As my dad’s quality of life deteriorated, I felt mine becoming more real, like all of the receptors were turned on full-blast to feel everything and anything. Like a high frequency squeal through my body. It has powered me for over a year now; charged me to make hard, big decisions and be confident in them and not look back.
Year one was challenging in a ‘how do I function now that the crazy life of glioblastoma has run its course?’ kind of way. At the one year mark, I said to a friend that I just felt (feel) sad. A whole new experience of sadness. Deeper and stronger than any I’ve ever felt. This sadness literally hurts inside my body. Its like the shock is wearing off and I just have sadness ringing in my ears (chest).
Since Dad died, I’ve been wanting to get a tattoo to commemorate his life, our relationship, the hard road of his illness. Initially, I was going to put his signature on my forearm. After about half a year, that idea was gone. If I would have done it when I felt it, it would have been perfect, but it went away, no biggie.
I’ve spent time here and there looking at tattoo design ideas, and a couple of weeks ago I came across a starburst. I’m not sure where my dad’s spirit is. We had many conversations about what he was looking forward to after his physical life ended, but I’m just not sure. But stars…that’s something I can get behind.
Carl Sagan said in his book Cosmos, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
We are made of starstuff. An urn sits in my living room next to a photo of Dad with my kids about three weeks before he died. Ashes. Dust. Starstuff.
I set to work designing a starburst that made sense; paper, pencil, ruler. I liked a particular completed sketch and happened to count the marks I’d made. Fifty-six. Fifty -six years my dad lived before brain cancer, sixteen more months (and two birthdays) made him 58 when he died. Fifty-fucking-eight. I added two more marks to the design. It clicked. This was it.
Yesterday, I went and had the design permanently placed on my body. I now have a visible mark for the deep loss and sadness that will always walk with me. The pain and anxiety that stirred at my core as I sat down in the studio chair made me cry. I just cried. My fourth tattoo, the most painful.