I am so thrilled to be able to once again feature my sweet friend Tammie here at Espressos of Faith. Tammie’s life first touched mine when we both resided on the tiny island of Kwajalein in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. During that time, Tammie and her husband Rick experienced unfathomable loss, and ever since, their lives have been on an amazing trajectory to healing, hope, and even joy again! Life will never be the same, and Tammie is extremely honest about their painful journey; she readily admits that some days are extremely difficult. But she has found purpose again, and her heart beats to bring healing to other grieving parents. She wants to share how she and her husband are finding their way again. In the process, Tammie and Rick made a choice to forfeit regular income and steady jobs to travel around the country volunteering, giving back to others in celebration of the life of their son. As passionate as they are about suicide prevention, they are equally driven to love those left behind as they open up their lives to us, sharing their source of love, comfort, hope, and promise.
Without further introduction, here’s Tammie…
For those who are asking if that is really my tattoo: Yes, it’s true.
“What are you thinking? You are not the kind of person who would get a tattoo.”
“You have to be kidding! That is not your style.”
“You know what people think about tattoos? You will be judged as soon as they see it.”
“Well, if it will make you happy, then do it—but I would never do it.”
These are some of the responses I received when I shared my desire to get a tattoo as a tribute to my son Joshua. They were all very kind in the way that they said it, and I truly knew that they were trying to comprehend something that was just outside all of our comfort zones.
I had a lot of support as well. While my husband Rick said a tattoo was not for him, he understood and supported my wish to do this. My sister Shana didn’t hesitate to say “ok.” As a nurse, she offered her knowledge and advised me to check out the shop and the person doing it to make sure it was clean and safe. My son Brian and his wife Nicole were super-supportive. They are young and have tattoos themselves. Brian actually already has one that is a tribute to Joshua, so they were able to give me some good counsel.
My son told me: to try to look past the ink and hardware the people would be wearing and really listen to the person.
He told me I would find wonderful people. He was right!
Several of my friends were beyond supportive. They told me how proud of me they were and what a beautiful tribute it would be. Dawna was one of those dear friends whose words echoed in my mind several times during the time between my decision and Joshua’s birthday.
The motivation for me to get a tattoo has to be shared. Just after my beautiful son Joshua died, my older son Brian shared an article with me about the Christian singer Stephen Curtis Chapman. In the article, he shared how he and his entire family got a tattoo together as a tribute to their sweet little girl who had died in a tragic accident. They found some of the last artwork she had done and chose that for their tattoos. I wanted to do it back then more than ever, but fear of the physical pain and also of what people would think stopped me. Since I follow Christ and consider His Holy Word inspired by God, I also wondered:
Was it biblical?
I talked about it over the years, but each time the fear would take hold of me, and I would just let the thought fade away. Then, out of nowhere, I was reading a post from another mom who, like me, would never have thought of getting a tattoo prior to her child passing away. She posted a picture of her tattoo that was a tribute to her child. As soon as I saw it, I almost cried because it was so beautiful! I immediately said a prayer and asked God to let me know if I was right in my decision. I was filled with inspiration right there on the beach! I drew out what I wanted and knew right then that I was going to do it! The fear that always used to creep up on me was not there. I truly did not care what others had to say, as I knew in my heart that this was what was right for me.
And—I knew that as long as it was for the glory of God, it was biblical.
1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Joshua’s birthday was a few days away, so I decided that I would celebrate his life and get the tattoo on his birthday at the exact time he was born. Rick and I spent a day checking out places and finally felt really good about a young man named Matt. I made an appointment.
I was so happy and content. I felt such a sense of peace. My tribute would be a tangible reminder that every step I take will bring me closer to the promise from God that I will be reunited with my son in heaven.
I have come so far on this journey through grief. When our son Joshua died by suicide, it was a terrible, horrible shock that a mother truly never quite comprehends or comes to terms with. When he took his life, he took much of mine too. The pain was gut-wrenching and indescribable. For a long time, I truly couldn’t find my way. But God picked me up and carried me until I could stand on my own. Life now is filled with joy and goodness. I choose to celebrate my son’s life and try hard not to focus on the loss and the way in which he died.
My faith in Jesus Christ and the hope contained in the promise of God that we will be reunited in heaven are what I focus on.
So this tattoo is so much more than a few words tattooed on my foot:
It is a symbol of hope and a reminder of God’s amazing promise! Every time I look at it, I am filled with overwhelming joy. It turned out to be the right decision for me.
(Oh, and by the way, yes, it HURT—but nothing like the pain of bringing him into this world or the gut-wrenching pain of losing him.)
My last words on this are these:
Don’t judge people when you see a tattoo. Many of them will have done if for a very special reason.
Feel free to leave comments to share, connect with, or encourage Tammie. The message she wants to send is: You are not alone, she understands, and you are deeply loved. Make every moment count. Memories are such a treasure, and making new ones with loved ones still here is a precious gift not to be wasted, even in the midst of deep grief.
A great resource for suicide prevention is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
To find out more about Tammie and Rick, you can read part of their story at Giving-Back-For-Joshua.
Here are a few more places where Tammie shares her heart:
Honoring Josh: A Mother’s Heart in the Aftermath of Suicide
Journey to Joy: How Giving Back Brings Hope and Healing to Hurting Hearts
Would You Do Anything to End the Pain of Grief? Even Give Up Loving Memories?