Jacob was a very small boy when he began to sleep in a real bed; it has been too long for me to remember dates, yet the events that occurred during those times are worth meditation even down to this day. He was presented with a ten inch tall polyester teddy bear named “Beary”. Beary became an indispensible family member from that time on. They became inseparable. Being the youngest of four children and the only male child in the family required a unique set of survival skills which were learned quite rapidly. Don’t play dress up unless you like to be humiliated. Physical violence avails nothing when outnumbered three to one and outweighed by one hundred pounds in aggregate. Girls are frequently cruel, especially when it suits their means; hence going along generally is getting along.
Lucky for Jacob there was Beary: a true friend- steadfast, patient, and long suffering; qualities my son were learning through hard experience. Beary had a problem that could not be overcome with mere love unfortunately. Outside the confines of the house was a hard and dangerous place, certainly for an inanimate stuffed toy that had no capacity for healing bodily insults. Ranches are unforgiving places, most certainly when one gets left in a sheep pen or hanging on a barbed wire fence for periods of time. Jacob soon learned from experience that outside was not the place for his friend. Beary was an “inside bear” set apart from the rest of God’s creation in order that he may be more perfectly loved by his buddy.
While our good friend was growing up along with my dear son, the next problem arose- Beary was getting so dirty that he could not be kept presentable: Beary began to stink, and the girls aptly renamed him “Stinky Bear”; a name that has entered the hallowed halls of family history. Stinky Bear smelled bad, and had snaking all over his body more stitches than Frankenstein’s Monster, in desperate attempts to stave off ursine death and the heartbreak of a little boy. The family was fighting a losing battle, with all of us realizing the inevitability of the death of our five dollar pet bear and erstwhile family member: all of us that is, except my son. Stinky Bear was still the wonderful friend he had always been and besides, you just don’t kill off friends when they get real old; some Catholic teaching thrown back in our faces by the now four year old philosopher.
Stinky Bear had other problems as well; his stuffing was all pilled up in the oddest places of his anatomy, making him look much like a horrific victim of some ghastly mumps outbreak from Santa’s workshop. Worst of all however, was the fact that Jacob started to grow up. It was time for a change, and being the Dad of the house, I delegated Mom to break the dastardly news. While we all loved Stinky Bear, Jacob was no longer allowed to take him out of the bedroom. In the bedroom all was well, yet Jacob must now face the world alone, without his constant companion… forevermore. The trauma was real; Jacobs’s world had changed in an unforeseen and profound way. In the beginning he would not come out of his room for long periods of time- then there were the emotional outbreaks when he run back to the sanctuary of the only thing that he felt comfortable with; soon enough however Jacob began to wean himself from Stinky Bear, and I can say with all honesty that Stinky, twenty years later, shares an honored place in a fifty-five gallon drum with eldest daughter Kate’s Star Wars toys.
Jacobs experience with Stinky Bear jumped out at me from the tangled sagebrush of the past when I began to contemplate Purgatory last night. A particularly fine sermon on it from Lighthouse Media strangely made the connection between my souls imperfections after death and my attachments to things on earth that somehow seemed connected to little Jacobs attachment to Stinky: tolerable during ones formative period of life, but something that must be left behind, when it is time to mature. Stinky was great in his day and served manifold purposes in the development of a wonderful man. But in order for this young man to reveal himself as he truly should be, Stinky must be left behind in the process of purgation. This becomes an improbable comfort to me as I begin to realize there within me are many Stinky Bears that must be left behind before I am ready to face Our Lord in His living room of Glory.