Meet Mr. Bear. Bear has been very special to my family for quite a long time. He first came into our lives the day we came home from the hospital without our newborn baby. My sweet son Ethan passed away just two short days after his birth, and in his place came Bear.
Bear was given to us by a wonderful organization called the Peace Bear Project. They serve families who are grieving from stillbirth or infant loss and are an incredible blessing. For us, the bear was a reminder that we are not alone, and that others who have walked down the road before us.
When our second son Tyler was born in 2011, “Mr. Bear” became his, and has ever since been his very special friend. He loves the story about how Mr. Bear used to belong to his brother, and I love the way it connects my two boys who never got to meet each other. Tyler is now four, and Mr. Bear has been through many “surgeries” due to all of the exuberant love he has received. He is patched and threadbare, but like the Velveteen Rabbit, is very real and dear to Tyler.
This week my husband announced Mr. Bear’s retirement. His latest injury has left him in critical condition, and Derek wants to protect him from irreparable damage. While it is difficult to argue with the logic, I desperately want to protest the idea of Mr. Bear sitting on the shelf, alone and forgotten. Even more heartbreaking was Tyler’s reaction to the news. He simply walked over to the shelf and selected a new friend to cuddle at bedtime. “Bear’s not going on vacation with us, Mommy,” he said nonchalantly. In that moment, I simultaneously mourned the loss of my baby, and celebrated the big kid he is becoming. He’s playing baseball, getting ready for kindergarten, and just too grown-up to care when Mr. Bear spends the night in the hands of Katie Jo, our cousin/babysitter/seamstress extraordinaire. I held my peace and didn’t argue. Daddy is right, of course, and besides, I’m proud of how big my boy has gotten. But I also can’t say that I didn’t feel a little balm for the soul tonight when I tucked Tyler into bed with his Mickey Mouse, and a sad little voice said “Mom, I wish Bear was here.” Guess my little boy is not so big after all.
Update: After extensive surgery to reattach his head, Mr. Bear is home from the “hospital” and recuperating nicely. He is allowed to snuggle at bedtime, but is no longer healthy enough to romp around the house and travel in the car. All of us Cinnamons are satisfied with this compromise.