SAN ANTONIO - Vitas Memory Bears start with a little bit of fabric and thread.
"This is like an old chu-chu but I absolutely love this machine," Vitas, volunteer, Astrida Shepard said.
A little bit of stuffing and lot of love.
The bears are used during the healing process after a family member has passed.
"When all this is finished the bear will come alive,” Shepard said.
Shepard has been volunteering her time to make these memory bears since 2015.
"I do with a lot of love. I pray for the bears,” Shepard said.
The fabric on each bear carries a memory for these grieving families whether it's a favorite shirt or pants that a loved one once wore.
"What a beautiful meaning when a family touches all that brings them back the memory. This is my grandmother. I thought that is very, very important,” Shepard said.
Although the Vitas volunteers never meet the person who passed in hospice care or their families. Their clothing gives them a sense of who they were.
"One time was a baby that was three months and that clothing was so tiny I made a reduced pattern. That was sad that a little baby should die. And that made me really sad and I prayed for that family,” Shepard said.
Shepard remembering one family's bear that was made after the passing of their mother.
"I didn't realize in the beginning that that would be so meaningful for the families," Shepard said.
A letter of gratitude from a widower keeps her passion alive.
"I think it was a little less than a week. So we didn't spend a whole lot of time," widower, Jason Eittreim said.
Robin Pohl had been battling breast cancer since 2012. At the age of 37, bone cancer would take her from her husband and two young children.
“It's been a year and a month she passed away last June,” Eittreim said. "It's been a rollercoaster. It really has. At times you feel numb. At times you feel it's too quiet in the house."
Jaston Eittreim and his family find healing through the memory bears.
“Anytime we have a hard time it's something that we can grab on to. Talk to and in my case yell at once in a while,” Eittreim said.
Eittreim and his children holding them close whenever they need that extra comfort.
“The memories are there. The smell is there. It's just part of her,” Eittreim said.
For Aaron and Ira, these bears never leave their side.
"It feels fantastic. It reminds me of my mom every time I hug it,” Ira Eittreim said.
A piece of mom to take wherever they go.
"It's one of those things that you can't repay that you really can't put a price tag on. I can't say thank you enough these bears mean the world to us,” Eittreim said.
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