Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Mark for Our Girl

Almost a month ago, we once again passed May 29. The day that Ryann died. I never know what to call it when I tell someone. The anniversary of her death? Her deathday? All of the options seem a bit too morbid. Maybe I should just call it for what it is - The Day of Soul-Crushing Sorrow and Remembrance.

‘Oh hey, so I won’t be at work next Wednesday because I’ll be taking it off for The Day of Soul-Crushing Sorrow and Remembrance.’

Maybe a bit cumbersome. I’ll probably continue on with the shorter, morbid-ish versions.

In the two years since The Event we have made a point to spend what could be a terrible, horrible, no-good day spent wallowing instead doing things that help us remember and honor Ryann and our family. Last year we took some flowers by her grave, explored the Capitol, ate at Maggie’s Wraps, and dropped by the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. This year we had something special planned.

We started off the day by heading over to our local florist. As usual, we perused their large case in the back and hand chose several flowers that seemed fitting for the occasion. Although I'm generally not a fan of mums or daisies, I always seem to find myself choosing them for Ryann. There's just something about them that seems youthful and innocent.

We also got a matching bouquet for our table at home. I loved seeing them throughout the week and having that small connection to Ryann.

After our jaunt to the cemetery, we popped by the Capitol for a quick peek. Not only do we both love the Capitol simply for it's echoing hallways and plentiful mosaics, but it is also the site of one of our few memories of Ryann in Lincoln. It was Jared's first time at the Capitol and we spent a large chunk of it up in the topmost room. Ryann ran and squealed, testing the echoes in the room. She eventually stole Jared's empty coffee cup and proceeded to spend the rest of the time horrifying onlookers by pretending to drink out of her cup, which they had no way of knowing was empty.

The dome in the rotunda.
Big sister/Little brother

We met up with Clif's sitter at the Capitol and she took him home for a few hours while we headed to our next appointment. An appointment that we had been planning and looking forward to for just a bit less than two years.

Shortly after Ryann died I knew that I wanted to get a tattoo. I wanted to carry a outward mark, not only to match the soul-scar that I will always carry, but also as a way of carrying her forward into the future. Something she can no longer do herself.

It was a natural choice for me to decide on getting her tattoo behind my right ear. It's where she wore her sweet birthmark that I always knew was so uniquely her. I never forget which ear it was behind now, even though I did when she was alive. I knew it was behind one of them, but could never quite keep it straight. I would have to check each one in order to spot it. But now it's etched into my memory as the last kiss I gave my girl. She was laying on the huge, adult-sized hospital bed. We were getting ready to leave and I was doing my best to memorize every detail. I ran my fingers through her wispy hair - no longer baby hair, but not quite little girl hair yet - I cupped her knobbly, perpetually scratched knees in my hand, saw that she still had dirt under her fingernails from playing outside. She was only in a diaper, as long as you don't count the tube they had snaked down her throat and the iv in her arm. Her head was to my left, her feet to my right, the crunchy hospital bed paper under her. And I turned her head to the left, kissed that precious mark on the right side of her head and walked out of that hospital, leaving my daughter behind.

That mark has been seared into my brain. She no longer wears it, so I will now wear it in her stead. And when people ask about it, I'll be able to tell them about the little girl it belongs to. When my other children ask about it, I'll be able to tell them about their beloved big sister.

Two years after I last kissed my daughter, I finally carry her mark forward.

Jared's arm in progress.
The stencil on the left and the finished piece on the right.

My mark for my girl

There are several specific aspects of the designs which make them particularly special and meaningful to us. I will do my best to outline them below.
  • A bird - we always compared Ryann to a bird. Petite, quick, nimble. Forever bright and cheery. Also a nod to "His eye is on the sparrow".
  • Birch tree - they appear delicate and vulnerable, but they are strong and hardy. They bend and whip in storms, but do not break. The survive the storms and the snows. And they do all of this with grace and beauty. The foliage, or lack thereof, on the tree is to portray fall, when Ryann was born. Including a tree in the design is also a nod to the Tree of Life.
  • Color - At our first grief support group we went around the circle and shared the color that most personified our child. There were a smattering of baby blues, yellows, and pinks. Both Jared and I didn't hesitate in saying "Red". Red is bold and daring. Passionate, decisive, and beautiful. We opted for a rusty red once again, a connection to fall.
  • Placement - I've already gone over mine. Jared's being on his arm is for several reasons. He's constantly wearing her on his sleeve. Arms tend to be a symbol of what you do, accomplish, or your actions in life, and Jared's will always be influenced by Ryann.


  1. This is a beautiful tribute / way to carry her forward. You two are the strongest people I know.

  2. I love love love your tattoos. I think they are beautiful and I love that's how you choose to honor and remember Ryann! Beautiful!