Cork woman's memory teddies were inspired by her late husband

Crafter Assumpta Lydon knows how comforting memory teddies can be, having grieved the death of her husband from pancreatic cancer, writes MARY HASSETT
Cork woman's memory teddies were inspired by her late husband

Crafter Assumpta Lydon. Picture: Leonard Stone

ASSUMPTA Lydon loves to see people’s faces light up when she hands them a memory teddy created from the clothes of a loved one who has passed away.

“People get a great kick when they identify a piece of clothing like their mother’s favourite dress. I make memory quilts too and they look lovely, but you can give the teddy a cuddle or a hug,” says Assumpta, who is Manager of the Passage West Creates Craft Shop.

Assumpta knows first-hand how comforting the memory teddies can be. Last year, she made four teddies for her three grown up children and herself, using the clothes of her late husband, Peter, who died at the age of 53, from pancreatic cancer.

Assumpta Lydon. Picture Marcia D'Alton
Assumpta Lydon. Picture Marcia D'Alton

That was back in 2008 when the couple’s youngest child, David, was aged 11, their daughter Emma was 17, and their older son, Stephen, was 19.

Nearly 13 years on from Peter’s death, Assumpta decided she would have to do something about his clothes. She asked her now adult children which of their dad’s shirts they liked best.

“Pete used always wear stripey polo shirts and then he had some good shirts too, so I made the teddies from all the materials.

"I used the buttons for eyes. I made big teddies for my children but most people prefer the smaller size one,” explains Assumpta.

The smaller 17 inch teddy costs €35 and the bigger 24 inch one sells at €50.

“I don’t like the idea of trying to make money out of people. The person supplies the materials so I just need to cover the cost of the stuffing and the time I spend making the teddy,” says Assumpta.

It’s always helps when Assumpta knows something about the deceased loved one, so she can incorporate little details from their lives into the making of the teddy, quilt, or cushion.

Sometimes, people get upset at the thought of their loved one’s favourite dress or shirt being cut up to make the teddy.

“It is hard, but what’s the point of the item hanging up in the back of a wardrobe when you could be seeing it every day as part of a teddy or a quilt?” Assumpta asks.

Bereavement is a tough station and Assumpta and her children wouldn’t have got through it without the unstinting support of family, friends and the people of Passage West and Monkstown.

It helped too that Pete and Assumpta had two great years from the time of diagnosis to his death in October, 2008. Many people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer aren’t as fortunate.

Assumpta treasures the fact that Pete was able to spend a lot of time at home with their three beloved children. The kindness and compassion shown by surgeon Criostoir O’ Suilleabhain towards Pete when he was a patient in the Mercy Hospital will be forever etched in Assumpta’s memory.

Assumpta Lydon with some of her memory teddies. Picture: Leonard Stone
Assumpta Lydon with some of her memory teddies. Picture: Leonard Stone

So too will be the palpable sense of community support that enveloped the family at the time of Pete’s death. Family, friends and work colleagues from Pfizer’s took turns at shouldering the coffin from the family’s home in Pembroke Woods to St Mary’s Church in the centre of Passage West.

A harvest moon glistened over the harbour where the family loved to sail.

Stephen held his mum’s hand every step of the way. Assumpta and her three amazing children then shouldered the coffin into the church.

“Like everything else at the funeral, things worked out the way they should,” Assumpta acknowledges.

Assumpta kept going for three years after Pete’s death and then grief hit her like a ton of bricks.

“I think it was because David was gone up to secondary school and Emma and Stephen were in college, and it was the first time I felt I could take a breath.

“I’d say for about three months before that third anniversary, and for a while afterwards, I was very depressed,” she explains.

Little by little, Assumpta started to heal. She was helped in no small way by the camaraderie of her fellow crafters. She first started going to craft classes when her children were very young.

“I was only making up the numbers at the VEC run patchwork quilt group and here I am 28 years later, still sewing,” she laughs.

Recently, Fr Sean O’Sullivan generously offered Assumpta and the Pin Pals quilting group the use of a room in the old boy’s school building in Passage West for their Monday get togethers.

“In return, I’m offering to give a six or ten week sewing course for people in the community who want to get started.

“There is a lot of community spirit around the place and everything I do now is about payback,” Assumpta concludes.

For more information on the memory teddies:

Message Assumpta on the Passage West Creates Facebook page; or contact her at (087) 2241540.

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