Building A Legacy – One Bear At A Time

Building A Legacy – One Bear At A Time

When Kristen Bach raised the idea of recording her father’s voice, one of the most popular and poignant projects of the Music Therapy Program was born. Thanks to the germ of this idea, Music Therapist Jill Murphy has helped individuals record their voice and place it in a teddy bear as a legacy for their families. Known as the build-a-bear program, Jill has helped to provide this cherished memento to about 15 families to date. The program is made possible through the equal support of the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County and the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation.

Murphy recalls the original request from Darryl Bach who thought Kristen’s idea was a great one and wanted to surprise his two daughters, Kristen and Julia, with this precious gift. The voice box is placed in the bear’s hand and can record a ten-second message. “I usually counsel individuals to say the name of their loved one, to say I love you, and remind them I’ll always be with you,” says Murphy. She has noted the profound impact it has on those receiving the bear, and those who are giving it. “Many individuals wonder if loved ones will remember the sound of their voice, this helps to ensure they always have a reminder close at hand.”

This simple concept has provided comfort to a range of patients and families. A grandmother recorded a message for the granddaughter she would never meet. She told her “I’ll always love you and be watching over you.” Murphy has also acquired a stethoscope as part of the program and has recorded the heartbeat of patients which can be interwoven with a favourite piece of music. The grandmother was able to hear the baby’s heartbeat and subsequently recorded her own so her grandchild would always have the sound of her grandmother’s love with her. And, the bears are for more than children. One individual recalls receiving a teddy bear from her brother when they were children, which remained with them through the years. It sparked the idea to provide another bear for her loved one, saying “you took such good care of the first one, here’s another for you to cherish.”

Jill makes a point of backing up the recordings, and holding on to them for safe keeping, so individuals don’t have to worry if something should happen to the bear’s voice box.

“Having the support of the Society really allows us to touch people’s lives in a profound way,” says Murphy. She still recalls the look of relief on the face of one patient when he learned there was no cost to create and provide the bear to his family members. “We work with some very brave people,” says Murphy. “This isn’t always an easy thing to do but allows families to treasure the voice of their loved one, for years to come.”

Darryl’s wife says the original idea came from her daughter. “Kristen discussed it with Darryl, but he had enlisted Jill’s help and surprised the girls, Sheena Bach says. “This is such a special treasure for them to have. I’m so happy it’s helping others too.”

Featured in Photo: Dad Darryl with daughters Kristen and Julia—and bears!