“I let my 15-year-old daughter get a tattoo, and no, I don’t care what anybody has to say about it.
Documenting important events in the form of a tattoo is nothing new, in fact, some cultures still view it as an actual rite of passage. Warriors did it to commemorate their battles, and to honor those who have fallen.
I think the problem nowadays is anybody can walk into a tattoo parlor anywhere and get whatever fancies them at the time, which is great; until the meaning behind it loses its relevance. I’m pretty sure that most teenagers, and some adults, who are tattooing what’s cool to them now won’t love it forever and will eventually look at it with regret. So when my teenager asked me for one, trust me, I thought about it. And thought about it. And thought about it.
What was her reason? What did she want? Was she trying to impress her friends? Was she just following some trend?
We talked about it and she told me that she wanted to get a very small, very appropriate tattoo to honor her dad, who passed away from cancer when she was 13. Even with that reasoning, I still struggled with it.
We talked about the tattoo her older sister, Savanna, got a couple of years ago. ‘I IV IX’ placed delicately on the top of her foot. For those of you that aren’t up on your Roman numerals, that’s 1-4-9, which was my husband’s police badge number. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful tribute. In fact, it still takes my breath away.
I started thinking about the meaning and it was so much deeper than just numbers. You see, after his valiant fight with his disease, his badge number has become synonymous with strength, courage and hope. That’s what it means to me, and clearly what it means to my kids.
The night Chad passed, I told Kaitlyn she didn’t have to go back into the room to watch him die. I told her I would stay in the hall with her. I explained what was happening, that he couldn’t breathe, that there was a gurgling in his throat and it sounded like he needed to clear it but couldn’t. I told her he would not wake up. I told her that he was going to stop breathing. And she didn’t have to watch that.
She said nothing as she blew past me and straight to his bedside to hold his hand. She told the nurse she was going to throw up. Her body shook. Tears fell from her eyes. Her dad gasped. She sat straight up, wiped her face, swallowed hard, squeezed his hand and told him he could go. She told him it was ok.
She stayed with him while he died and didn’t leave him for an hour after. She held his hand while he took his last breath, much in the same way that he held hers when she took her first.
In that moment, I knew she was her father’s daughter. She was a beautiful example of the fighter he was.
After that night, she took a break from some things but returned to competitive gymnastics after a month, and won the state championship for her age and level that year. She moved houses, made new friends, had plenty of girl drama, changed schools, and all the while got involved with pancreatic cancer awareness and research.
In the midst of all the change in her own life, she managed to continue to honor her dad.
And in my mind, that makes her a true warrior.
The things she has endured and the way she has survived is the true mark of all the things Chad was: strong, courageous and full of hope.
So when Kaitlyn and her sister decided to get a tattoo to respect the battle and to honor their hero that fell, there was no way I was standing in the way of that. Not for one second.
As for me, the day before he died, I asked for a copy of his EKG. I have his real heartbeat tattooed on my foot so every time I look down I know he’s with me. It’s part of him that is still alive.
One of my favorite things was laying on his chest listening to his heartbeat, and now I can still see it anytime I want. And my kids can look at theirs and be reminded that they can survive anything.
So yes, I let my 15-year-old get a tattoo and no, I don’t care what anybody has to say about it, because they have shown me, you, and anybody else who will listen what surviving looks like. They get to show that off however they damn well want to. They’ve earned it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her bestselling book, “Grief Life,” is now available in print and kindle. Experience love, laughter, loss and hope in this raw, emotional, honest look at grief. You can follow her work on her Facebook page. She has been chronicling her journey with grief in a series of stories for Love What Matters:
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