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Has Anyone Seen Bruce?

Liz Atkinson is 'completely desperate' to find stuffed elephant with late son's ashes, lost in Florida
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2023 10:45 AM CDT
Has Anyone Seen Bruce?
The missing stuffed animal.   (Facebook)

"I am completely desperate and hoping this blows up and we find our elephant!" So begins a May 6 Facebook plea from Liz Atkinson, an ER nurse from Iowa who's doing all she can to find a stuffed animal that went missing during a family vacation in Florida last month. It's not just any stuffed animal: The elephant named Bruce contained the ashes of her late son Gabryel, who died last year at the age of 7. Per the Washington Post, Gabryel was born with a rare chromosomal abnormality that took him through dozens of hospital stays and surgeries over the years. Bruce was with him all that time, a shower gift purchased for him when he was still a newborn in the NICU.

That's why Atkinson and her husband, Ande, decided to bring Bruce with them to Florida, as a tribute to Gabryel on what would have been his ninth birthday, during an April vacation with their surviving son, Sebastyan. The decision to bring a small portion of Gabryel's ashes in the elephant's back pouch was a last-minute one, Atkinson tells NBC New York. Unfortunately, Bruce vanished at some point during the 12-day vacation. "The trip was a bit hectic with 3 different cities and hotels and grief brain kicked in at some point with all of the emotions, making me really struggle with simple memory tasks," Atkinson says in her Facebook post, which retraces all their steps in the hopes that someone might offer some clues.

Those sites include the Beachside Resort in Cocoa Beach; Disney Springs in Lake Buena Vista; the Palazzo Lakeside Hotel in Kissimmee; and Disney's Art of Animation Resort. "Because vehicles get messy on trips, I kept thinking maybe he was just mixed in somewhere (very unlike me, I know where everything is 100% of the time even on trips, thank you grief)," Atkinson writes. "But once we got home May 1 I searched EVERYWHERE. Every bag. He's gone." They haven't had many leads yet, but they're praying that Bruce will soon turn up. "I feel sick, struggling to sleep. I'm desperate," Atkinson notes. "If you've found Bruce or saw him around any of these locations, please PM me!!! I need him back." (More ashes stories.)

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