From the onset of our tragedy it was incredibly important to me that our family heal together and stay connected. We all had very different experiences surrounding Aiden’s loss and are experiencing very distinct healing pathways, as expected. From day #1 I was crazy instinctual about gathering my remaining chicks ( it doesn’t matter how old they are ), pulling them in close and walking through this as a family. I needed my boys near me. I still do. As I have mentioned before, we were experiencing a true existential crisis. One I never would’ve imagined until I was in it, so I understand if you can’t relate. Everything we thought was, wasn’t. Everything we trusted, we couldn’t anymore, everything that brought us peace, no longer did, the God we trusted, we felt betrayed by. The very existence of God was up for debate in my mind, but even so, in my heart I knew I needed to find my faith and hold onto it again, and I needed to know my boys were as well. The need to hold this family of mine together (including knowing where they were every second of the day) was stronger than anything I have ever experienced. Leaning on our faith, together, as a family was central to that. I needed to know the boys were trusting in the God they had grown up knowing, despite what had happened. The idea of them drifting from that and from the Hand of God terrified me. I needed us to be one family, under God, together. Our decision to tattoo was part of doing that and supporting our boys in whatever way they needed.
The evolution of our tattoo stories reflect our healing as individuals but also our healing as a family circle. Very early on, the boys declared they wanted a tattoo as a tribute to Aiden. What was I going to say- No? I loved the idea actually, and now that all of them are done, I love it even more. Aside from Dave, who fully admits to not having a creative bone in his body, our family is fairly artistic and creative. All in different ways, but nonetheless, a tattoo seemed like a very natural and appropriate expression for us. I’m sure for those who know us as educated Christian professionals, it may have been a bit of a shock. But really, aren’t tattoos pretty much mainstream at this point?
My memories of those early days are foggy, but I remember the boys discussing it, creating ideas and putting so much thought into the art they wanted for their little brother. We were all so incredibly helpless to do anything. Our situation was un-fixable. Done. We needed to do something, to occupy our minds in a better way and to show the world how much we loved Aiden and how special he was (is). We needed to say “This will be with us forever, it has changed us forever. Aiden will be with us forever and we love him enough to bring him with us, on us, until we ourselves cease to exist.” So, we decided upon a visual display of our personal narrative.
The process of looking for ideas and talking about what we each wanted to do was not only a time to think about Aiden and how to represent what he meant to us, but it was a time of beginning to heal as a family. When we didn’t know what to even say to each other, it gave us something to talk about and look forward to. It was a uniquely creative process we all got to share in. We spent time on pintrest searching for ideas to spark our vision. The boys had friends who drew sketches and they researched the perfect artist to do this very special piece. I remember a lot of friends and family around at the time, all weighing in on the possible ideas. In the end we all designed our own tattoo which is even better. Many people have asked for photos, so here they are. I realize every family will choose how to heal and how to show love for their lost one very differently. This is just one of the ways we did and we love them. It has been one small but amazing part of our finding our way back as a family.
N was the first one to have his done.
If you knew my children, you would know how each of their tattoos are so representative of their personalities. N was very much a hands-on big bother; X-box, basketball, big-brother talks. He walked by Aiden’s side literally as well as figuratively. He, like Aiden is very artistic and imaginative. This ethereal feel is very much him.
Dave was the second one to get tattooed. Different artist.
The scripture he chose were Jesus’ words to Martha who was distraught after the death of her brother Lazarus;
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
C was next.
One of my greatest joys in this was seeing that the design, which he created, is centered around the cross and 2 incredibly appropriate scriptures. It shows the faith & trust I was praying they would have in the midst of total confusion and pain. It touched my heart and I know it touched God’s, that he would use His word to express himself permanently for Aiden. I love the rendering of Aiden’s soccer cleats. Like N’s tattoo, if you knew C, you would see his personality in this like I do. Strong, direct, balanced, creative and meaningful. The scriptures he chose are;
“You do not understand what I am doing, but later you will understand.” John 13:7
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:18,19
And last but not least, mine.
“Believing against the grain” is the survivors creed for bereaved parents. It means that when everything in you is telling you you will not make it and you will not be OK and questions the very existence of God and whether you will ever see your child again, you must believe- against that grain. “…until I hold you again.” is my statement of faith that I will hold my child again. Every flower I chose has meaning. The red Calla Lilly means “reunited”, the blue flowers are Forget-Me-Nots because not a moment goes by that I don’t think about my sweet boy. The others are Cosmo’s, the flower of Aiden’s birth month, October. (it just occurred to me that I chose words as the central part of my tattoo. Cool )
As one tattoo artist stated when being interviewed about why she thinks people do memorial tattoo’s, she said, “There’s nothing more symbolic than to permanently etch your skin, in memoriam, to someone else.” I know there are haters out there that think we are crazy or shouldn’t have or just plain don’t like them. I would say to them
we are already marked for life. Our markings are not visible to the world, but they are no less real. Walk in our shoes for even one day and see how it changes your perspective about the world, yourself, what really matters, what you care about and what you will do to show your love and pain for the one you loved and lost.
Post Script-The back story on the family photo is that, besides looking like a rag tag band of thieves, we were just about to leave N at college for the first time, so I was moments from losing it. He had slept at his brothers off campus house and they were both tired, un-showered and ragged. We were in the back yard of a less-than-inviting fraternity house full of students. As such, there was a lot of unhappiness about taking this family photo from one son, whose name I will not mention. It was also about 102 degrees and my feet were getting attacked by fire ants as the photo was being snapped. But I got my picture!