I’d been deliberating over my first tattoo for years. I started planning what it would be well over 15 years ago. I always knew I wanted one and I always knew where I wanted one (or several) but, the design itself was ever changing and until I knew for certain I would not regret my tattoo, I waited. I’m glad I did because 15 years ago I wanted two religious tattoos for a religion I no longer belong to. I’m glad I waited.
But, this tattoo I knew I would never regret because it doesn’t represent a belief system or a temporary fad (like butterflies, sailor themed stuff, or arrows). This represents people I have loved and do love who are no longer with us. My tattoo artist mentioned he doesn’t have any memorial tattoos and I get why many people don’t want them, but for my own self, I did want these reminders with me. Each of the people represented on my arm in this tattoo represent pivotal moments in my life. Their deaths were catalysts and ushered in so many changes and so much growth. I miss them desperately. And I learned so much because of losing them.
So, what is my tattoo and what (or who) does it represent?
Each symbol is a moon phase glyph. I chose the glyph design because I love the minimalist look of them, the balance of the one circle and two dots on each side, and how nice they look stacked together. I created this order because each moon phase represents the moon phase on the nights four of my loved ones passed.
Starting on the far left with the first great loss that effected me deeply: the death of my grandfather in February 2005. Not only did losing him cause great pain, but because of his death my life completely changed course. Really. It is one singular moment I can look back on that created a permanent and unexpected change to my future. He passed away during a Waxing Gibbous moon, and that is the phase represented in his glyph.
The next one beside his is for my cousin who passed in February 2016. He lost his battle to depression almost exactly 11 years to the day of my grandfather’s passing, so his moon phase on the night of his passing was also a Waxing Gibbous. I won’t postulate on why it was this time in particular, but I will say my cousin was extremely close to my grandfather. Perhaps closer than any of us were to him. And when he lost his battle, he left a void in all of our lives that will never be filled. He was a truly special person. He had a kind heart and he was a deep, pensive thinker. The world needed more people like him. And he is dearly missed.
The third moon phase is a New Moon and it was the phase of the moon the night my mother lost her battle to cancer in August 2016. I remember it was so dark that night when we heard the news she had passed on. I’ve written so much about her so most of you know why she had to have a place here on my arm. She was my mother. And I loved her. Will always love her.
The final moon phase glyph is for my nephew. He passed away suddenly in January 2017 and his loss caused a wave of devastation. His life represented hope, and his loss felt like hope dashed upon the rocks. I will never know how his parents survived this loss with as much grace as they have. He was so special. And we miss him and the promise of his life desperately.
All four of these deaths occurred in the same family, with the last three occurring within the same 12 month span. Sometimes the grief felt so deep I thought it would swallow us all up. A cousin/brother/son, a mother/aunt/sister/daughter, and a nephew/cousin/son. All in one immediate family. All so quickly and close together. At one point my aunt joked, “I’m running out of black to wear for these funerals.”
Somehow we have survived it. I sometimes don’t know how, but we did.
And there you have it. Four moons for four lives lost. I wanted this memorial with me for all time. And I know as I age, I will lose more loved ones and when they pass, they too shall be added to the line because their losses are scars I cherish and never want to forget. They are forever stamped upon my life and now will be stamped upon my body as well.
My artist was Lucas Buckley of The Pulse in Athens, Alabama. In another post I’ll go into more detail about my experience with Lucas (all positive) and what getting a tattoo felt like, cost, ect. You can find more of Lucas’ work here and The Pulse here.