Grief and Ink

Throwing Ink at the Devil

Victorians had arm bands.
Scarlett had a black dress.
No Parties. No Dancing.
People knew.

Instead, we have footprints on shoulders,
dates on forearms,
and faces on biceps.
Some choose stickers on windshields.

Otherwise, how would anyone know?

People should know to tiptoe around you,
handle you with gentle grace.
Strangers should be able to recognize,
to treat you as one in mourning.

Instead, we clock in for work the next week,
our grief as invisible as the ghost at our kitchen table.
Stuff down food. Drown in screens.
You won’t find a safe public place to scream.

No professional mourning jobs at the city gate.
No wailing behind your neighbor's funeral procession.
Normal. Go back to normal.
Everyone just wants you to be normal.

And so we dip needles in our skin to remember,
to recall, to give thanks, to make our pain visible.
“They have to acknowledge my loss if it’s on my arm.”

Because when we lose a public period of mourning,
some of us grieve forever.

~Melissa McCrory Hatcher, ©2017

Last year we got tattoos. It was such an important, necessary step on our grief journey.

I got our son's Korean name, and Preacher Man got "beauty" and "ashes" (which is this unbelievable palindrome) in Hebrew with a cross in between. The script turned out perfect. We love them, and we look forward to carrying these symbols for the rest of our lives. I'm hoping we'll have these wounds after the Resurrection.

We'd been discussing the need for visible signs of our Phoenix's life. As time marches on and we meet new people, it seems fair that our friends and family, both old and new, have a ready reminder of how much our little boy marked our lives. If/when our living children ask why we have his name and not theirs, we will tell them that we wrote God's promises on our body. When I see his Korean name, it reminds me of that first picture we received when he was just a number. God transformed an orphan into our son. He's turning our nightmare into a beautiful story. We will see him again. And we want the world to know that we believe God will do what He's promised.

(And if that's not a sufficient answer for our living children, we'll just go get their names, too! Lol)

Did it hurt? Are you kidding? Of course it hurt! While nothing compared to natural childbirth, yes, it hurt. But I didn't cry, and it seemed quite appropriate and symbolic that these particular marks would hurt.

As everyone around us starts to forget, we keep his memory close to us. We proudly wear these signs of loss but also hope. 

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