16 June 2010

A Rose and a Yellow Ribbon


Those of you who have been reading me for some time are aware of the "history" behind my tattoos, specifically the history behind the rose on my right breast, but I'm going to give you the Reader's Digest condensed version of the story once again anyway.

My second husband, Alan, whom I married in September of 1989, used to give me "Thursday Presents." It was a relationship tradition passed on to him from his father. Each Thursday, throughout our relationship, he would give me a present. Most often it was something small; cooking dinner and cleaning up afterward, a handful of wildflowers picked from the side of the road, a bag full of prizes from a 25-cent vending machine. One time it was my rose tattoo.

On January 16th, 1990, Alan's pain exceeded his coping skills and he decided a 22-caliber pistol to his head was his only solution (if you want to read the entire story you can find it [HERE]). On January 18th, 1990, I made the decision to take the shell of what was left of the man I loved off of life support. He died quickly and peacefully, and my life was forever changed.

I've gotten several tattoos since then - all on my back. I've never had Alan's rose touched up nor altered in any way. I was sacred. After 20+ years, it no longer exhibits the glory that it once did, but changing it in any way seemed ... well ... like I wasn't honoring Alan's memory.

But now, I'm having a change of heart. I am starting to see my need to hold on to "what was" as detrimental. OK ... so it took 20 years, but grief is an odd creature - holding on to some of us much longer than others.

It was just recently that I realized that I forgave Alan years ago, but I never forgave myself. You see, some (large) part of me feels a great deal of responsibility for his suicide. Logically, I know this isn't true, but I've been stuck in fear for so long - fear that if I ever let my guard down with a loved one again, this will be the result - that it became comfortable just not to love.

It's time to let go and move forward. I'm thinking that a physical symbol of that change will go a long way in healing that 20 year old gaping wound.

I'm considering trying to integrate the rose with something like this (and for all of you smart-asses, I'll use Alan's name rather than "Mom"):

... but instead of the pink ribbon, I want to use this yellow, suicide prevention ribbon used by YellowRibbon.org

Since moving out of "Satan's Lair" I've had plenty of time to keep my brain occupied - to sort through those things that brought me to where I am today - and it was somewhat disturbing to realize that my emotional growth really STOPPED on that January 16th, 20 years ago. It's time to grow-up ...

Anyone know of a great tattoo artist? And who wants to come with me when I get this done??



Matt-Man said...

I have nothing sarcastic to say. I think it's a wonderful thing. And I will say...

I'm not a professional tattoo artist, but I wield a mean Sharpie, and the ink from those are pretty damn permanent if you'd like me to draw it on you. Cheers Dana!!

Karen said...

I think whatever makes you feel like you are growing and honoring Alan at the same time is a great idea. Personally, I love the ribbon idea. :-)

Gina said...

My grandfather committed suicide about 25 years ago so stories like yours (which I just read for the first time today) really touch me. I think you should go for the yellow ribbon. And please post photos afterwards!

Jeff B said...

We all process grief in very different ways. If doing this will help you then I think it's a good idea.

Dana said...

Matt-Man, ummmm ... I'm not letting you anywhere NEAR my boobie with a Sharpie! I don't need a smiley face with a big nose!!

Karen, thanks Karen. As silly as it might sound, the idea feels like closure.

Less said...

I strongly support your change of heart, and the emotional development that demonstrates.

And I'd love to go along!

Dana said...

Gina, suicide is such a taboo subject - something very few people ever talk about - but something that has touched so many. I'm sorry to hear that it touched you too. And of course I'll post pictures!!

Jeff B, I think I stopped processing grief long ago and opted for emotionally stunted instead. It really is time to move on.

Raquel's World said...

My comment is not on the tattoo so much as I just spent the greater part of an hour reading and mentally processing your suicide story. I had never read it before, and it was very riveting and inspiring. See I am going thru a tough time right now(not to the point I'm thinking of ending it) But just to the point that I am wrapped up in a "why me, When will this ever get sorted out etc." Type situation. It is inspiring to hear a story of someone who I share a connection with (even if it is just one sided) and the severity of your situations and you made it out okay. You did a great job telling your story and I am glad blogging helped you through. You should consider a short story or book about that time of your life.

Anonymous said...

I love this idea. And yes, I know a great tattoo artist, but you will have to come to Sacramento to see her. And I will go with you if you come this far. :)


Dana said...

Raquel's World, although I sometimes I wonder if I *did* make it out OK, there is no doubt I made it out alive, which was often in question. And Raquel, if you ever need a shoulder or a listening ear, shoot me an email. I really can be a good listener!!

theybelongtous, Sacramento? I can think of worse places to go! I actually visited a guy who did GREAT work in San Antonio and may have to plan a trip there if I can't find anyone local.

Osbasso said...

Only good artist I know is in Missoula. She'd be great. But there's that whole travel thing... :-)

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

Everyne heals at a different rate, whether it is a physical or a mental wound.

I think it is great you have gotten to this point and want to memorialize Alan once again...

Wonderful post Dana

Aunt Becky said...

Beautiful idea, dude! I sent you a DM, but email me if you want me to try and dig up her website (if you can't find it from the Tattoo Factory's website). becky@dwink.net

Dana said...

Osbasso, Missoula is a nice town, and not too far if I ever make it back to Spokane!

Vinny "Bond" Marini, in this case I think the lack of "closure" has been the root cause of the direction my life has traveled, and I'm really tired of being on this road.

Aunt Becky, I got your DM and tracked down the Tattoo Factory. Your ink is absolutely gorgeous and a great reference for their work!

Becca Emme at Yellow Ribbon said...

Hi Dana,

I just read your post, I got it from a Google Alert that I have set up for anything to do with the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program. I am Becca Emme, Program Director and one of the daughters of the Founders of the YR Program.

I am very new to blogs and have never responded to one so please forgive me if this is too long or if I commit any faux pas./ I was just so touched by this post that I wanted to take a moment and respond.

I will take time this weekend to read your full story, I am very interested to do it, just have a meeting to go to this evening and full days the rest of this week.

I agree with your thoughts and ideas of healing and closure and your decision to get the new tattoo. I have a Yellow Ribbon tat myself. I like tattoo's but have always said I could not think of anything I would ever want to have permanently marked on my body. Then my brother, Mike Emme, died by suicide. He did fifteen years ago and I just got my tattoo 2 or 3 years ago. It is the Yellow Ribbon over my heart on my left breast.

Dana, the Ribbon is the symbol for suicide prevention and the heart in the middle is the support for the survivors left behind, like you and I.

The ribbon that you have in this post is an older version (certainly usable), the newer most current one has a shadow around the edge of the ribbon, this is to signify the shadow of the loved one we lost. They are gone but not forgotten.

I can email you this newer one or you can use the one you have.

I too, would like to see a picture once you get the tattoo. I will try to email you a pic of mine.

Lastly, I want to say that even though I don't know him at all, I think Alan would want you to get the Rose touched up and put back to her full glory! Not changed in any way, just recolored to show her off in all her LOVE & Glory.

I look forward to reading your reply and you are welcome to e-mail me directly if you would like. Any of your readers are welcome to email me as well. Please use Becca@yellowribbon.org or my gmail address.

In Love & Light,
Becca Emme

Jay said...

Integrating the rose with the yellow ribbon tat sounds like a very cool idea.

Dana said...

Vinny "Bond" Marini, I just want closure - closure that I haven't allowed myself for all of these years.

Aunt Becky, YOU rock! As I shared with you yesterday, the Post Secret focus this past weekend - your post on suicide and photo in front of the yellow balloons - they were key factors in all of this.

Dana said...

Becca Emme, first, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing more of the yellow ribbon story. I actually discovered YR when searching for suicide survivor resources. When I saw the YR cards I had a moment of "OH MY GOD!" I cannot tell you how many times over the past 20 years that I have had suicidal thoughts but didn't know how to convey them without sounding like a crazy person. The cards allow someone to speak up without having to speak up.

Thank you again for taking the time to stop by and share the YR purpose. Suicide is such a difficult thing to talk about - such a secret - and it will continue to kill as long as we don't talk about it.

Jay, I thought so too. We shall see!

Raquel's World said...

Dana...thanks so much for the invite to have someone listen. That's really sweet.

Vixen said...

I *love* this idea Dana.

And I have a fabulous tattoo artist, have used her for years. But she's here...you'd have to take a road trip ;)