Hope Wears a Tattoo

hands - palms outstretchedHe was a large, muscular man and when he sat down in the bus, the leather seat expelled air. I peeked at him around the pages of the book I was reading as my writer brain started inventing a character sketch.

He’s a construction worker by day, a bartender by night and his feet hurt. It feels really good to sit down for a change. Or … he’s a pastor on his way to the inner city church he serves. The dirty T-shirt is a cover up and helps him relate to the young people in his congregation. Or … he’s an undercover spy and just wants me to think he’s a normal guy.

But then he crossed one leg and I discovered he was far from a normal guy. Tattooed on one leg was the image of a little girl with her name inked above her sweet face, “Kelsey Jane, beloved daughter.”

What kind of guy loves his daughter so much he tattoos her picture on his massive leg? Was she one of those tragic little ones that cancer took away? Her image on his leg was a memorial to her short life?

He saw me staring and before I could disappear behind the pages of my book, he answered my question with vulnerability, “I’m divorced and I don’t get to see her very often. This way, I’m always carrying her with me.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat and said, “That’s the greatest tattoo I’ve ever seen.”

He tipped his Royals baseball cap to me, then turned away. I returned to my book – both of us in our own worlds as people do on mass transit.

I almost wanted to find the nearest tattoo parlor and ask for a picture of my son emblazoned near my heart. Almost.

But I couldn’t forget the image and the question it posed, What kind of guy loves his daughter so much he tattoos her picture on his leg?

Then I remembered another guy who does the same thing – not on his leg, but on his hand – on the tender palm area where he can see it every time he reaches out to help someone.

Almighty God is the one who says, “See, I have tattooed your name upon my palm…” (Isaiah 49:16).

God Himself cares so much about each of us he has tattooed us on the palms of his powerful hands.

In the original Talmud, the meaning of this tattoo or engraving was of an unbreakable bond, of a love so intense it was comparable to a mother’s love that could never ever forget her child. The Hebrew word also included the provision of God’s care, reaching out to protect his children from harm.

As God’s children, we can depend on that mother love, that unbreakable bond, that caring and loving provision. Always.

I often think about the guy on the bus and hope he’s having some quality time with his daughter. Usually, I remember him when I’m going through a rough patch and need some encouragement.

The tattoo of Kelsey Jane makes me smile, while the visual of my image tattooed on the palm of God’s hand fills me with hope.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

How to Celebrate a Character’s Life

Because characters are so essential to novels, writers spend hours developing character sketches, running personality assessments on pretend people and recording the information in a workbook or on a vision board.

Since 2010, I have developed the character of Reverend G. I have lived with the voice of this gutsy little minister inside my head and written from her viewpoint what it feels like to experience dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s. Now that the final book is scheduled for release on August 21, I feel a sense of loss. Rev G 3 Cover

Reverend G fought Alzheimer’s with faith and hope, but she no longer wakes me up at four o’clock in the morning or reminds me that she wants to wear her long white braid draped over her left shoulder. She no longer scolds me when I am too tired to write down a piece of dialogue on the notepad beside my bed. She no longer challenges me to find just the right word that will describe how Zim – her word for Alzheimer’s – is stealing her away piece by piece.

Reverend G’s voice has gone silent.

So to acknowledge the loss and help me move on, my Saturday Sisters decided to initiate a memorial service.

Sat sisters - mem serviceThese sisters and I have done life together for over 20 years. We have prayed together, shared parenting tips and cheered for our Jayhawks. Except for me, they all live in Lawrence, Kansas.

A few weeks ago, I drove to meet them at our usual gathering place, to celebrate together the life and legacy of Reverend G. We began with an introduction and the Lord’s Prayer because this prayer provided an important plot twist at the beginning of Reverend G’s dementia symptoms.

Then I gave a summary of the character sketch, recalling how Reverend G has grown and changed since the first book and how readers told me they appreciated her strength, her faith and the way she honestly cries out to God with, “I can’t stand it!”

Each of the Saturday Sisters shared their favorite stories from the two previous books, then we read Reverend G’s favorite verses: Psalm 46:10, Psalm 43:5 and Psalm 91:1-2.

A sweet warmth permeated the room as we sang two of Reverend G’s favorite songs: “Let It Be” by the Beatles and the wonderful old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” To round out the musical selections, we harmonized through a few verses of “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Then we prayed for those who suffer with Alzheimer’s and dementia as well as the caregivers who patiently listen to the same stories repeated over and over and watch their loved ones regress into childhood.

We prayed for my mom and for the other moms represented around the table, sad that we can no longer “just call Mom” when we have a problem, grateful for the years we shared yet grieving for the fading away of relationships as our mothers now sometimes forget us.

After our prayer, it was time for the luncheon. Don’t we always follow the sorrow of memorial services with the sustenance and fellowship of food?

The menu included tuna balls (in honor of Gabriel, Reverend G’s cat), cowboy caviar, gluten free blueberry muffins, Reverend G’s blueberry salad, the choice of raspberry or plain lemonade and for dessert – of course – Chunky Monkey ice cream.rev g memorial lunch

My precious Saturday Sisters spent a day encouraging me, believing that the character God and I created had made an impact on the lives of my readers.

When we hugged goodbye – it was with joy and hope that someday Alzheimer’s will be defeated and no one will ever forget their loved ones again.

Although Alzheimer’s still destroys pieces of my mother’s brain and my family still walks through this journey of forgetting – I can now – as a writer – move on.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/