As we are surrounded with the explosion of blushing cherry blossoms, the bold yellows of daffodils, and the bright magentas and purples of the redbuds, it's obvious that Spring has arrived. I don't know about you, but every time I see flowers, something in me feels a little lighter. Flowers make me happy because it is a sign that the death of Winter has passed and the new life of Spring is ready to celebrate. As Robin Williams once said, "Spring is nature's way of saying 'Let's Party'!"
As we enter this season of celebration, some of you may be in a season of life that isn't so joyful. For those of you who know me, you know that I have a large flower tattoo on my forearm. I'd like to share that story with you as I feel it's significant to this season.
In January of 2010, I called a dear friend of mine from Clemson, Amy, and told her how scared I was. We knew something was severely wrong with Skylar's development at that point, but we didn't know how bad it was. We were days away from her two month check up, where we would get the official diagnosis. I was terrified that I would be left helpless and without hope. After sharing that with her, Amy's reply was simply this:
"Ashley, most people are like dandelions. They will be tossed in the wind, take root wherever they land, and go through most of life just fine. However, some people are more like orchids. They require special care and specific environments to survive. Maybe Skylar is a little orchid."
Just weeks after hearing Amy's calming words, my greatest fears came true. Skylar was diagnosed with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) and we were told she would likely not see her first birthday. There was no cure. Spring was not so joyful that year. Skylar became our little orchid, and we worked tirelessly to provide the best care and environment for her to thrive while she was with us.
After Skylar died, I knew I wanted an orchid tattoo in remembrance of her. It would be a physical representation of the emotional scars that would forever be within. It would need to be in a place where I could see it daily, and share it with others. The colors would need to be bold and bright, just like my little orchid. After explaining all of this to Matt, the tattoo artist, he came back with a stencil that was much larger and a different style than what was in my head. I looked at it laying on my arm and said, “let’s do it” because after all, isn’t that a fair representation of life? It’s not what I expected, but it’s still beautiful. After 3.5 hours in the chair, it was complete.
The words “I Shall Arise” are tattooed above the flower, which is a loose translation for the latin word “Resurgem” - a word we engraved on the stone marking her grave. You’ll find the words “Faith” “Hope” and “Love” tattooed within the leaves of the flower on my arm - three things that Skylar taught me through her short yet powerful life. The pain I felt while under the needle was nothing compared to the pain that was in my heart. There was something so satisfying about getting that tattoo.
In my grief of losing her, I thought I had lost joy too. Although time doesn’t heal, it does allow for processing. My grief will never go away because the love I have for Skylar will always be there. However, through the time that’s passed, I’ve become stronger and can now carry that grief much more easily than when it was raw. I've learned how to celebrate life and love in the face of grief.
If you're still in a season of Winter, where there is death and things are dreary, know that you are not alone. There is hope for Spring and joy in your future, even if it's not how you imagine it to be.
As we celebrate Spring as an organization, we agree that it's time to party. Consider this your official save the date for April 30th, when we will be throwing our official launch party in midtown Atlanta. Details coming soon so stay tuned! We hope you can join us!