Words That Have Meaning


After having my first tattoo done, I almost immediately began to plan the next alteration of my skin.  There was something remarkably satisfying about the process: first the pain, then the memory – burned into flesh as a permanent tribute to my children.  The dates on my back were for them.  The next one would be for me.

I knew what I wanted, a mantra repeated over and over throughout the course of my life: be still.

As a child, growing up in Catholic school and attending church twice a week: “Be still and know I am God.”  Words sung at our wedding “Be still and know I am here.”  Though no longer a practicing Catholic, I consider myself spiritual and “Be still and know” still runs deep as a philosophical end to the questions of the universe.  Be still.  Know.  Be comfortable.  Believe what you believe.  And know.

As a yogi, every class I have taken over the years includes some form of savasana: corpse pose.  Clear the mind, quiet the body.  I have a mediation where I tell my body, one muscle at a time to completely relax, sink into the floor.  Be still.

After losing Nelle and Iris, there were so many days that were hard to face.  What I knew had been uprooted and I often felt like I was spinning.  But I could not change that they were gone and I could only try to tether myself so that I did not drift away.  Focus on inching my way through the days.  Slowly quiet the screaming that was occurring in my head.  Be still.  Just be.

I found an image of “be still” in a beautiful script and I kept it.

I became pregnant.  I had my baby.  I nursed my baby.

Finally after no more pregnancy and no more nursing, it was time to revisit the tattoo.  I needed to add Autumn’s birth date to the existing tattoo on my back.  I contacted the woman who did the original, but she was booked many weeks out.  Now that I was in the place I needed to be, I wanted it done now.  I found a tattoo place near my home that had great reviews and walk-in hours on Monday afternoons.  I had read about the artists ahead of time and one was a woman with two young children.  I went in and requested her.  She happened to have some availability, if I could come back in half an hour.  I was glad I could go ahead and have it done the same day.

I talked to her about adding the date, for my daughter’s birthday and she asked me how many children I have.  I said “I have five children.”  First time I have ever said it, in that way to a stranger.  Her jaw dropped and she said “You have FIVE?”  Yes, I responded.  I have three living children, and we lost two.  I have the birth dates of the first four on my back already, and need to add my baby.  It was the response I have always wanted to give: I have five children.  And in the context of the situation, it was the right response.

be still was added to the inner part of my upper left arm.  A few people I told wondered about the pain of that particular location, versus my back.  In my head I thought “No worse than the pain of labor before delivering a stillborn baby.”

I love it.  I love the location – not something obvious, but as I move my arm around, talking, people could catch a glimpse of it, whereas my back tattoo needs a very specific cut of shirt to be seen.  I love the words, I love the constant reminder.  be still.  I love the permanence of saying: this is me, and this is meaningful enough to me that I want to carry it with me, always.

Now to start planning the next tattoo….