aNewDomain — Don’t you hate clickbait? The headlines are sure to play on your baser instincts. Even clickbait for something good — to raise awareness, to combat racism, whatever. Even the upworthiest articles and vids start with something that grabs the worst part of your attention, plays on your weaknesses.
But my friend, Lisa, really does want you to look at her chest. That’s the image you’re looking at now, at left.
You see, Lisa’s son was born with a congenital heart defect. He needed a transplant. He was lucky enough to get one.
So why does Lisa have this scar?
She’s done everything for her children. Sacrificed beyond sanity, as we all would like to think we would when it comes to our own offspring. And when Gabriel said he was sad one day, she listened. “I wish I wasn’t the only one with a scar,” he said.
Now he isn’t. A couple of hours with a tattoo artist changed the meaning of Gabriel’s scar. It no longer marks him out as unique, different, strange. Now it’s a family trait. A physical mark of love he doesn’t have to carry around alone.
In his house, Gabriel is ordinary and extraordinary. Every breath he takes is an act of love, because so many people have poured their love into his life. It comes from family, sure. It comes from medical professionals in the form of professionalism and dedication. It comes from a sister who has to share time. It is right there in his chest, beating away: a heart that has a life in him it could not have in its original home.
His mom, Lisa, wants you to look at her chest. To know more than one heart beats in Gabriel, and more than one beats in her, too. As long as Gabriel’s heart beats, it beats in many chests all at once.
My sister is a tattoo artist. She tells me people come in for some work that might seem strange to her. She tries not to judge it. She just listens. As she’s working, she might ask, “What does this mean for you? Why this?” And they tell her. The people in the chair, they open up.
It’s an act of love.
It’s to help me remember someone.
It’s because of this death, and the life I want to remember.
It’s to help me heal this trauma.
It symbolizes a loss.
And when it’s done, when the work is over and the nagging pain of getting it put there is finished, they thank her. They feel better, lighter, stronger. More. Like they haven’t beaten pain, or pushed through it, but pushed into it. And they’ve learned it’s okay to be there, in pain, with it. They’ve moved it from pure abstraction into something they can represent, and feel on their skin, and it’s transformed. Yeah, that too.
So Lisa wants you to look at her chest. Go ahead, look again. It’s beautiful. She’s beautiful. People tell her all the time, and if they don’t know her, they mean her outsides. But here’s this scar, taken on voluntarily for her son — to help him feel in place, to let him know she will do literally anything for him, to share the burdens.
It’s a symbol, knowledge of sacrifice and love taken out of the deep mind and removed from the alam al mithal and put into a picture, something we can see and recognize.
It’s a history of suffering put into a form that can be known and endured in the skin, through the hours of nagging pain that is a tattoo of this nature.
It’s a devotional, a job of work for no other reason than to show commitment.
Go ahead, look at it.
Lisa wants you to.
Gabriel’s Gift is a charity devoted to helping children receive the care they need for congenital heart defects. This help is financial, educational and emotional. You can visit them at the gabrielsgift website.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.