Here’s the thing about grief- if you are living with it, you’ll know this, if you aren’t then you’ll understand this later- it’s a clusterf*ck of emotions. The time between grief meltdowns are ebbing and flowing further apart but when that wave hits, oh man does it hit hard. Now, there’s the daily undercurrent of grief that is always flowing just below my subconscious. I’m getting better at accepting that it likely will be there forever. Not that it makes it easier, just takes the edge off a bit. Then, there are the deathiversaries, the birthdays (yours, loved ones), life milestones (yours, what would’ve been theirs) and basically any day that you remember fondly hits you year after year. Next, we have the moments of darkness when the one person we need the most isn’t physically alive to be there for us. Lastly, the biggest hit of all is the fear of forgetting them. People will quickly brush this one away when you bring it up saying there’s no way you’ll ever forget your Mom, she’ll always be in your heart, the memories, the feelings, etc. I liked to believe that too until I started to forget my Mom and she’s only be gone 2 years. The story goes like this–
In March, I was in Austin Texas for a work trip. The week before the trip my coworkers were talking about their tattoos asking if I’d ever get one. I am indifferent to tattoos and do not enjoy willingly causing myself physical pain. Emotional pain? Sure, yeah I’m a pro. But physical? Pass. A couple years prior, I was in all of my vegan glory visiting the vegan mini-mall in Portland. The mini-mall contains a clothing story, bakery, grocery store and tattoo shop. I thought huh, vegan tattoo shop. OK, here’s the deal. If I come across or design something meaningful enough I’d want to etch on to my body permanently and I find myself in Portland again, I’ll do it. Fast forward 3 years. The night after the tattoo conversation at work, a symbol I had noticed in the book I was reading struck me immediately as yes, this will be the tattoo.
A few days later while delightfully enjoying a vegan ice cream sunday at Sweet Ritual in Austin, I peeped a handout they had with all of the top vegan/vegetarian friendly spots in Austin. Lo and behold listed on this handout was a vegan tattoo shop. Listening to my intuition and keeping my mind out of it, I knew immediately, yep, I’m getting a tattoo. See, I had my plans (Portland) and God had His plans. My plan was whenever I’m in Portland. God said nah, I’m going to help you see the tattoo that’s meant for you, you’re going to add your own special touch and it’s going to happen in Austin.
The appointment was scheduled for the next day after work and my Uncle Chuck (aka my Grandpa) who was in town visiting his son, came along with me. This made the tattoo experience extra special having him by my side and getting to reunite in Austin (he lives in New Jersey, I live in South Carolina). How’s this relate to the big grief blow you ask? Well I was riding high because I was just following the signs, going with the flow of life and I felt my Mom’s presence EVERYWHERE when I decided to get the tattoo. Yeah the tattoo hurt. I certainly wouldn’t go get another unless the signs lead me there again but I wasn’t tearing up over the pain; I was tearing up because of how I could truly feel her by my side throughout.
When I shared my recent tattoo adventure with my Mom’s sister, she started chatting about my Mom’s tattoos and her own. The next morning on the way to work (the most
frequent time the grief strangles me) I was plagued with the pain of forgetting my Mom. I didn’t remember any of her tattoos except 1. She’s only be gone for 2 years and I’m already forgetting her tattoos. What’s next? The sound of her voice? The feel of her hug? The smile on her face? Sure I have pictures, and yes I saved what voicemails I had. But it’s unrealistic to think and tell people you’ll never forget someone. Our brains only have the capacity to hold so much information. If I’m forgetting her tattoos after 2 years, what will I no longer remember in 5 years? 10? 20? This realization was not just a wave of grief, it was a tsunami and it has me down for the count while I catch my breath again. And that’s all I can really do. Meanwhile, she’s sending me a lot of cardinals to keep my eyes gazing up towards the Heavens as I lie here in a pile on the ground.
Just keep swimming…