Even though she is physically gone, Mack’s spirit lives on in the hearts of those whose lives she touched. She really did make a permanent mark upon many of us, and we are better people for having known her and loved her. Mack was an extraordinary person, and she made an enduring impact on my life and on my soul. She is in my daily thoughts. She continues to inspire me. And I am still, always and forever, her momma bear.
Since losing Mack, I have searched for ways to honor her, to celebrate her life, to keep alive her memory, and to emulate her spirit. I am writing this blog to share stories of my life with her. Her father and I have put in place a memorial scholarship in her name at Truman State University so that she can continue to make a difference in people’s lives. And I am striving each and every day (with varying degrees of success) to be more Mack-like—to be more gentle and less judgmental, to be more patient and less persnickety, and to take some joy each day in at least one of life’s simple pleasures (like gummy candies, a conversation with a friend, or a silly television show). All of these efforts—big and small—have brought me varying degrees of solace.
Yet there is one simple act that lifts my own spirits as much as it gives wings to Mack’s spirit as well. Talking about Mack—sharing a memory, relating a Mack-antic or a Mackism, or chatting about my love and respect for her—helps me breathe, helps me smile, helps me survive in the world without her. Remembering her is key to my mental health, and putting voice to my memories is a soothing elixir to my grieving soul. Of course it is easiest to talk about Mack with my family and my close inner-circle of friends. Most of them are eager to share their own stories or to reminisce with me about “our” lost girl. I love to talk about Mack with people who knew her best of all, but I also want to talk about Mack with people I will encounter in the world for the rest of my life. I want people who will never know Mack to know she was here and to know that she was a significant inspiration in my life. I want them to know that to know me is know that I was her momma bear.
For several months, I have toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo that Mack herself never had the opportunity to get. She often talked of a small, simple shamrock on her foot or ankle to celebrate her Irish heritage and her St. Patrick’s Day birth. Yet the more I considered it, the more I moved away from choosing for myself a small, discrete tattoo that most people would never notice. I began to think that an honorary tattoo in a visible place would not only be my own personal memorial to Mack, but it would also serve as a conversation starter. It would provide opportunities for me to tell the world that I loved and raised and lost my younger daughter.
So, I have done it! There is now a memorial inked on my right wrist. It is a permanent homage to my indelible Mack. It is a conversation piece, inviting people I meet to ask me about my wacky and wonderful daughter. Like Mack’s spirit, it is bright and bold, a stylized Celtic clover made up of four leaves, for luck, in the shape of hearts, for love. The rich greens represent Mack’s Irish heritage and charm, the purple shadows pay homage to her favorite color, and the fierce “M” in her name above the clover reflects her confidence and her courage. I am delighted with my personalized memorial to Mack. It promises to provide me with many random opportunities to tell people I meet that Mack was here in the world and that she mattered to me. It will offer me many chances to share an apt or funny story about my girl. And, most importantly, it will give voice to her memory and lift my spirits in the bargain.