As you may have read, Sarah got a “tattoo” on Saturday. It’s a simple henna tattoo, with a complex and meaningful backstory. A sun, symbolizing her dad, a moon, symbolizing her mother, and seven stars, symbolizing Drew. These three celestial objects imprinted on her forearm remind her of a connection to those she’s lost.
While not permanent, it will last at least a week or two...kind of like a prototype for the real thing. She will see it every day, and be reminded of those three losses. She’ll also be reminded of the people they symbolize, and the life she experienced with them.
That’s the dichotomy of “memorial” tattoos. It doesn’t matter if it is simply a person's name in tiny block letters, a quote that connects to the person lost, or an abstract collection of drawn objects that have meaning behind them. They serve to honor who said person was, but they also can sometimes serve only as a reminder that the person is no longer physically present.
I personally have a simple memorial tattoo that I got soon after Megan’s death, and another that has evolved into a memorial tattoo posthumously. My very first writing here, over 4 years ago introducing myself and telling my story, begins with describing that posthumous tattoo.
If you haven’t read it, I have a tattoo on my forearm that simply says “Until my dying day…”. It used to be completed on Megan’s forearm, stating “...until my last breath”.
She has since taken her last breath.
Even though the official, post-death tattoo is very specifically intended to honor her (It’s “Breathe Easy”, with her death date underneath), the one we got together, 8 months before her death is the one that will always mean more. It’s the one that will never again be complete. It will never be easy to describe when someone asks about it, for me, or for the person asking that will now get an explanation of her disease and succumbing to it.
My side of the tattoo will always have “...” as a sort of a “to be continued” that never will be.
It was never intended to be a memorial to Megan. It was meant to be a reminder for both of us to our wedding vows. Of our dedication and commitment to each other. They were wedding bands that we couldn’t take off, tarnish, break, or lose. I still wear it, although my wedding band was removed long ago.
Even more than the saying itself, the three dots at the end have come to symbolize more than I ever could have imagined. What I initially used as a way to break the ice when I was introducing myself to the widowed world long ago has become an enduring, visual reminder that what once felt complete has an as-of-yet unwritten ending.
Although it may not mean the same to her, when Sarah got those symbols on her arm the other day, I personally got meaning out of them. Megan’s absolute favorite comfort object was a little stuffed moon that she got when she was a child. It went with her on every hospital stay, and it is still in Shelby’s room to this day. I may be stretching the next one a bit with the sun, but her hanging on our wall in the living room is a framed, cross-stitched piece that has Megan’s favorite song to sing to Shelby: “You are my Sunshine”
Ultimately though, the biggest meaning I garnered from Sarah’s “new ink” was the seven stars. For her, it symbolizes her love for Drew. The seven shooting stars that she and Drew witnessed together at the start of their relationship. She may not have even thought of it at the time, but Megan had seventeen tattoos.
Of which seven were stars.