New Castle News

December 22, 2012

Enduring Love: From tragedy comes hope and lasting memories

Sam Luptak Jr.
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Linda McBride has long been familiar with pain, suffering and even death.

A nurse with Jameson Hospice of Lawrence County, she has frequently been at bedsides, comforting families as they say a final goodbye to their terminally ill loved ones. Linda thought she understood their pain, fear, and anger, how to be compassionate, and the “what ifs” and denial.

Yet, none of her skills could prepare her for the tragedy that affected her own life and that of her three children and six grandchildren just before Christmas two years ago.

“I will never forget November 19, 2010,” Linda said.

Her husband of 38 years, Leslie, was cutting down trees and cleaning out fence rows by himself.

“He was healthy, strong and an accomplished farmer at age 60. As he cut, he never saw a second tree, which had fallen and was trapped in the tree he was sawing down. When the large tree fell, the second tree fell on top of him.”

Hours later, Linda returned from work and was surprised to find Les not at home. Worried, she called her two sons, Michael and David — both police officers who live nearby — and they began to search for their father. He had been trapped for several hours, and was flown by helicopter from the scene to a trauma unit in Youngstown, but succumbed to his injuries 36 hours later. The funeral and burial was held the day before Thanksgiving.

“That was the first holiday without him,” Linda said. “How does life go on when you feel your whole world has fallen apart?”

Yet, through her faith, and loving friends and family, she found strength. Still, only weeks before Christmas, she wondered how she would be able to celebrate.

She spent the next few days sorting through pictures and found many photos of Les with his grandchildren. They selected a favorite photo taken with their grandfather as their own treasured keepsake.

But that was only the beginning.

Linda’s friend, Margaret, was a Hospice volunteer for many years. As part of the Hospice volunteer corps, Margaret constructs teddy bears for the survivors, made from clothes of their deceased loved one. Linda contracted Margaret to make a bear for each of the grandchildren and her daughter, Shelli, from the clothes Les wore in each of the pictures they had chosen.

“I wanted something for the children that they could hold and love, because their Pa had passed away,” Linda said. “Children are so in tune with stuffed animals.”

That Christmas Eve, the grandchildren and Shelli received their bears.

But there was a surprise for Linda as well.

Margaret had included an eighth bear made from remnants of all the clothes from the other seven bears. It was for Linda to have her own piece of Les to hold and love.

“My grandson said that was the best Christmas present ever,” Linda said. “The girls love dressing and undressing their bears.”

All the grandchildren named the stuffed toys Pa Bear.

“Pa is squeezed and hugged, and kissed. He goes to bed with them every night.”

Linda’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Marli, told her pre-school, “This is my Pa Bear. He wears Pa’s clothes. Pa died and is in heaven. He’s watching out for me. I love Pa.”

“This beautiful gesture made into a lasting memory has helped our grandchildren understand life is a gift,” Linda said. “We can all go on together honoring Pa’s life.”