The Bears That Bind - Hospice Cape Breton Circle of Care

It is never easy to lose someone. Nor is it easy to prepare for that loss. When you look at the world through a different lens, like a special-needs child does, it becomes even more challenging.    

That’s the case for Callum Baldwin, a 17-year-old with Autism. Callum is non-verbal and very close to his grandmother, Rhonda McCallum. While he may not communicate with her in ways that may seem standard to us, their connection is a strong one. That’s why preparing him for the loss of his grandmother is so important, to help him adjust to what will be his new reality.

Rhonda’s daughter Tracy McCallum is Callum’s Mom. She is grateful for the support being provided to her family on the An Cala Unit, and through Hospice Cape Breton. She says they have been reading books about loss provided to Callum, however one of the most tangible items of comfort is the bear that Callum now cherishes.

Jill Murphy is a music therapist, and works with many patients and families in hospital, at home, and soon will be doing so in the new Hospice. The build-a-bear program began several years ago when a Dad wanted to leave a special reminder of his love for his daughters. A message is recorded, placed in the paw of the bear, and the recipient has the voice of their loved one at their fingertips.  

A bear was provided for each of Rhonda’s grandchildren, with a message especially tailored for each one. Initially, the family was concerned that recording separate messages would be too trying for Rhonda, however, she persevered and was able to remind each of her grandchildren of their special bond. A memory bear was given to Grace Baldwin, Jackson and Tyson Demoine, as well as Callum and Carley.

Callum loves stuffies to begin with, and his bear is now a favourite. When he first received it, Tracy says she could hear him pushing the paw over and over again to hear his grandmother say “hi buddy, it’s grandma. I love you.” He tucks the bear under the blankets for safekeeping, and it now has a cherished place among his other stuffies on his bed. Tracy says her Mom was both sad and happy to see the reaction the bears evoked.  

Tracy also says the care her Mom is receiving is also providing a great deal of comfort for the family.  

“Staff go above and beyond here, and the volunteers are fantastic, says Tracy. “They come in to check on Mom, often with tea and treats.”   

Tracy says it’s like chicken soup for the soul, and helps the family as they rotate through to adhere to Covid restrictions on numbers. Rhonda says her Mom feels both comfortable and safe in the An Cala unit.  

Another of Rhonda’s grandchildren, Carly (who is 14 going on 30 according to her Mom), also has a very special bond with her grandmother. She would often have sleep-overs, which truly cemented their connection. Her message ends with “love g-dog,” a pet name that speaks to both the whimsy and depth of their relationship. She loved her bear so much, she proudly showed it to all her friends, while face-timing with her g-dog.  

The bonds we nurture with family and with friends are the twine that can keep our hearts whole as we prepare for loss, or remember those who are gone. For Callum, that bond gets stronger with just a push of a button.   

If you would like to know more about Hospice Cape Breton, please visit their WEBSITE

Please download the attached catalogue to learn how you can help.

Hospice Cape Breton

4th floor Cape Breton Regional Hospital
PO Box 561 Sydney, N.S. B1P 6H4

[email protected]


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