I have a friend that lost his father close to ten years ago. My friend had just graduated from college, and he and his dad were driving cross-country with home as their final destination. Their car flipped, and his father didn’t walk through their front door again.
I’ve never talked to him about it. He’s married to one of my best friends now, and she’s told me bits. He’s one of the few people I know that has witnessed the closest person in the world to them pass. He’s seen the alive and the lifeless. I know he’s haunted, just like me, Mike, my parents, my aunt, and my brother. They were all at the hospital with us that night. They all held or kissed Maddie after she passed.
Before Maddie was whisked to the NICU the day she was born, one of the nurses held her toward me and said, “Give Madeline a kiss.” I was numb on the operating table, unable to move, but I puckered my lips and kissed. I got mostly her little knit cap, and a tiny fleck of her warm, pink temple.
Before we left the hospital the night Maddie passed, I gave her so many kisses. We wrapped her in blankets and walked away. Then I ran back and gave her one more kiss on her cool, gray forehead. I gave her her first kiss and her last kiss.
My friend has told his wife that he’s angry he walked away from the car accident without any scars. He wanted visual reminders of that night. I never used to understand. Now I do. After a few years, he got a tattoo in honor of his father. It is his reminder.
I have so many pictures and belongings of Maddie, but I can only carry her stuffed animals and old clothes around with me for so long. I carry her in my heart, but I wanted more. I wanted my reminder.
I look at it, and I think of her. I touch it, and it calms me. I hide it when I want her all to myself.
I am now marked on the inside and the outside.