Most people who believe that tattoos are inherently immoral cite Leviticus 19:28, which says "You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD." (NASV) Most people who cite this verse also deftly sidestep the verse prior (which bans certain kinds of beard grooming), and the verse before that (which outlaws medium rare steaks), and the one before that (which prohibits eating fruit from a tree until said tree is at least five years old). The bulk of the chapter is meant to offer the Israelites a set of guidelines for differentiating themselves from the pagan people that lived in close proximity. If you're willing to say that using a Norelco beard trimmer and eating a peach from a 4-year-old tree are inherently sinful, then I guess I'll have to concede that my memorial tattoo is as well. Okay, enough about that... You certainly understand my personal view at this point.
Many hours were spent anguishing over the designs of our tattoos. Cori probably showed me well over a hundred different amazing memorial pieces on Pinterest alone. Eventually Cori decided on a dove as the primary symbol in her piece, flanked by forget-me-nots and carrying a tiny heart. A portion of the dove's wing forms the letters in Aiden's name. It's quite unique and I like it a lot. Here's the finished piece:
My piece was a little longer in the making, mostly because I dragged my feet for weeks about what to get and where. Some of you know that one of my hobbies is designing ambigrams (typographic art that is readable from multiple viewing perspectives). I set about making one of Aiden's name, and eventually decided to have it inked on my left forearm:
If you stand on your head and look at the picture above, you'll notice that all the blood rushes to your head and you look ridiculous. You'll also notice that it still says "Aiden". That's what makes it an ambigram.
For Cori and I, these marks are permanent reminders that Aiden was a real person, that our love for him is real, and that the pain we feel is valid. We don't want to "get better" or "get over it". What a horrible notion it is to think that we could ever get to a point where we simply feel no grief for our late son. Our culture often views the mourning process as a temporary weakness from which you must quickly recover. The truth is that grief is empowering. It adds clarity to your priorities. It makes you look at the world differently, forcing you into an appreciation for your blessings. Grieving isn't easy, but it can be a potent force for good.
We have to find our own silver linings. Many people have tried to comfort Cori and I by pointing out the things that have gone well for us since Aiden's death. Our daughter Isabella, formerly a cancer patient, is now in remission; I'm fortunate to have a stable job that is challenging and rewarding; Our son Brady is a vibrant and healthy 3-year old with a bright future in the building demolition industry. Stuff like that.
Here's the trick. When you're grieving, a silver lining only counts if you are the one who discovers it. Attempts by others to help you realize just how good you have it invariably just end up sounding attempts at invalidating your sorrow. In the midst of your sadness, one of the most infuriating things to hear is a list of reasons why you shouldn't be sad.
We're not going to be okay, and that's okay. This wound will never fully heal. It shouldn't fully heal. Don't worry about us if we suddenly get misty three years from now when a new baby rolls by in a stroller. Don't be alarmed if we suddenly need a moment when a diaper commercial comes on. Don't freak out if we start crying over a sippy cup at a garage sale...
...We're just playing Frogger.