Yes, the title is for a second chapter. Yes, there is a first. But, this was the difficult one so I had to get it down before I chickened out…
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess bear and her handsome bear prince. But, the princess bear was sad. You see: They lived in a far away land. Far and away from all of their loved ones. This land was warm and sunny and surrounded by water, but they were alone. The kingdom was enormous and, to see family bears, it was two-days travel north with a good horse and plenty of rations. They didn’t have enough horsepower or enough rations to make the journey very often. Consequently, the princess bear saw her family only once or twice each year. A family she loved dearly. And so, she was sad.
The handsome bear prince was frustrated. Not at the princess, no. He was upset that he couldn’t make his princess happy by himself. He tried everything he could to make her happy on his own. And, while she loved him dearly for all his efforts, they failed. One by one. The princess remained sad and alone.
Until one day. The bear prince understood that his princess suffered from loneliness. He had done his best to satisfy her need for company, but his duties called him away for much of the time. After thoughtful and serious contemplation, they decided to call on the stork and ask for a bear cub. They had wanted a family of their own for awhile and it seemed as good a time as any to begin one.
They called the stork. But he didn’t answer. And didn’t answer. And didn’t answer some more. The princess bear’s spirits had been lifted at the thoughts of a cub joining her. Every time they called the stork and he ignored their call; the princess felt her temporary happiness crumbling slowly away. Like a sandcastle left to dry. In that warm, sunny, far away land.
The bear prince knew he had to do something. He decided that as much as he loved his warm, sunny paradise, it debilitated his wife with sadness. With great personal sacrifice, he decided to move them back to the part of the kingdom where her family reigned. It was cold and snowy and sometimes miserable there, but he knew that he could never be truly happy if he could not share that happiness with his love.
In the spring, they made their journey north. As they packed up their belongings and said good-bye to the few friends they had made, the stork finally returned their call. The princess bear couldn’t believe her luck. Yes, it had taken frustrating years of disappointment and loneliness, but she was returning to her family… and bringing with her an incredible surprise.
All through summer, the bears celebrated. They celebrated their homecoming. They celebrated the summer season. Most of all, they celebrated the impending arrival of their bear cub. The princess’ father, the good King Walrus, christened the cub: Bop. The entire bearpack anxiously awaited Bop’s arrival as he was due in the coming winter.
But, during the fall, things began to change. Things always change in the fall. The princess bear always loved autumn and it’s colorful, bountiful majesty. But, the princess, too, began to change. She felt strangely and did not understand why.
On a beautiful day in the fall, the stork called the bear princess and told her he had made a mistake. Her round stomach plummeted, thinking that the stork was going to tell her that she was no longer getting her cub. But, Bop was coming, the stork explained. He had gotten the timing wrong though. It was a mistake. A huge, regrettable, but imminent mistake. The princess did not understand right away and she held onto her hope. She thought that if she could just hold on long enough, Bop would come at the right time and she would love him forever. She was right about that: she would love him forever.
The bearpack surrounded the prince and princess and showered them with love and hope. The bear prince and his princess had never experienced real loss. They were incredibly innocent to real pain. They were able to stay incredibly hopeful until the end.
Because Bop came. It was still fall, not winter. It was too early. The prince and the princess and her mother, the bear queen, joined together to say goodbye. They said goodbye to their tiny, baby bear cub. A boy. They said goodbye to the wonderfully-imagined lives that they had planned for their family. They said goodbye to their unfettered experience. They were no longer free from pain. They grieved immeasurably and exhaustingly and eternally.
The princess bear bedded down for winter early. Her heart broken, she just wanted to sleep. She wanted to hibernate away her pain. She just wanted to roar. She wanted to scream away her pain. She had a lifetime of plans for her Bop. She was suddenly a mother bear without her cub. Their meeting was so brief. She did not get enough time.
And so the bearpack surrounded them once again. They showered them with more love and hope and even their own feelings of regret and sadness. They held the bears and fed the bears and comforted the grieving prince and princess.
After some time, the prince and princess bear began to feel better. The other bears had given them so much love and compassion and laughter, it was hard not to feel better. Slowly, very, very slowly, the bear prince and his princess began to laugh with them too. And slowly, very, very, slowly the hurt began to hurt less and less.
Because the princess bear discovered she was never really alone. Even when she was far away to the south, she always had her bears. Her bear prince. Her sister bears. Her brother bears. Her mother bear and King Walrus. Her aunt bears and uncle bears and cousin bears and friend bears. Her whole bear family. Because there is a kind of love that never fades, never tires, ignores distance and time. This kind of love can pull souls from shadows and ignite sparks of joy and laughter. And, the bear princess knew this. True that she was loved like this, but also she was loving like this. Her love transcended time and space and found its way over land and water and through the clouds all the way to heaven. For time eternal. To her Bop.
And that is what I mean when I say grinandbearpack. It is an expression of incredible gratitude to my family. When I faced the toughest of times, it was the bearpack that brought me back to life.
This story is for Ducky, so that she might one day understand just how much she means to me. This story is for Bop, so that he might know that he is always and forever remembered and loved. This story is for Beer Bear, so that he might see: he is the only person in the world with whom I could have done it, survived. This story is for my bearpack, so that they might know just how grateful I am. Ducky. Bop. Beer Bear. The bearpack. Laughter. Words. They are the loves of my life.