I’m not sure what it is about this story, but I have not been able to get it out of my head since this past Sunday. So, I decided that I would sit down and write about it.
I guess I should go back to last week, when it all began. It was the funeral for a lady who my dad knew. I’ll call her Cassie to protect her family’s privacy. She was an elderly woman who worked at the hair salon where he gets his hair cut every couple of weeks. The hair salon he goes to is where one of our family members works, and so when he goes, it is often a relaxed and fun time. The entire salon is a make-yourself-at-home type of place and this woman was like the loving grandmother. She would bake for both the stylists and the people coming in to get their hair done. She’d also do various other tasks around the salon, and was a warm face that everyone seemed to enjoy seeing when they’d arrive.
Here’s the thing… I had never met her. This is the image that my dad has painted of the woman for over the last several years since he’s been going there. So, when she passed away, I felt sad. I always feel sad when I hear of someone’s passing, whether or not I knew the person. But, Cassie was different, and it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized just how different she was.
The Blue Bear
Last week, my dad came home from the funeral and reception, carrying a small object. It was one of many belongings that Cassie had in her possession at the time of her passing. Her family had set a great deal of her items onto a table, asking everyone to please take something home with them after the reception. My dad picked a white ceramic angel. When I first saw it, I first thought how pretty it was, but then my thoughts immediately switched to, “They are giving her stuff away so soon.” I couldn’t understand how someone could give their loved one’s items away so soon after their passing. But, after that thought stood in my head for a while, it eventually made its way to the back of my mind, where it stood until this weekend.
On Saturday, my dad and uncle – to whom I referred in my post My Uncle-Brother: Living with a Special Needs Family Member – went to a family gathering. My mom does not usually go to gatherings anymore due to her medical issues, and as for me… well, my social anxiety takes care of that for me. So, my dad went with my uncle and did not come home until almost midnight. Some time after they came home and the entire house was asleep, I went into the kitchen to get some water. It was then that I saw this box on the kitchen table, with what looked to be a blue bear inside of it. My first thought was that maybe my dad won it in a game, since our family loves to play games at all of our gatherings. However, then I thought that maybe he left it there to give it to me. So, I didn’t turn on the big kitchen light to take a closer look at it. I thought that maybe he wanted to surprise me with it and just forgot that he left it on the table. So, I just walked out of the room.
The next morning, I went into the kitchen and glanced at the table and saw that the bear was gone. I was kind of bummed as I figured that it wasn’t for me after all. I know… I’m such a little kid when it comes to those things. But, it looked cute from what I could see in the barely lit kitchen the night before. However, I just pushed it to the back of my mind and went on fixing a bagel.
Well, later toward the end of the day, I went back into the kitchen to talk with my mom, when I noticed that the blue bear was back on the table, still sitting in its plastic display case. I could now see it for what it truly was… a TY Beanie Baby Bear. I used to collect Beanie Babies back when they were the “in” things to collect. I
still have a huge plastic box filled with them in my closet, and still get one every now and then from my parents for holidays and birthdays ‘cause they know how much I still love them. So, to see that stuffed bear in the full light, made me so happy. I then quickly told my mom how cute I thought the bear was, and she went on to tell me that the bear actually belonged to Cassie. That took me aback, as the thought of it belonging to her had never even crossed my mind.
The night before, the family member who works at the salon gave the bear my dad. Cassie’s family had given her some more items, and they had asked her to please distribute them to people who cared about her. My dad, being one of those people, was offered the bear. Upon hearing this, I began to feel sad again. I said out loud to my mom, “Don’t you think they’re giving her stuff away too soon?” My mom then explained that they needed to because they did not have a place to store it. I hadn’t really thought about that. I mean an entire life’s worth of possessions cannot be an easy thing to take home and store away. So, I began to understand their reasons.
However, I still felt so badly. Cassie lived alone. Most of her family, with the exception of a few people, lived out of state. Her apartment was where she lived her life. And now, I felt as if this lady’s life was just being taken apart. Everything that she had used to decorate her home was being taken down and given away. I looked at the bear and it was more than just some stuffed animal. This bear meant something to Cassie, at least at some point. It meant so much that she even kept it in a display box to keep it free from dust and dirt. She obviously took some care in protecting it. The bear told me a little about who Cassie was in life… a woman who loved at least one stuffed blue bear. And for a moment, she was me. I love stuffed animals too, and have plenty of them. If I died tomorrow, all of my possessions would no longer have the meaning that they once had because that meaning will have died along with me. So, it made me sad to think that this bear, which once had so much meaning for Cassie, was now just another stuffed animal to everyone else.
It was then that the emotions began to flood me. I walked out of the kitchen as quickly as possible and just went and laid down on the couch in the den, feeling quite upset. Since the week prior, I had been trying not to let myself cry and I finally just let myself go. I sobbed and just lay there thinking about this lady whom I never even knew. I did not even have a picture to put a face to her name. Yet, I was connected with her for some reason.
Do You Want to Give Him a Home?
So, once I was able to calm down and gather my composure, I headed back into the kitchen. My mom was still in there and I went up to the bear again. It was then that my mom said, “Dad said that if you wanted it, that you could put it in your room. Do you want to give him a home?” I immediately started nodding my head and said, “Yes! I want him!” And, so my mom said to go ahead and take him. I felt this sudden happiness come over me, as I carried off my new little friend. I went into my room and went straight for my toy shelf.
Yes, I have a toy shelf. I love toys. I have collections of toys and other items that I’ve had since I was a kid, as well as some that I’ve collected now as an adult. I don’t display all of them, as there are just too many. But, I swap them around every now and then and keep them displayed on one of my desk’s hutch shelves. I had to do some rearranging, but I fit my new little furry friend into the back of the shelf, complete with his protective case.
We Are More Than Just Our Possessions
Our world tends to put too much emphasis on possessions. I’m guilty of that too, as I often look at the latest gadget and think, “Man! I wish I could have that.” But, in reality, our possessions are merely objects to entertain us while we’re here on earth. After death, we will no longer have any use for those items. However, not all possessions are mere items. Some have deeper meaning. The old sewing machine in our living room that belonged to my grandma is one such item. It’s not about the “bling” aspect of that object, but rather about the memories attached to it. One such memory is my mom watching my grandma as she made her homemade dresses when she was a little girl. Those memories are irreplaceable. Sure they are in my mom’s head, but that sewing machine is a way for me to get a better sense of who my grandma was in life. I can actually touch the machine that my grandma touched with her own tender and loving hands. That is special to not just my mom, but also to me.
And, so when I look at that blue bear sitting on my desk now, I see something that was cared for by Cassie. Her own hands placed that bear into that case in order to keep it safe. And, it remained as such until the day that she passed. I would never expect anyone to keep all of my possessions when I die. Actually, I would like them to be given to someone less fortunate. But, I admit, that I would hope that my loved ones would want to keep at least something that reminded them of me. Some object in my room that represents who I was to them in life.
I Promise, Cassie!
I never had the good fortune to meet Cassie, but I now have a piece of who she was in my room. I never met her, but that does not mean that I can’t remember her in some way. Many celebrities have passed in life who I had never met, yet I remember them. So, why can’t that be the same for Cassie? For whatever reason, she touched me in a way that I cannot even fully understand. But, what I do understand is that I feel much better having her bear in my room now.
When my shelf was finally arranged with my new bear in its place, I stood there looking at the new setup. As I stared at that crisp, royal-blue bear looking back at me, I became teary eyed again, but this time it was due to happiness. I had given her bear a home. It was then that I looked at the bear and made a promise.
“Thank you, Cassie. I’ll take good care of him for you.”