There is a mark on my ankle, forever etched in to my skin, a permanent reminder of my ability to overcome adversity, a testament to my relationship with my creator.
It was humid on the day I walked in to the tattoo parlor, the moisture of the Hawaiian air pressing down upon us and causing us to perspire. We sought solace in the air conditioned shop, browsing through laminated catalogs to view images of the various artists work, yet I had already selected what I was going to have embedded in to my ankle, my determination apparent. I’m not certain what caused me to be so insistent that day to have the tattoo done. We were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, and unfamiliar with the town as well as any tattoo shop. This was certainly a choice that could wait until we returned home, and not a pressing need. Yet I felt compelled to move forward, to get a tattoo at that very moment.
The receptionist led me back to an available artist, a Hawaiian man who towered over me in height but was gentle in his manner of speaking, in the way of which he spoke of his family, whose pictures adorned his work station. As he prepared his tools, pulling out the small color tubes that would eventually become the highlighting colors for the word I had selected, he began to engage me in conversation, surely sensing my hesitation.
“Why did you pick that word?,” he asked, his tone nonjudgmental. I looked in to his warm brown eyes, sorrow of past tragedies weighing heavily upon his heart and causing him to appear permanently sad, and opened my own heart, to a stranger.
Why had I selected the word? Compared to others, the life I have led has been an easy one. There has never been a night that I have not had a roof over my head or food in my belly. I have been fortunate in that I have been provided for, thankful for a mother who has always treated me as her first priority, and a stepfather who has treated me as a daughter of his own.
We don’t have to experience harsh conditions to experience sorrow, to feel sadness. Prior to this very afternoon, to my exposed leg resting on a table as a needle drummed along the grooves of my skin, buzzing with each line newly created, I nearly died.
Twice. I nearly died twice.
The first was after the birth of my son, following a complicated pregnancy and an equally traumatic delivery. After my son, who arrived five weeks early, entered the world, I began to lose a significant amount of blood, rapidly. I was suffering from a condition referred to as pre-eclampsia, which involves an increase of the mother’s blood pressure. I had never experienced blood pressure issues, and the pregnancy took a toll on my body. A less common side effect of pre-eclampsia is a condition known as HELLP syndrome. In addition to increased blood pressure, HELLP causes the mother to experience difficulty clotting. Combined together, I was bleeding, with the inability to clot…I was bleeding out.
By the true grace of God, I was able to be stabilized. Nurses flitted near my bed side, measuring my vitals hourly, readjusting and re-fluffing pillows, until I was steady enough to sit, then finally, to load myself in to a wheelchair so that I was able to visit my son in the NICU, who due to his prematurity, was being monitored to ensure that his breathing remained steady and that he was properly intaking nutrition.
Together we fought. My son and I remained in the hospital for a combined total of four weeks, myself discharged after one, and he, three weeks later, both strong enough to thrive in the world outside hospital walls. We did thrive, and my gorgeous son grew in to a toddler, the years quickly passing until he was an outgoing and vibrant three year old.
At three years old, my son almost lost his mother.
My husband, who at that time was still my boyfriend, had recently purchased a vehicle from a friend who lived in a forested area, detached from the suburban environment of the surrounding city. In order to bring the new purchase to his parents home, he was going to need assistance in bringing his current vehicle, the vehicle that would be driven to his friend ‘s house, back. I offered to help him, eagerly climbing in to his car and enjoying the short trip from his parents to his friend’s home, watching as the sky above us transitioned from a serene blue to a tormented gray. We waited for a final inspection of the car, and then we parted, I in his current car and he in his new car. At this point, small drops that were falling from the sky had turned in to a sheet of rain, obscuring my vision. I watched as my boyfriend scanned the surrounding road, viewed that conditions were clear, and made the turn on to the next road. I followed suite, scanning the roads, which remained clear. To this day, I recall pulling out, in to the intersection..and my next memory involves a firefighter peering in at me through broken glass, asking for details I was struggling to remember. How old was I? Was anything broken? I honestly couldn’t remember, and panic set in quickly as I realized my boyfriend was not with me. I didn’t remember the drive to his friend’s house or any events following, details which would have to be pieced together for me later. I was carefully extracted from the vehicle and loaded on to a stretcher as rain pelted my skin, staining my forearms and legs with chilled drops. I spoke briefly to the EMT assessing my vitals in the ambulance, before I drifted into a restless slumber, awaking again at the hospital, my head confined to the bed by a brace.
A sheriff stood at the foot of my bedside, and we spoke, he informing me that if the angle of the vehicle had been adjusted even slightly, even with the assistance of a seatbelt, I could have died. It would have been considered a head on collision that could have killed me instantly. Yet, it wasn’t. I was able to walk away from the crash, albeit sore, with cuts and bruises.
I was told, after my first son was delivered, that due to the trauma I had suffered during delivery, the likelihood of carrying another child successfully to term was slim, if not impossible. After the car accident and the additional injuries I had suffered, that likelihood increased.
Several months after the day I sat in the tattoo parlor, sharing my story and my heart with my tattoo artist, I discovered I was expecting our second child.
I truly believe that we are all born with a purpose, and though we may not know what that purpose is initially, our lives are spent in the discovery of fulfilling it.
This year, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, after enduring months of illness with no clear answers provided. This is an illness which will likely affect me for the remainder of my life, and something I will have to manage daily. Yet, it is not life threatening. It will affect me, certainly, but I am able to live with it.
I have been saved, in the grace of God, numerous times. I’m not certain why, but I do not question it, nor my faith in Him. I know he is keeping me on this planet for a reason, and that my mission to complete is not yet done.
Friends, if you ever find yourself questioning your purpose, feeling as if you are merely going through the motions of your life, I challenge you to ask yourself this..what is your purpose? And rather than get discouraged if you do not have the answers, I challenge you to spend the rest of your life searching for them.