Teddy bears coax smiles from tears

CHAMPAIGN — Anyone who has seen a child with a teddy bear knows the comfort and joy these stuffed creatures bring to those who are hugging them. The Provena Hospice Center for Grief, Loss and Hope has found this to be especially true for people who are coping with the death of someone they loved.

While those who are mourning won’t be able to hug the ones they lost again, Provena Hospice offers them the opportunity to hold on to the love they shared in a tangible way by making Memory Teddy Bears. What makes these bears a unique keepsake is that they are cut from the clothing of the person who has died.

“This is part of their bereavement and helps them as they are walking through some of that grief,” said Marlene Hart, who has been with Provena Hospice for 22 years and recently retired as bereavement coordinator.

“The volunteers ask, ‘Whose clothes are we using?’ and it gives the people an opportunity to talk about the person who died,” according to Hart, who now serves as one of those volunteers. “When people come they’re in tears, but there’s also laughter.”

That proved to be true on Saturday, Sept. 20, when a large room at Provena Hospice was filled with those who came to make Memory Teddy Bears and the hospice volunteers who were there to assist them.

The work began with a great deal of concentration as the clothing was spread out, the patterns were pinned to it, and teddy bear arms, legs, torsos and heads were cut out. Conversation increased as the sewing and stuffing began and everyone in the room stopped to celebrate when each teddy bear was completed.

Even those who have a desire to participate in these events can find it difficult once they get there, Hart said.

“One lady cried and cried, but by the time she left she felt so good about her bear,” she told The Catholic Post. “She was at peace.”

The Memory Teddy Bear events have become so popular that the Nov. 8 event, which was the last one scheduled for this year, was already filled in September. For information about upcoming events, call Christy Daly, volunteer coordinator at Provena Hospice, at (217) 353-3441.

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