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Hundreds of thousands if not millions of Mexicans have lost family members from Covid-19 without being able to bid them farewell properly due to the risk of infection.
But an artisan in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, is giving some of them something to hold onto after their loved ones pass away: teddy bears made from the Covid victims’ clothing.
Eréndira Guerrero made face masks at the start of pandemic but as the infectious disease began to take lives in the northern border city, she discovered there was also demand for custom-made teddy bears among people who lost a family member.
One person who sought out the services of the seamstress is Araceli Ramírez.
After her 70-year-old father died two days after being admitted to hospital for Covid, she took one of his flannel shirts to Guerrero who used it to make a teddy bear.
The artisan estimates that she has made about 200 bears for the family members of Covid victims, telling the newspaper El Universal that they become very emotional when she delivers their order.
“The majority cry and hug [the bear] because the item of clothing becomes something that reaches their heart,” Guerrero said.
To make each teddy bear even more personalized, Guerrero sews messages onto them at the family members’ request.
In the case of Ramírez’s bear, the message reads: “This is a shirt I used to wear, every time you hug it I want you to know I’m there. With love, dad.”
Guerrero has even sewn small speakers into the teddy bears she makes that are activated when pressed and recite a prayer, offer some words of affection or even play voice messages from the deceased Covid victim.
“These days we have audio of the people we love in our phones. If someone wants to, that audio can be placed in the piece we’re making,” she said.
Guerrero, who has been making arts and crafts since she was 13 and previously made teddy bears for the family members of victims of violence in Juárez, said she finds her work very gratifying because it helps people in mourning turn their pain into affection and love.
“It allows them to have a different [kind of] contact with the pieces of clothing of their loved ones. … The family members couldn’t close the cycle of their loss [because they couldn’t say goodbye in person] but when they receive their little bear they completely change. They look at it and embrace it with affection as if it was their loved one,” she said.
Ramírez said she wasn’t able to keep vigil over her father’s body because he died from Covid so she struggled to accept that he was really gone. She added that the pandemic prevented her from gathering with family members to say goodbye to her father at a funeral.
As a result she struggled to find an outlet for her pain. But her flannel shirt teddy bear is now helping her recover from her loss.
“I can talk to the bear, express what I didn’t tell [my dad] and feel like he is with me,” Ramírez said.