The Magic of Memory Bears

By Sandra Zunino

The pain of losing a loved one is hard to endure. Hospice of Queen Anne’s understands the bereavement process for those left behind. As an effort to make that process a little more bearable, they are now offering Memory Bears for anyone who has had a family member in Hospice of Queen Anne’s.

A Memory Bear is a meaningful keepsake of a departed loved one. The bears are made from the fabric of a special article of clothing such as a favorite shirt, pajamas, skirt, uniform or apron that belonged to the deceased. Hospice volunteers sew these treasured bears from a simple pattern and can accessorize a bear to reflect the personality of the loved one.

The program started just two months ago and already 15 bears have been sewn, according to Coordinator of Volunteers Debbie Gilmer. “We’re going back in time for anyone who has had a family member in Hospice of Queen Anne’s, regardless of how long ago,” she says.

Many times, people will keep an article of clothing that belonged to someone who passed away, such as a favorite T-shirt. “Instead of keeping that in a drawer,” says Debbie, “we’ll make a bear out of it.”

Recently, a family brought in a plaid shirt to make five bears for the loved one’s five grandchildren. “This is how they wanted them to remember their grandfather,” she says.

If there are no articles of clothing, bears can be made from fabric that represents the person’s interests such as beach prints for someone who liked the shore, or tractor fabric for a farmer. A pocket is sewn in the back of the bear to hold a photo.

A free service, typically the limit is four bears, but Hospice will make exceptions in special cases. While the service is extended for families of individuals served by Hospice of Queen Anne’s, Debbie will mail the pattern to anyone who lost a loved one upon request.

Debbie says she got the idea from another hospice. “We have meetings and exchange ideas on what works, and we’re very open to giving each other ideas.”

Even though loss is painful, grieving is actually a healthy process. While emotions such as sadness, loneliness, helplessness, anger, guilt and fear following the death of a loved one are often very intense; at Hospice, grief is viewed as a cycle that must be worked through to heal emotionally.

Keepsakes such as these are a source of comfort to those who are grieving. “We all live on our memories,” explains Debbie, “Memories are what keep people alive forever in our hearts.”

“You see this little bear and it reminds you of this person and makes you smile,” she adds, “and you can hug a bear. Hugging is important to us.”

Only a quarter yard of fabric is needed to create a Memory Bear. Once the fabric is turned in, it takes about 30 days to finish the bear. The family can pick it up at the Hospice Center in Centreville. Fifteen volunteers stepped forward to sew the bears for the project.

“This is one more thing we can offer besides a picture frame,” says Debbie. “If this can bring a smile to someone’s face, I’m thrilled about it.”

For more information about Memory Bears, please call 443-262-4112. For more information about Queen Anne’s Hospice, visit