Duetting: Memoir 7

Duetting: Memoir 7  Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a tattoo onto a photo of the face of her daughter who died.The young friends, at their own celebration of Marika’s life directly following the memorial, mull around in tight groups. They touch the photos and memorabilia. They hug and hold each other. Several had gotten tattoos to honor Marika. Images and words etched onto arms and ankles, pigment mixed with blood. Some small part of Marika could be carried forever.

As soon as she was old enough to forego parental blessings, Marika got a cookie-sized Celtic knot tattooed onto her stomach. I’d always questioned my children, “What could you possibly put on your body that you’d want to have there the rest of your life?” Horrified by the idea, I would confront them using the word ‘permanent’ as if a tattoo was a perpetual stain on one’s presence. Not that anything, loved or loathed, could ever be permanent.

In May, two months after Marika’s death, for her birthday, I had her name tattooed on my left shoulder in Celtic letters. Greg, who’d already had a good deal of himself inked with warriors and skulls in homage to his fallen army friends, added a part of Marika’s Celtic knot to his haunting skin-story. Rachel got a Marika tattoo. And Kim. Then Taylor. And Julie. Even Laurie flew to Ithaca to get one from our now almost-family tattoo artist. The thought of our hearts and bodies indelibly etched with Marika was suddenly comforting. Bereaved mothers, other than wanting their beloved children back, want nothing more than to have their child remembered. So I loved those tattooed friends.

But at the end of June, one of Marika’s friends is found dead from an overdose. Several are heavily into drugs and alcohol. Marika had fought for each summer and for every breath in the end. Even though I know addiction is not a choice, I want to grab hold of her friends’ necks and shake them.
“This is it! This is your only life. It’s a time-limited offer. Non-refundable. It is a gift,” I want to shout. “How the hell do you get to throw it away?” I think of the parents, because to lose a child is to lose the center of your world. It is to lose your light and breath. “Look at me,” I wish I could say, “It’s June and I’m still frozen mud in midwinter. Like concrete. I died too. Would you do this to your parents?”

And then there are Marika’s words. Words I can’t ignore now that I’ve found them. She wrote this before she even knew she had cancer. Before there was any doubt of her not living a long full life. What am I supposed to do with these words? They scream to me:

“My words will hopefully live on long after I am gone. That is how I want to live. Forever. Words are immortal.”

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4 thoughts on “Duetting: Memoir 7

  1. Monica Sword

    Your duetting memoir series goes straight to my heart and is incredibly reflective of similar experiences with my daughter, before and after. It’s uncanny really. Thank you for sharing and I hope to see more.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh Monica, I hope this brings you fond memories of your times with your Lena. Our brave daughters. They gave us so much. I believe we are both living and loving better because of them. Some day I will find you in person and we will share the best memories of our girls. Meanwhile, stay healthy. Live bigger. Let love always guide you. Cheers!

  2. Lucy Bergstrom

    Sob! How prophetic Marika’s words about immortality turned out to be…and your image where the words are “tattooed” on her beautiful face is so poignant. Thank you so so much for sharing Marika’s story and your search for meaning and comfort after losing her.
    Love, Lucy

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hugs, Lucy. Awesome, how Marika wrote about death and dying right from the start of her cancer journey. She wouldn’t share her thoughts, other than writing in her journals, not even with her closest friends. But she was well aware and considering everything when the rest of us could not dare think beyond our ever-battered hopes and dreams for the future. She would have hated all this social distancing to flatten the curve of the corona virus. And now that I know how fragile life is, I am totally engaged in keeping mine. Even if it means living through phone and computer conferencing. Lots of love. Funny how love can come through the phone and computer.


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