Amanda Berman was nervous as she and her husband stood in line waiting to meet Santa at the York Galleria mall.
Unlike most of the other families, they didn’t have a child to place on his lap.
But they did have a little brown teddy bear they were hoping Santa could pose with for a photo instead.
It’s been 15 months since Berman lost her son, Ian, during pregnancy. And coping with the pain hasn’t gotten any easier, she said.
But that little bear, given to her that day at the hospital by Sweet Grace Ministries, helps her connect with her son and serves as a daily reminder that he isn’t really gone, she said. His memory still lives on.
Berman and her husband, Alex, of Dallastown, take the bear with them on trips and often take photos with it to capture the memories they would have made with Ian.
The bear has been to the Hershey Gardens and to Ocean City, Md. And this year, for Christmas, they decided to take it to the York Galleria to meet Santa.
“I thought people would think I was crazy,” Berman said. “I wasn’t sure how the Santa would react.”
But Santa welcomed the little bear onto his lap with open arms — no questions asked.
“When I first saw her coming and saw her carrying the teddy bear, I pretty much knew right away what this was going to be about,” said Santa, played by Thomas Timmons, of Lansdale. “I knew this must have been a tragedy.”
He did his best to make the visit as special as possible, spending a few extra minutes with the Bermans more than he normally would.
“I just treated that teddy bear like it was their baby,” he said. “I respected that teddy bear and put it on my knee.”
Santa’s kindness in that difficult moment made all the difference, Berman said. Santa told them that he, too, had lost people close to him and that they were doing a wonderful thing to honor their son’s memory.
Berman was also amazed by the kindness of the community.
After realizing the York Galleria only offered photo packages starting at $30, she took to Facebook to ask if anyone knew of any other places where she could purchase just one photo with Santa.
Again, she prepared for rude comments. But, to her surprise, she received dozens of responses from strangers who offered their condolences, suggestions and support.
Someone even offered to pay the $30 for her photo package at the York Galleria, Berman said.
Berman plans to place the photo on a memorial she set up for Ian in her home.
“It’s just so overwhelming,” Berman said. “I was just in awe of the kindness and generosity of people in the community … Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”