made such an impact on my life….and theirs too…even though they might never have known him.

Thanks for spending time here, Tracie

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I wrote Dancing Around the Chaos for those who are on the ALZ journey with loved ones…struggling to figure it out and dreading what the next day will bring…but too exhausted and afraid to think beyond the present. It happens to also be a sweet and tender love story that really happened, whose characters are real people. Find it on Amazon:

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