Well, we were home now. I had made the first phone call to the funeral home. We had met with our pastor to put the program together. I had even spoken with the people who were putting Doria’s grave marker together. We slept in our own bed for a very nice change, and we had nothing but time on our hands. I’m working as a T.A. for my major professor, and, later this day, she let me know, nicely but firmly, that I was taking a week off. Our church family had exploded into providing meals. We really had nothing but time.
We decided to get some things done. We had our face-to-face meeting with the funeral home. I had a book waiting for me at the library through Inter-Library Loan, so we went to pick that up. I’d only have that book for a limited time. Life marches on.
The previous week, I had jury duty. I actually had to go in! Listening to the thorough questioning, I was really struck by the amount of drama that happens in our lives in ways that nobody would ever know. As Becky and I walked across campus on that first day of classes, we were surrounded by a disoriented sea of humanity. As thousands of freshmen walked around with their looks of shock and confusion, their lives turned upside-down, we walked through that seas planning Doria’s funeral on our cell phones. The quiet drama of life kept marching on in all kinds of strange and different ways. It was nice to be out in public, yet completely anonymous.
We both knew that my first visit to the History Department was going to result in tears all around. Being us, we decided (with permission) to get that out of the way immediately. This was the first day of the semester, so it seemed like the best one to ruin. I’m pretty sure that we changed that day. We got to share pictures and tears around the office. It was a beautiful and awkward day that made me extremely glad to be here at Iowa State again.
Then we moved on for the main event of our day! Becky and I had decided that we wanted something tangible to remember Doria, something that we could hold onto, see, touch, all of that, and we wanted it right now. We shopped around on the Build-A-Bear website to put together an amazingly cute little bear to remember Doria. We shopped through various options, and settled on things that we planned to share with Doria, and could actually buy at the story. We found a neat Cyclone T-shirt, because she was going to be a Cyclone. We found a cute pink Cubs hat, because we were going to share that. We found jeans, because people wear pants. We found a cute, sort of frilly pink jacket, because she was going to have some cute pink stuff. In proper military fashion, we made our list, and we were ready to go!
It turns out that I moved us out too quickly. We got down to the mall ‘near’ us which had a Build-A-Bear store pretty quickly and easily. No problem there. We got to the store, found the pink bear we were looking for, and everything started to fall apart. We couldn’t find any of the stuff we were looking for. Not an item. We got awkwardly silent trying to figure this thing out. An hour of driving, a stillborn baby, a great idea, and all we’ve got is a naked, unstuffed pink bear. This ain’t working.
We stood there in a strange form of shock. I couldn’t form a clear thought or strategy to save my life. Then came a beautiful surprise! One of the salespeople saw us, but he could tell how awkward things were for us. He saw my Cyclone hat and ISU polo, and made the day’s best guess. He casually moved to the Cyclone T-shirt, walked over to us, and gently asked “Is this what you’re looking for?” He’s probably never seen people smile so brightly for that shirt!
Of course, then it got awkward. Our guy Ben had standard questions, but was astute enough to realize that this wasn’t a standard situation. He asked if the bear was for a boy or girl. I choked out “girl” He asked how old she was, and he noticed that we just looked at each other awkwardly. I said something along the lines of “she didn’t make it.” He knew just what to do.
It turned out that Ben is a pastor who works at Build-A-Bear to help pay the bills, and he has since his seminary days. Ben had been down this road with a couple at his church before, and he knew how to handle it. I never expected really good pastoral care at Build-A-Bear, but there it was! He also noted the big party of kids celebrating a birthday, and he just gently shepherded us through the process with a smile that never let on to the other group what was going on. He knew right where everything was. I never thought I’d be touched by stuffing and dressing a bear, but it was awesome. He got us exactly what we wanted, and much, much more. Ben is the man! We had our Dori-bear!
We’ll be grateful for our guy Ben forever. I can’t say that enough. Our little Dori-bear is there every time we need something cute and cuddly to hold. I held onto her while I wrote the back of our funeral program, and I do it just about every time I write something very emotional. She’s even learning to read!
We’re so glad to have something to hold on to. One of the biggest challenges of the stillbirth experience is that you leave the hospital empty-handed. Our cute little pink Dori-bear is a real help for us!