|A funeral home becomes a beacon of hope for grieving families.|
Twice a year, a funeral home becomes a memory bear workshop.
There is a funeral home in Forest Lake, MN where people gather to create stuffed bears from a lost loved ones’ clothing. They transform these favorite items into something tangible to help them reconnect with the one they have lost. When it’s hard to let go, these stuffed animals serve as something tangible to hold onto.
Susan and Paul Hutchison of Forest Lake, MN have been repurposing their funeral home to host healing days; making teddy bears from beloved articles of clothing once owned by deceased loved ones.
800 - 900 "Heartley Bears" have been created at the Forest Lake funeral home over the past six years.
"It makes us feel really good," says Susan Hutchison, who launched the project with her husband, Paul, following the death of Paul's grandfather, Hartley Alden, for whom the bears are named.
When Alden passed away in 2008, his wife and daughters gathered his favorite shirts from fishing trips and family outings. They then used the shirts' fabric to make teddy bears for Alden's children and grandchildren.
|"Heartly" bears are created using the clothing from deceased loved ones.|
"There were a lot of tears and remembering the clothing," says Susan Hutchison.
It brought so much comfort to the Hutchison family that they established a Heartley Bear nonprofit organization to bring comfort to others who have lost loved ones. They decided to share their love with the families they served who were still grieving.
Twice a year, in spring and fall, the funeral home opens its doors to grieving families in their community; regardless of whether they used their services or not.
Over the years the Hutchisons have recruited a small army of volunteers who help with the bear making, some are former Heartley Bear recipients looking for an opportunity to give back. Some just find peace in helping others resolve their grief.
|The Mattson Funeral Home - a place of peace and hope.|
Families resolve their grief in a caring environment.
The grief is still fresh for Lisa and Chad Monson. After trying for 13 years to have a baby, in March, their daughter Ava was stillborn.
"This blanket was actually a blanket she was wrapped in at the hospital," says Lisa Monson, as she cut the blanket's soft pink fabric.
Ava's picture, taken just after her birth, sits on the table in front of the couple. "And now we're going to be able to create a bear and put it in her room and remember her for the rest of our life," says Lisa Monson.
It helps to be around so many others also resolving their grief by creating these memory bears and the Hutchisons have seen firsthand the healing power of the bears.
"I just hope it gives them peace," says Susan Hutchison, "a little bit of sunshine on their hardest days."
It’s no wonder that Mattson Funeral Home was named one of the top five funeral homes in the United States by the National Funeral Director’s Association in 2009. The Hutchisons have turned their funeral home into a place of comfort where the grieving leave with a teddy bear and a big bear hug. We're sending a big hug to all the caring staff at Mattson!
The larger bear is made from clothing of a young lady who lost her life while pregnant.
The baby bear is made from a blanket she had bought for the baby.