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Mission: Family: Navy wife's ‘Molly bear' helps parents cope with loss

Jul. 19, 2012 - 03:53PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 19, 2012 - 03:53PM  |  
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One person can change the life of another. Just ask Army wife Jill Lehman.

Lehman lost her baby girl at birth April 24. In the aftermath, a friend of her brother asked if it would be OK to order a "Molly Bear" for her, to bring her comfort.

Molly Bears is a nonprofit organization created by Navy wife Bridget Crews after she lost her daughter Molly 34 weeks into her pregnancy in 2010.

"I was drowning and needed to show my living children [that] bad things happen, but we can help people," Crew said. "This is their sister's legacy."

The dolls are weighted to the exact birth weight of the baby, to give the mother and family members a more realistic, comforting feeling when they hold the bear.

Since it was created, Crews' group has made more than 2,000 bears, which cost about $45 apiece to make and are provided free to their waiting families.

About 2,000 families are waiting for their bears, and donations are sorely needed.

Jill knew she was waiting in line for her cherished bear, which would weigh 6 pounds, 14 ounces, as her baby Emma did at birth.

"This is not a picture or a piece of jewelry but what it would have been like to hold your baby at her exact weight," she said.

But then she began to think of her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Lehman, a member of the Ohio National Guard, who deployed to Afghanistan a few weeks after Emma died.

"One night, I got the need to text [Crews] to ask if there was any way to send a bear to him," she said. "I have everything here, our two living children. Emma's grave is here. I wanted to give him something more tangible."

Two days later, Crews contacted Lehman.

"We talked for an hour and a half," Lehman said. "Both our daughters had passed from cord injuries, and she told me her story. She was absolutely amazing to me. Her heart is so big."

She said Crews offered to make two bears, for her and her husband, and expedite them both.

The bears are still in the works, and Crews has been asking about details she will use to personalize the bears. Lehman has told her about a male hummingbird that has suddenly appeared this year at her house in Joffre, Pa., with a bright red chest that reminds her of the color of Emma's lips when she was born. For her husband's bear, she suggested an Irish claddagh necklace.

Lehman realizes how busy Crews is as a Navy wife with four children of her own.

"I would never have asked for two," Lehman said. "But the fact that she is making two, for me and my husband … I can't even describe how it makes me feel to know that people are that kind and compassionate."

kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.

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