Written in Ink

Last night, I went to a party at a friend’s house and she had a woman doing henna tattoos there. It’s been ages since I’ve had one, probably 15 years ago in college. As I thumbed through the many designs in her notebook, one caught my eye of a sun and moon. I had her do that design, and add stars. As she worked on painting the delicate lines on my arm, I shared that they were each symbolic of the people I love who I have lost. The sun for my dad, the moon for my mom, and the stars for Drew.

For the rest of the evening, I looked down at my arm constantly. I’ve never had a real tattoo, but I couldn’t deny that there was some feeling of rightness about this symbol on my arm. This symbol that told a piece of my story, about some of the most important people in my life who have made me who I am today. To wear my story on my arm, where the world can see it, but only I really know the meaning of it… there was a rightness to it. It made me think how much I’d like to look down at my arm and have these symbols for these people there forever. And it made me wonder why on earth I’ve still not gotten a permanent tattoo like this.

I’ve honored loved ones in all sorts of ways, and I’ve thought about getting a tattoo to honor them many times. But this is the first time I’ve gotten a glimpse into what it would FEEL like to have it there. To have them physically on my skin and a part of me, for all the rest of my days. 

Kelley wrote this past Friday about how lately she’s been feeling a distance from her late-husband Don. That she hasn’t been feeling a connection to him as closely. And I couldn’t help but think about that too while I looked down at this little henna design. Because these markings made me instantly feel closer to Drew, and to my parents too. For the first time I could really begin to understand the emotional feeling of getting a memorial tattoo for someone you’ve lost, in a deeper way than before.

Even though this tattoo will only last a few weeks, and I can’t say just yet when it will happen, I do think that a permanent version of this design may be on its way to being a part of me, just the way my loved ones are a part of me... forever. 


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  • Edward  J Mattei
    commented 2019-06-18 05:54:17 -0700
    Hi Sarah,
    I have been a faithful reader since April 2011. However I have never commented, probably because of my lack of technical skills on this iPad. I lost my wife on November 16, 2010. We met in June 1963, went steady for two years, got engaged for two more years. We were married on September 2, 1967. For some reason I have always thought and hoped that I would die before her. We were not rich but we were financially stable. I figured she would be secure and live happily ever after. What the heck was I thinking? I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy if I had any. On the subject of tattoos. Throughout the years of my grief I have always thought of things to help me cope. I got my first tattoo when I was 67 years old, three years after I lost my wife to liver cancer. Within the next two years I got eight more tattoos. The first one was a dragonfly, symbolically this represents rebirth. All but one tattoo has to do with my grief. People ask me if they hurt. I tell them yes, but not as much as the mental pain from my loss. I also tell them that they are expensive and I always give a 20% tip, LOL. I asked my 12-year-old granddaughter to make a photo collage of my tattoos. I am going to try to attach it to this letter, so that I can share them with you. There is a quote, “your song has ended, but our melody lingers on.” This was taken from a reply to one of the writers on soaring spirits. I came very close to having this tattooed, but decided not to. Best wishes to you and Mike on your upcoming wedding. Also to Shelby for all the love she brings to your family.

    Ed ☀️🌈😎

    PS: I’m trying to figure out how to attach the photo, it doesn’t look good. I know how to do it directly from an email but not here yet. I would be happy to send it do you via email. I don’t do Facebook.