Tracy Bradshaw, Sawyer’s Mom
As a single mom, taking care of Sawyer was my purpose. Everything he needed emotionally, physically, and psychologically was up to me to provide. Getting him to practices, games, birthday parties, school, etc. was up to me. Making sure that he had a positive sense of himself, his lunch money, project materials, homework, signed permission slips and report cards, clothes, etc. was my lot in life. I loved him before I really knew him, so I was happy with this responsibility. It would have been my choice had I had one. The fact that he was a loving and touchy-feely person was an added bonus.
When his life was taken at nineteen years old, I was completely lost. Why am I still here? What will I do with my life? Where will I turn? When will I feel normal again? Who will I depend on to help me find my way?
I don’t remember when my first visit with Listening Hearts was, but I remember feeling like I had been with a group of moms who loved and lost. That was me, same as me, happy and sad. Their joys and pains were very much like my own. After several visits with this support group, one of the co-founders, Debra Reagan, offered to make me a bear out of two of Sawyer’s t-shirts. While I thought that was a very kind gesture, it took me months (maybe a year) to be able to turn over two shirts, as the material things were all that I had – I thought.
When she gave me my bear, and each scrap of material that wasn’t used from the shirts, the warmth in her eyes caressed my aching heart. She connected with this bear, and it was with tenderness and love that she presented him to me. He was delightful, yet he opened floodgates to my tears. The carefully chosen shirts represented Sawyer’s life as one was from his early years and the other from his later teens.
As time passed I wasn’t sure how I “should” be with Sawbear or if I “should” even call him that. I worried what people would think if I slept with him or held him too much. I hesitated to take him on family get-togethers or vacations. My face reddened, when I saw strangers looking as I took pictures of Sawbear. I went on a beach trip with my sister-in-law, and her love of Sawbear was instant like my own. She asked if she could sleep with him. She cuddled him, and her eyes lit up when I spoke of taking pictures of him. She didn’t care what anyone thought, and we set out to create a scrapbook of “Sawbear’s Vacation.” As I propped him against sand castles, pool floats, and chair backs, ideas would pop in her head to have him in the shade with sunglasses, in a kayak, and more.
Scrapbooks turned into self-made children’s books, and ideas for helping children became endless as I watched so many love and hug Sawbear. Like Sawyer, he is easy to love. To readers, he is accepting and understanding, helpful, and encouraging.
In answering my earlier questions, “What do I do with my life?” I reach out to help others going through trauma, entertain with a fun-loving character, and stay connected to a spirit I love. “Where do I turn?” I turn inward to memories and love and outward to anyone who listens or reads. “Why am I still here?” I am here because I have learned from a loving spirit, and I have the courage to share. “When will I feel normal again?” I will never be able to feel the normalcy that I once felt, so I will quit grasping for that. I will seek a new normal that includes Sawyer in every step and in every book. “Who will I depend on to help me find my way?” I will pray for guidance in my search to find a publisher, organizations, and children with a need for Sawbear. I will depend on Listening Hearts’ Moms, my friends, my family, my Church, and my community for support.
The material things are not all that I have. I have an ability to touch lives, an abundance of priceless memories, and a bonded love that knows no end.