Over the years, one of the many questions that I am asked, is what is the story behind all of my tattoos, the ink? But before I touch on that, it is important to know just a little bit more about the story behind the woman. And that woman of course, is me.
So to begin with, as I already shared in a previous post, between the ages of 8-12 I had experienced various forms of sexual abuse, both outside and within the church. But my story doesn’t just start and stop there. I was about 9 years old when my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. And although that diagnosis was devastating for her, how it affected her directly, and how it affected the family was even more devastating.
You see, my mother was extremely independent, and through much research, the effects of the MS and what she knew was to come, led to much confusion, frustration, fear, and ultimately anger. And all that combined manifested itself in a very unhealthy way, for her as a woman, a wife, and a mother.
And without going too far into detail, she became very isolated and unpredictable within the family dynamic, and ultimately physically and emotionally abusive, towards us kids. And by the time I was 15, she made the decision to leave the home, to go live with another man, who also had MS. She was gone from the home for a total of about 4 years until the man she was living with passed away. I was 19 when her and my dad ultimately reconciled, and she returned home. By this time, she was a complete quadriplegic.
But knowing this, it is no wonder, that i received my first tattoo (home made of course) at the age of 15. I was a confused young girl, who had already been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused, and truly believed that Jesus and the church was the enemy. So smoking, drinking, drugs, and tattoos seemed to be the only logical solution to how I was feeling on the inside. Or at least so I thought.
And smoking, drinking, drugs, and tattoos became just a part of my way of life. I was 17 when I received I believe my third and fourth tattoo (still home made of course). And by the time I was 18 I was dating a 38 year old and doing a whole lot of drugs.
By the time I was 19 though, living in a motel room with the 38 year old, and strung out on cocaine, I had reached the end. I was about 90lbs, and was either going to die doing cocaine or get clean all together. Thankfully the solution was the later.
And as I got clean, I still had a whole lot of baggage to contend with. And so through out my twenties, tattoos took center stage. You see dealing with physical pain seemed to be a whole lot easier than dealing the the inner pain that still plagued me on the inside.
It was during this time that I met my first husband. Which of course was complete insanity as well. As I met him shortly after he was released from prison, and after much chaos within our relationship, I married him in Santa Ana, at the justice of the piece, while he was out on work furlough (yes, that is a completely different story for another day).
But fast forwarding now to the time I met Rudy. The year was 1999, and yes, I had already moved to Corona, my mom had just recently passed away from cancer (on my first husbands birthday), I had just entered back into a relationship with Jesus, and I was in the middle of a divorce from my first husband. And so when it came to tattoos, they just continued to be a part of my life, and who I was.
You see, I had more tattoos than I could count, most with little to no story behind them. And most all them just represented a confused girl who some how just wanted to experience what it meant to be valued, and what it mean to love and be loved, unconditionally?
And I thank God, as He truly blessed me with that tangible experience through Rudy, as i also continued to grow in my relationship with Jesus. But with Rudy, tattoos just continued to be a part of me, and ultimately, a part of us. The only difference was, they began to take on a new meaning. That is, Rudy really helped to ground me in the idea of not just getting a tattoo for the sake of the pain, but rather for the sake of the meaning and the story behind the tattoo itself.
So now, looking back, over the almost 16 years Rudy and I were together, I received a total of 7 tattoos. The first two, a tasmanian devil and a heart shaped snake, were while we were in Nashville on two different occasions (with one of those being our honeymoon). The next three were here at home. The first one being Scooby Doo (because I love dogs). The second one, being Felix the Cat (because I was now of course, a Felix). And then the third one, a Cross (Representing and Reminding me of Christ and all of who I am in Him).
But the last two tattoos that I got while Rudy was still here are truly special. That is because both of these I received during the course of cancer, while we were in Hawaii. The first one being a flower and turtle, while in Maui back in 2013, and the second one, being a gekko, while being on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2014. You see, this was just something Rudy and I shared together, and every time I look at those tattoos, they will take me to a special time that I shared with him.
And so now, with the reality of Rudy being gone, what does that mean for me and tattoos. Well, knowing my past, and knowing my tendencies, I am well aware of where it could lead. Because remember, physical pain to me is much more appealing that emotional pain. But the difference is, today I have a whole lot of Jesus. And with Jesus, he is helping me to navigate through the emotional pain, and do so in a healthier way, that includes getting a tattoo in honor and memory of Rudy.
So yes, I made the decision to sleeve my left arm. The reason for this location is truly a simple one, I just don’t have much space left that made sense. But to do a full sleeve that honored Rudy, and made sense with what I already had on my arm, it meant I needed to also do a complete half sleeve cover up. And so through much prayer, and contemplation, I arrived at the complete design that I wanted. And then through much research, I was able to find the artist who I believed could not just do it, but do it well.
And so back in November I made my first appointment that would be the end of January. And then just this last Friday, I went in for my second appointment. This appointment was definitely challenging as it represents the longest tattooing session I have ever sat through. That being about six hours that my arm was actually tattoo’d (and yes my arm was on fire). And now I have 3 more appointments already in place, which will hopefully conclude this project.
The picture to the left here, represents my first and second appointment. And I will share more photos as this project continues. But just to share with you something personal, the clock on my arm represents the time that Rudy’s life here on earth ended, and immediately began in eternity. You see, the time on the clock is 9:28, which is the time that is on Rudy’s death certificate. So please know, every part of this entire project, has been well thought out, and is still a work in progress.
But the one thing that I have had several people ask me, is “what’s next?” Am I going to sleeve my other arm? And to answer that question, I would have to say, I truly “don’t know”. But what I do know, is that in keeping in tune with my desire to engage in healthy behavior, I have made a commitment to myself, and to God, that once this project is complete, I will not seek to have any more tattoos done for a minimum of 1 year.
You see, today I know that God loves me, and I love Him. And the tattoo’s, although I enjoy them, are not to take the place of the healing process that I am to go through, because of Rudy’s passing. And so for today, it truly is about living a life that places God first, while making healthy decisions that help for me to process and remember Rudy, in a way that remains true to the marriage relationship we shared, while at the same time, reflects who I am. And yes, that includes my full tattoo sleeve on my left arm. And knowing the reason and the purpose behind the why, makes the pain all the more worth it. But anything else at this point, for me, would truly just be unhealthy.
But to anyone who knows me, and see’s me on any kind of regular basis, when you see my arm, and you see the new ink that I have, please just know, this one is for Rudy. Knowing that wherever I am, and where ever I go, I will always and forever, remember him, and the life we shared. And ultimately, my hope is that I will be able to use this ink, as an avenue by which to share with people not just about Rudy my husband, but also about where I know Rudy is now, and about who I know Rudy is with, Jesus.
To Be a Widow ~