Right after Thanksgiving, I did something I said I’d never do. I got a tattoo. It’s on the inside of my right wrist, where I can see it throughout the day, and others will easily see it, too.
Until recently, I thought tattoos were kind of gross. Why would you mark up your body with something that didn’t come off? What if you changed your mind? And why would you put yourself through pain unnecessarily?
But the thing is, I already have several indelible marks on my body—scars from surgery, a scar from a biopsy, and tiny positioning tattoos from radiation. Those marks signify negative stuff. And I didn’t choose them.
I had a growing desire to add some marks to my body that I did choose, marks that signify positive, meaningful things.
So, the tattoo—a simple red balloon and golden, fall leaf.
The balloon stands for hope. It’s taken from a figurine my dear hubby got me two decades ago when I was feeling really discouraged. The figurine is of Piglet (from Winnie the Pooh) grasping on to a large, red balloon with all his might. That figurine has long brought me hope and encouragement when I’ve needed it. And I love the words of Winnie the Pooh that are associated with it: “Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” True, indeed. As an added touch, the tattoo artist put a loop in the balloon string. It was a simple design flourish, but that detail reminds me of life’s twists and turns. You’re hit with something tough and thrown off course a bit—“thrown for a loop”—but you find your way back around and continue on with life.
The leaf reminds me of my faith. There have been several instances in which I’ve felt incredibly close to God. Most have happened in the fall. I blogged about one of those experiences in fall 2017. When I see the leaf, I remember that God is walking with me through this cancer journey, as He does through every aspect of life. The Lord is close at hand, and the leaf tattoo couldn’t get any closer to me—it’s etched on my skin! Just as the tattoo artist did with the balloon, she included some elements that have come to mean more than the simple design details she intended. The leaf has three veins—for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each vein has three little off-shoots. In the first set of three, I see my husband and two sons. The second set of three reminds me of my relationship with God, with others in my community, and with the world. And the third set of three I see as a reminder to reflect on the past and its lessons learned, to live fully in the present, look to the future and its promise.
This tattoo will almost surely be my only. As my mother-in-law said about very painful things, “It hurt like a boo-boo.” But it was worth it. Each time I look at it, I think of what the images stand for, and it brings me joy and encouragement. Several people have also noticed the tattoo and asked about the meaning behind the images. Such encounters give me an opportunity to tell my story, acknowledge my faith, and remember the best and most important things in my life.