Sunday, July 18, 2010
From the Ashes
The Phoenix. Born from fire only to die and rise again from its own ashes. It's a mythological symbol of rebirth and renewal, and a personal one as well. How so? I'm glad you asked! But let's start at the beginning.
The image above is a tattoo I designed for Krissy about six years ago. It's the first tattoo I've ever drawn, and after she was brave enough to have it inked on her lower back, was the first of two tattoos I drew to make their permanent home on Krissy's body. This history of how this particular tattoo came to be is a bit funny, but perfectly fitting if you know anything about Kris and I.
I suppose I should backtrack a bit. This was actually the second tattoo that Kris asked me to design, but the first one that we both decided was good enough for ink. Long before we started dating, she asked me to design something circular to go around her belly button, to hide an old piercing scar. I came up with something that looked like a ring entangled with vines with leaves radiating out from the center. She liked it, but decided it would hurt too damn much with all the detail I put in, so we scrapped it. Fast forward to about six months after we started dating and Kris decides she wants to me to design something for her lower back. Being the comic book geek I am, I had been reading X-Men and she happened to catch a panel of Jean Grey as the Dark Phoenix. The character has a stylized phoenix symbol on her chest and is usually drawn in dramatic fashion, surrounded by flames that also appear to be in the form of a phoenix behind her. Something about it grabbed Kris and she asked me to come up with a design based on this character. I, of course, was ecstatic she was appreciating my beloved art form so I jumped on it. It took me about three months, and probably six drafts, but I finally came up with the design above. She and I walked to Holy Rollers one evening after work to make it permanent. I was still amazed that she liked my artwork enough to actually tattoo it on her, and was totally in love with her fearlessness. Even after several years of seeing the phoenix on her body, I would shake my head and smile, still a little in disbelief that she could really want something I drew on her body forever. The chick had to be crazy!
Krissy always had a way of adding importance to things in life and this was the same for her tattoos. Her lion came to symbolize her ferocity and protection of our children, and after Cori was born became a sigil of her baby girl as well. Her zodiac, while obviously displaying her astrological sign, was a permanent connection to her sister and a reminder of how close they would always be. The phoenix also took on new meaning, but unfortunately it wasn't until after she was diagnosed with cancer that we looked to its symbolism to provide some hope and understanding of her new existence. While asking the whys and hows this could possibly be happening, we fought to find hope and faith to see her through the difficult healing period after her surgery so we could begin cancer treatments. In a moment of despair, while reaching for hope, we started talking about the things she could find strength in. She touched her back and that moment the tattoo took on new meaning, and she decided that she had it tattooed for another reason and that was to show she would not give up and would rise again after having fallen so low emotionally. She would be the phoenix and I believe it gave her a shot of strength when we were looking for anything to lift the darkness. I really latched onto that thinking and would remind her of it many times as we journeyed through her treatments together.
After Krissy passed away and I gathered around me the things that reminded me of her, I came back to this drawing several times. At first with anger, that she didn't rise and prevail, that she only smoldered and faded away, and it pissed me off that it didn't make a difference in the end. Then I'd alternate between sadness and happiness as I conjured up the memories of drawing it for her and the tattooing and all the times I'd seen it on her in the past. And now, for the past few weeks, I'd just look at it, set it aside, take it out and look at it again. The symbolism was still not lost on me. Despite being born from the panel of a comic book and rising from my love and desire to create something special for Krissy, I felt like it just wasn't ready to die amongst the cold ashes just yet.
So this Friday I took the phoenix out of my sketchbook for the last time and went back to Holy Rollers to complete the cycle. Sorry about the crappy pic, those self-taken shots in the mirror never turn out well. It is my first tattoo, and really didn't hurt at all. It seems to be healing nicely and I'm looking forward to taking off this surgical bandage covering it up. I had no doubts about getting this tattoo. It will be my personal memorial to Krissy and a constant reminder of her love and trust. I will carry it with me forever, a permanent symbol now with more meanings than I could have ever foreseen when I first put pencil to paper.
Krissy may have fallen, but I will carry her spirit on with me, up from the fire and born again in me. She will always be my phoenix.