Tattoo

“She never got to get her tattoo.” 

When I spoke these words while my daughter was in her last days,  I was not fully aware of the imprints to follow. Not only would she get her tattoo, but she would leave her legacy inked on the hearts of many.

         pig.ment 

noun

  1. a pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength selected absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light. 

In death there is darkness … but even in death, Sydney’s life would emit light …

“We could still give her one,” 

someone at her bedside chimed. So her big sister, who had more than one, went to find a black permanent marker to give her one too.

Taryn had a couple of tattoos by then, and it was in watching her get one the year before, that Sydney decided she wanted one too. It had been fun going to the tattoo shop with Taryn and we’d laugh as we reminisced the steps we took throughout that day. Sydney didn’t take the steps though, because she couldn’t walk. This happened post surgery during a long stay at Mary Free Bed where she was getting in-patient rehab in hopes that she’d be out of her wheelchair soon. One of the things Syd was able to do while staying at Mary Free Bed, was to take outings after her therapy was done for the day. There was a tattoo shop near the hospital, so when Sydney learned that I planned to meet Taryn there for her 18th birthday, she convinced me to bring her with. She wanted to be there when her big sister got her first tattoo. We weren’t quite sure if the staff at the hospital would be pleased to know where we were going, so we kept that to ourselves. We were already becoming known for adventuring beyond the boundaries when it came to outings, so we just went for it! The real challenge came when we pulled up and saw that there was no wheelchair ramp to the parlor.  Instead there were several steps, but we weren’t going to let that stop us. We had recently learned how to navigate steps in a wheelchair by backing up to them, tilting the chair back and pulling the handles upward and back so that the big, hind wheels would roll up one step at a time. These were bigger steps though, and I was a bit uncertain if it would be safe to continue. Sydney’s neck was weak, and she had a difficult time holding her head up in that tilted position. Just then, a gentleman adorned with piercings, a bandana and two sleeves on his big muscular arms, asked me if he could help. Sydney’s smile showed appreciation and permission, so he lifted her up the stairs. We laughed so hard as we imagined someone from Mary Free Bed driving by and seeing this take place. “Mom, they’d never let you take me on outings again!”, she joked.

Sydney anticipated getting her tattoo on her 15th birthday. She would talk about it often and was making a plan. At first it was a cross she wanted, but then she decided on the ichthus; the Jesus fish. She really wanted to get it on her ankle, but thought it would probably turn out better to get it on her hand or wrist. I still chuckle today when I think of her reasoning behind its location. The girl had a sense of humor, even through the hard times. She also had Clonus; a series of involuntary, rhythmic, muscular contractions and relaxations. Clonus results from certain neurological conditions and in many cases is accompanied by spasticity. Syd had it in her legs and they would really shake; anywhere from seconds to sometimes minutes. One time she made me laugh so hard when she said, “I better not get the tat on my ankle. Can you just imagine the poor tattoo guy trying to hold my leg still if my Clonus kicks in?”, as she shook and imitated what that would look like! 

“Here’s a marker.”

As her little sister laid there on life support, Taryn drew on Sydney’s hand near her wrist. She got her tattoo. It wasn’t on her birthday as she had hoped, but at that moment I decided I would get mine. As I stood by her bedside, I announced that I was going to get that tattoo on her birthday.  Both of her big sisters said they would too. As close friends and family came to say their goodbyes, two other mother and daughter duo’s wanted to come too. On October 26th 2008, eleven days after losing her, seven of us went and got the Jesus fish in memory of Syd. It was a special day, and it helped me get through her first birthday without her. Since then, there have been more mothers, daughters and special friends, touched by her life, who have gotten the “Sydney” tat. 

As I told this story to our pastor, he said, “You could also put her tattoo on her memorial stone.” I absolutely LOVED the idea. I remembered hearing a speaker once talk on the meaning and purpose of life. He compared eternity to life on earth and touched on how short life here really is. Nevertheless, it has great purpose. He explained, “one day when you die, there will be a memorial stone with your name on it. It will also have the day you were born and the day that you die. In between those two dates, there will be a dash. That symbol represents your life here on earth. What will your dash say about you?” I suddenly knew where I would put the tattoo on Sydney’s memorial stone.

I captured this picture while visiting the cemetery today. It would have been Sydney’s 26th birthday. I’ve known since I lost her, that I would share her story for the rest of my life. I thought it fitting to launch this blog on her golden birthday since she resides in a place with streets of gold. Her story inspired the birth of it. Our past, present and future stories will keep it alive. It is my prayer that the glory of God will be seen through it.

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