Never in a million years did I think that a teddy bear would play such an important role in my life. Never did I think it would be the one thing that helps take away some small part of the grief I am experiencing after Nash’s passing, but it does. If there is something that can help my situation, or others like me, even a little, that’s huge in our world. I knew right away I wanted to have Nash cremated. I needed him to be with me always. I didn’t want him in some cold cemetery that I gradually would visit less and less. I didn’t want to see his name on a tombstone. Mostly, I didn’t want him to be alone. Todd, on the other hand, had to really come around to this. He truly felt it would be better to have a place to visit. A place where he could go to be alone with him. Mainly, though, he thought it would be best for our families to to have a place they could visit. It was the one time I didn’t mind being selfish. Although I agreed it would be best for our families, I knew it would not be best for me.
With everything that has happened after Nash’s death, I think about that decision a lot, actually. I can say, since some time has passed, that I know if we had chosen to bury him we would have been okay. I know now he would not have been alone. I know he would have been visited by so many. Even strangers who have been touched by his story. I can see people leaving flowers and toys at his grave. I know how happy that would have made me feel. However, I am glad we chose what we did. I have no regrets. I have enough guilt; I don’t need more knowing I’m not with him enough. Choosing to cremate my baby was definitely not an easy decision though. I still think of my child as alive, even though he is not. I hated thinking we would burn him, that his physical body would no longer exist. I still think about it and have to stop my thoughts or I will throw myself into an all-out anxiety attack. When people talk about the strength I have, I usually smile and think to myself, “If they only knew how weak I truly am.” That decision is the one decision I credit to some sort of hidden strength in me. I’m still surprised by our ability to come to that decision, and am beyond thankful we did.
I would say it was about a week after his death when I started researching children’s urns. My only intention was to find one appropriate for a child. Not some ugly, cold-looking vase. I was surprised to see the lack of options. It was either a lamb or an angel. Neither spoke to me. As I scrolled down, I saw a teddy bear. It peaked my interest so I read the reviews. Most people used them for their pets’ ashes. I was surprised to see it in the children’s urns section, being that I didn’t see one review from a parent who used it for their child. It came with a sweater you could have personalized. I stared at it. This bear meant I could still sleep with Nash every night, I could still hold him. Right then and there I knew I needed him! My sister Melissa was in the kitchen when I found it online and she bought it for us. I think it was sixteen dollars. Sixteen dollars!!!!! The cheapest peace of mind I have ever purchased.
When the bear arrived, I immediately hugged it. Seeing its personalized sweater with Nash’s name didn’t make me sad; I was happy to have it. He had a small zipper on the back of him and inside was a packet in the shape of a heart for his ashes. When I took him to the funeral home for them to place his ashes inside, they told me they were unable to use the heart. Instead, they placed some of his ashes in a small plastic bag. I hated that at the time, but now I absolutely love it. The bag makes a very distinct crinkling noise when u squeeze him, and I find myself doing that a lot to hear it. I know when I hear it, that it’s Nash. The uncomfortable wool sweater got replaced right away with an outfit of Nash’s, one that still smelled like milk around the collar. It took months for us to get Nash’s ashes back. It was a time of unbelievable pain and emptiness. Not knowing where he was. Him not being with us. The day we found out he was ready, I practically ran to the funeral home to get him…bear in hand.
Since that day, I have slept so much better. He is with us. He is home. If I leave the house for any overnight stay, he goes with me. Although Todd sleeps with him, for the most part he let’s me hold him. He saw right away how much it helped me. Sometimes in the middle of the night, he will unconsciously rip him from my arms and curl up to him. I love seeing him with Nash Bear. Knowing how holding that bear helps me, I naturally assume it does the same for him. Once he has stolen him though, I can never go back to sleep. I’m so used to having him in my arms. One night of bad sleep is so worth it just to see Todd have a night of snuggling with him. I have always been very open about Nash Bear.
Everyone knows what he is. I have posted pictures of him on Facebook. Pictures of my dogs snuggling him. Even they love him. It’s crazy because they instinctively know that he is not a toy. Any other stuffed animal in this house is fair game; they would chew it to pieces in seconds, but Nash Bear, never. Not once have I had to yell at them for trying to play with him. They somehow know. One lady reached out to me asking where I got him. Her friend’s daughter had passed away, and her husband was in the military. Soon he would be leaving for the Middle East. She thought the bear would bring him some comfort, something he could have with him. I gave her the information and told her she had easily just bought the best gift this man would ever receive.
What people don’t know is that there are actually two Nash bears. Todd and I could have had two, one for each of us, but we didn’t want that. I did, however, order one for my sister-in-law Becca. She hands down was with Nash the most, and they had built such a special bond. I knew this bear would help her. I can’t lie; I struggled with the decision. I love Becca, but I hated to split his ashes up. So many people have reached out to me saying they put a little of their child’s ashes everywhere. I don’t know why, but that gives me major anxiety. I thought of my brother Michael and my sister-in-law Tricia. They also had a special connection to Nash. I then thought of our parents and other aunts and uncles, all of whom loved him to the moon and back. I could not, however, separate his ashes like that. I started questioning myself. Should I do this? I knew in my heart Becca would be the one it would help the most. Not only that, I knew she would snuggle him and take care of him and mostly not think it was weird. Let’s face it, a bear is not for everyone. It could appear creepy to some. I knew wholeheartedly that Becca would not feel that way. I knew this bear would mean a lot to her. I told her to not say anything. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I also didn’t want everyone wanting a bear. It eventually came out though, and I was surprised at how easy my family took it. They all understood why I had given her one. Nash enjoyed his time with his Aunt Becca and cousins. It had become like his second home, I took him there so often. That’s what led me to be able to do it. Her home is familiar to him. He would want to be there.
Nash Bear has become a mascot in ways. We even had our maternity pictures taken with him. Our photographer was a stranger to us but had read my blog. She reached out to us wanting to “Nash” us with maternity and newborn pictures. She was actually the one who asked me to bring Nash Bear. I love that it’s not just me who feels an attachment to him. I love that when she shared the pictures, people commented knowing it was Nash Bear. How amazing is that!!! He is recognizable to so many. I see how affected people are when they see him. Some ask to hold him. Some just stare and I can tell they want to hold him but they don’t ask. Even our photographer seemed to have a sensitivity to him and touched him every time she got the chance. I love that!! I want people to hold him. If someone stopped by and asked to hold him, I will always say yes. I love sharing him. Todd seems to think in a couple of years, Nash Bear will no longer be ours. He thinks our rainbow baby will end up with him. I can say with 100% certainty he would be the only one I could give him up to. For now, though, he is ours. Every night as I lay down to sleep, I squeeze him to hear that distinctive crinkle, then I smell the sweet milk smell from around his collar and I smile. I still love snuggling Nash, and because of Nash Bear I still get to.