My father fought a nine month battle with cancer and passed away in April 2014. Anyone who has watched a loved one battle this horrid disease knows firsthand the toll it takes on the families’ health and emotional state. I had such a hard time with my father being sick that it was essential to my well being that I find an outlet. It didn’t matter how much I cried, ate or drank the hole in the pit of my stomach never filled. The gaping hole was my sadness, nothing but grieving and time would heal it. During those dark times I picked up the book FEAR: Essential Wisdom for getting Through the Storm by famous Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I read the passages in that book over and over again. The book soothed my fears and help me see the bigger picture of it all. This book is what kept me going.

Out of all the religions Buddhism seems the most natural to me. I jokingly call myself a Virgin Buddhist. In essence, if I had a strong desire to follow a spiritual path it would that of Buddhism. Once in awhile I practice yoga, meditate and read Buddhist writings but never consistently enough to be devout. After my father’s passing I wanted to do something to honor him. Although my father and I were very different people (literally night & day) we loved each other deeply. My father literally made me crazy but still he pushed me to be the woman I am today (thanks for that dad). The desire for his constant approval always made me want to do more – do better. In the same year, on my father’s birthday, I got my first tattoo. The tattoo was to honour his life and in some way carry him with me everyday thereafter. I decided on a small lotus flower which now resides on the wrist of my right arm. 

The irony is that my dad was extremely rough around the edges. He was the old fashioned kind of guy that expected my mom to serve him. I was determined to marry a man opposite of him and I did ;) The idea of my father being represented by a lotus flower is absolutely absurd. In fact, when I told my siblings what kind of tattoo I got they were utterly confused. I think an anchor would have represented my father better. Then why the lotus? I got the lotus for several reasons; as explained I feel a strong connection to Buddhism, my husband, son and father-in-law names all have to do with the lotus flower. Therefore, I felt that the lotus flower represented all the strong male figures in my life. For me there was no question that in order to commit to something for life it had to have deep rooted meaning. 

For the past year I have had the strong desire to get tattoo number two. When my very good friend, Dawn told me she was finally going to get her long awaited tattoo I took it as a sign. Yesterday I had the name/word GRACE tattooed below my lotus flower. It is exactly what I wanted. It’s perfect and you know how I know? Because it looks like it should have been there all along.

In 2000 the band U2 released an album entitled: All that you Can’t Leave Behind. For whatever reason I immediately fell in love with the the song “Grace”. The lyrics spoke directly to my soul. The line that resonated with me and has been stuck on replay in my head is “Grace it’s a name for a girl – it’s also a thought that changed the world”. (I have to admit I always thought the lyrics read – it’s also a thought that can change the world).  When we found out we were pregnant with Manisha I knew right away I wanted her middle name to be Grace because it’s not merely a name but a state of being. To live in or with grace is an elevated state. It’s not merely walking through life but living it fully. To live in grace is to be re-cognizant of the gift of life and show appreciation for all that it gives. I wanted my daughter’s name to reflect that notion. 

I am proud to say that my daughter who is now 16 years old is the epitome of grace. She has grown up alongside a brother who needs a lot of support and attention in his day to day. He has never been able to play with her, share with her or support her. She has always done for him. On a deeper level Manisha’s grace has taught her to accept her brother for who he is. I think because of her inherent grace she has been able to learn through her brother’s inability. She understands that as a family we are a TEAM and have to be there for each other – through good times and bad times. Manisha has always been sensitive to my emotions and has been a constant support. As she said in a slam poem she wrote, many years ago, “I care that my parents will never hear their son say I love you – so I repeat it more than I mean it to spare their pain”.  She is that person! She is intelligent, funny, independent, nurturing and empathetic. Regardless of the fact that she is mine I will boldly state that “Manisha is one of the best human beings I know”. I beg you to get to know her.

My daughter brings me great pride and joy. I am always humbled when people tell me how lovely my daughter is. There are some people who tell me I am lucky that Manisha is the way she is but I disregard those statements because it undermines all the hard work we have put into raising her. You have to understand when raising a child with special needs alongside a normal developing child, we risk messing up the normal one – due to lack of attention (that is a whole other blog entry). I have been hyper aware of Manisha’s well- being and have worked hard to raise an independent young woman with a healthy self-esteem. I don’t think luck had much to do with it. 

Manisha means the world to me. She is my light in the darkness. When I doubt myself I have to remember as the same sex parent I have the strongest influence over her. She makes me brave. I want to be the best I can be for her. She gives me so much and in return I want to give her everything I have. I want my daughter to have the best life possible! I often remind her that the day she was born was the happiest day of my life. I need her to know how much she means to me. So my second tattoo is to honour my daughter and the profound love I have for her. The word “Grace” is permanently etched on my body both for Manisha and to remind myself how I want to govern my life. 

My sweet girl - thank you - for all that you have given me.

Sincerely – your mama bear – xox 

© 2018 Audrey Burt

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