Sandra’s Writing Workshop: My Father’s Bear

This is written in response to this week’s Writing Workshop Prompt, to write about a possession that holds meaning to you:

 He has brown fur and big grey feet. A black nose and black button eyes. A grey ribbon that over the years, has lost its bow, but still hangs loosely around his neck. He seems somber but also thoughtful. Ruminative.

This was a stuffed bear my mother bought for my father 18 years ago when he was in a nursing home. By then he had stopped walking and only spoke in a small whisper. He knew who we were but other than that, he thought he was on a cruise ship.

At the time, I resented her buying the bear. As if he were a child. It seemed disrespectful. “I think it will bring him comfort,” she’d protested.

And it did. He would play with it on the tray of his wheelchair. He would make it dance. It would make him smile.

The bear was with him when he died. His dying began at breakfast one morning, when he turned completely blue while eat scrambled eggs.  His doctor told us he had congestive heart failure and most likely wouldn’t make it through the next 24 hours.

By the time my mother and I got there, he was agitated, trying to pull himself up by his bed rail, his mouth open in horror, revealing bits of egg still in his teeth. I knew that he knew he was dying and that he was terrified. I whispered in his ear  that we were back at the lake where we spent our summers, and wasn’t it a beautiful day and we would take a swim soon. I babbled on to calm him down, but nothing can calm the fear of dying. Until he began to calm down only because he was weakening and beginning to lose consciousness; there would be moments of that agitation, but more moments of utter calm when he would stare at us without seeing. I settled the soft bear close to his cheek.

We weren’t there when my father actually died. My mother, nearly  80 then, was faint with exhaustion and the drive home was a long one.

He wound up dying “quietly” the nurse told us, at 3am. With the bear beside him.

I kept the bear in a box, along with an old shirt and drawings my father drew when they’d let him sit near the nursing station. My father had been a historian and history professor, but toward the end, when he no longer could understand the difference between day and night, he wrote poetry and drew pictures of birds.

When my boys were little, at some point they discovered the box and pulled out the bear. To them, he was a delightful surprise. Their delight reminded me of my father’s. They too made him dance.

To me, this bear is all about my father. What he was reduced to at the end of his life. And the fact that he wound up having to die alone. But he sits out now in plain sight. And I do try to remember that this little stuffed animal brought some of the last true delights my father was able to relish at the end of his life. And when I glance his way, I recognize wisdom in that ruminative look, as he was able to know my father until the very end.

About Sandra

Author;editor of The Woven Tale Press at; mother; weaver
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15 Responses to Sandra’s Writing Workshop: My Father’s Bear

  1. Mike Adams says:

    Wow Sandra, what an evocative post. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.

    I don’t believe I’ve already shared this with you, but if so, I offer my apologies!

    • Sandra says:

      I need a vacation from my Vacation, this last one in NH coming back on a five hour drive with a very sick child. With whom to day I spent 6hours with in the emgency room due to dehydration and low sugar levels from hand foot mouth disease. Call me spoiled. But I’m ready to stay home and retreat into normalcy, as dull as the daily might be.

  2. Tara Adams says:

    I so enjoy your writing, Sandra. You captured beautifully the emotions of loss and transition, appreciation and sadness in that bear.

  3. nelle says:

    Good post. Such a personal story written from memory and heart.

  4. Oh, he’s perfect! I can see where he would have been a comfort to your father. Since he was with him when he died that kind of makes him family, doesn’t it? I loved this. 🙂

  5. k~ says:

    This was a touching story. It’s a blessing of sorts when the moments can be unpacked from their hiding places and rekindled in the hands of someone else again. He carries smiles, and comfort that radiated from your story.

  6. Suzy says:

    Beautifully written. This reminded me of the last few hours of my father’s life and of the teddy he bought me when I was 2 years old. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Libby says:

    Wow…really heart-wrenching. But, I am glad the bear was there. And, I am glad that you still have it 🙂 And, of course, the story was beautifully written!

  8. Libby says:

    BTW – I finished my report and am working on my blog hop piece right now 🙂

  9. Amy Morgan says:

    What a remarkable bridge of transition this bear was from your father’s passing to where you are now in remembering him. The progression of possession as well as the effect it had on both your father and you was so well expressed. I can only imagine how important it was for your mom (and forgive if I cross over the line here of presumption) to provide him with a source of comfort when she wasn’t able to be one for him full time in the nursing home. A true show of love if I ever saw one.

  10. Laila says:

    Touching! So beautifully written.We can feel your emotions as well as your dad’s!

  11. Sandra,
    This writing is beautifully captured the last moment of your father’s life. And the bear is such a cuddling stuffed bear that was with him until his last breath.
    It is so great that you have something that reminded you of him –though, I know you don’t need anything because he is truly carved stone in your heart.

  12. DM Yates says:

    A very beautiful and touching post. There really is something about teddy bears.

  13. austine says:

    A story to tell and share. Hope your mother’s helper stays for awhile to help you and her out. I’m your newest follower,

  14. Is it too late to participate in the Workshop prompt about a possession? I had thought it was supposed to be a short story. I thought of an idea for a reminiscence like yours that I can write without too much trouble. But I’m vague on how this works. Do I write it as a post on my own blog? And then … do what? I look at the instructions at and I guess I’m just stupid but I honestly don’t understand them. How do I find other people’s posts to comment on? How do they find mine? I don’t get it. You’re welcome to contact me by e-mail if you like – I guess you can see that information above.

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