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The “Second Month” Bear

The "Second Month" Bear.

If you’re fully involved and playing this Game of Life – the real one, not the board version – you have probably come to realize how true Mssr. Ben Franklin’s “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” maxim really is.

The inescapable certainty that we are all of this world for a relatively short time has not eluded either the world’s greatest philosophers or Led Zeppelin, and while no one we know actually asked to be here – we’re here and for an undetermined, often capricious length of time.

Between the periodic Cessation of Life events many of us carry on with the business of carrying on, face in the wind, shoulders squared, working toward goals we have labeled important during our time on earth: college, home, retirement – with happiness sandwiched in there if we can manage it.

Few of us are willing to speak of The Great Cessation. If it comes close, darting in to take someone we know and reminding us of our own mortality in the process, we trot out the usual platitudes: “He left us far too young,” or “She had a good, long life,” or, “He was brave right until the end.”

The words ring hollowly even as we say them, drifting away on the same wind that carried the piper’s tune, or the enthusiastic toasts to The Departed’s memory. “That Charlie, he was sure one helluva guy.”

If the Latest Loss is not your first rodeo you smile and accept the solicitudes and hoist your glass gamely, knowing that the months ahead will be long and hard, like the nights. Hopefully, you have something to occupy your time, because nothing is harder than facing another sleepless night, alone with your memories, wishing for ghostly visits that never come.

The grim joke among the Veterans of Loss is that you will never be as well fed as you are in the week following your loved one’s departure. Women joke of The Casserole Brigade, the steady line of well-meaning, kind-hearted souls who bake their love for you and for The Departed into meals intended to keep mourners fed and on their feet through wakes and funerals.

One local, no stranger to the Game of Life or the occasional Cessation Event that marks it, accurately predicted how the march of the casseroles would end as people turned back to their own lives and left you to yours; how days would drag into weeks, then months.

“Two months,” she said. “You’ll think you’re alone and then there’ll be a knock on your door. That’s when the ‘Second Month Bear’ shows up. He’ll get you through the toughest stretch… when everyone is gone.”

True to her word, a soft-eyed bear arrived right on schedule – long after the last mourning card and poignant remembrance letter had been received and set aside in a sterling letter rack just inside the darkened household, unopened.

The Power of the Teddy Bear is the stuff of legend. A president lent his name to them – and spawned an era of bear huggery for children, flappers, and members of the cocktail set who carried them in fashionable purses. Soldiers carried the bears into the trenches for luck, and we were reminded of the importance of Aloysius to Simon Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.

Apparently, 35 percent of adults in Britain owned up to sleeping with a teddy bear to de-stress. Twenty-five percent of male respondents took their bear with them on business trips as it reminded them of home, while 15 percent of men and 10 percent of women said the bears helped them through the grieving process.

The Hugging Phase may be out of the question, but there’s a place for the “Second Month Bear” in the glass case filled with folded American flags, family photos, and mementoes of those who have left us.

What can it hurt? And, you never know, he may do some good.

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