VITAS Healthcare Hospice Volunteers Stitch Memory Bears for Family of WWII Veteran
By Kathleen Kashow, VITAS Healthcare // January 16, 2020
Memory Bears are sewn by VITAS volunteers from your loved one’s clothing or other fabric
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When a loved one dies, memories mean so much. VITAS Healthcare volunteers help preserve those memories by stitching fabrics from their favorite clothing or other belongings into Memory Bears.
VITAS provided hospice care to Henry, a World War II veteran, and after his death volunteers delivered 20 Memory Bears to his family.
A special touch makes them especially interesting: Each features a miniature cap modeled after the ones Henry loved to wear.
“[Henry] was a gentleman who did not go outside, but he always had this knitted hat on,” says Jodi, a social worker for VITAS. “It was kind of an obvious question: ‘What’s the story behind the hat?’”
Helping Ease the Transition to Assisted Living
Jodi recalls two memorable characteristics about Henry from his earliest days with VITAS:
• His family was big, and they all wanted to be involved in his care—even his daughter who lived out of state made regular flights to visit.
• He always wore a thick crocheted hat, no matter the weather.
The “story behind the hat” turned out to be remarkably touching.
Following a severe stroke, Henry moved into an assisted living facility with his wife Marian. To ease the transition, their daughter Nancy began crocheting hats for her father, providing warmth, comfort and a sense of her presence, even when she wasn’t around.
In the months before Henry was admitted to VITAS, he lost both his eldest daughter and his wife in separate incidents. He struggled with Nancy’s and Marian’s deaths, but those simple hats offered an anchor to the memory of his daughter and the love that they shared.
VITAS Volunteers Step Up for Grieving Family
After Henry died, Jodi wanted to do something for his family that reflected their unique bond and dedication to Henry. The family had asked for 15 Memory Bears, but Jodi hoped she could do just a little more.
Jodi asked a VITAS volunteer manager to reproduce tiny copies of Henry’s signature hat that his family’s Memory Bears could wear.
“You can’t just make a crocheted hat, it has to be the hat,” Jodi advised the manager.
The volunteers came through, stitching 20 bears with 20 matching hats — Jodi thought 15 would be too few for the family of a man with six children, 14 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
Taking Care of Each Other
Jodi delivered the bears to Henry’s family, who loved the adorable gifts, both for the memories they contained and for the hats that meant so much to Henry in his final days.
For Jodi, the most impactful part of Henry’s story was seeing the love shared between his family despite losing three loved ones in a matter of months.
“You know, you just meet some families who amaze you,” Jodi says. “Right from the beginning there was a lot of emotion, but the love—when we see that, it’s just so beautiful.”
Volunteers are part of the VITAS interdisciplinary hospice team, filling the gap between loved ones and our professional caregivers. To learn more about volunteer opportunities or end-of-life care services, call VITAS Healthcare at 321.339.2893 or visit VITAS.com