How does one define their life? How do you sum up everything that has happened in the last 20+ years? A friend told me that the best stories are about overcoming obstacles, how one deals with loss and love, and finding the silver linings. I believe that my body art tells my story. I’m proud to say that when I chose to decorate my body with tattoos, I chose from my past experiences to show things that are important to me. Things that have shaped my life.
My latest piece, on my left arm, tells a story that includes something that some people never have a chance to experience: true love.
If you were to ask most 24 year old women who her true love is, she would probably say her high school sweetheart, or college boyfriend, or if she’s been exceptionally lucky, her husband or fiancé. My true love was a little different. I fell in love with almost exactly 5 years ago. Our story began a few months prior to that when I got a very exciting phone call from my best friend and “adopted sister”. Her and her fiancé had found out that they were pregnant! I was beyond thrilled for her, and immediately started planning my trip across the country to be there for her when she gave birth.
She had a rough pregnancy but finally she went into labor! She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, one who was welcomed into the world in the latest of hours after a long and grueling labor. I was last to meet the little man, and luckily so. Because once I held that sweet miracle, I was done. I fell in love. I had all the time in the world with the little guy, just cuddling and holding him in awe of the miracle that had occurred.
Unfortunately I didn’t exactly have all the time in the world. I was a college student, and had to go back home. I hated leaving him. I hated being all the way across the country from him. I hated it so much, I changed it. When I finished with community college, I picked up everything and moved. I wanted to be closer to him. I wanted to be there when he took his first step, and said his first words. I wanted to be there for my sister if she needed help when she went back to work.
I was able to be there for his first birthday. We shared this unbelievable connection. I could tell when he was hungry, or fussy, or tired. He would wobble around and eventually run around like a crazy man! He was the sweetest little terror in the world! I was able to be a big part of his life. His “Aunt Tay Tay”. I treasure the time we had together.
Then life caught up with me and I had to move back home.
It was so unbelievable hard to say goodbye to him. I wish I had taken more time that last day to memorize his laugh, his smile, and his grip around my finger. Everything about him, I wanted to take it with me, wherever I went. But I didn’t think about it. I never imagined that it would be the last time that I would ever hear that laugh, see that smile, and feel the squeeze of his hand.
He was diagnosed with a genetic metabolic disorder. He was gone shortly after his third birthday.
My heart ached so deeply. I felt like I was drowning in grief. I was drowning in guilt for not being there, for him and for my sister.
I couldn’t have even imagined what it was like for her. She lost a piece of herself. Her son, her first born.
Even though he was not my child, I loved him as such. He was my first true love. There was nothing there to taint the connection that we shared. The love that I felt when I heard him say “Tay Tay” was just as real as the pain that I felt when he was gone. The pain I still feel.
Today, I wear a mark on my body that reminds me of him. Of his strength through his illness. My sister shared that even though he was in pain, he never lost his smile.
With pain comes strength.
He taught me that.
Every day I deal with the pain of losing him. Every day his mother, my sister, deals with the pain.
But life moves on, and we found the strength to move on with it.
Today, my sister has twin girls who have found the strength to overcome amazing adversity. They have their proud big brother watching over them.
Because of him, after focusing my undergraduate degree on genetics, I chose a career in healthcare, where I can make a difference.
Sunday is his fifth birthday. It will be a bittersweet day as I look back on the time we had, and the day he was born.
Although he is gone from this earth, I know he is not far.
Happy birthday Little Lion Man.