As I talked about briefly in my last post, I got a tattoo in April in remembrance of my grandad who had just passed away. Let’s be honest here: he definitely disapproved of my dyed hair (“Sarah… your hair is pink. Why is your hair pink?”) and my piercings (*insert his sound of disgust here*), so he probably would have hated my tattoo as well. Though I personally think it’s quite tasteful and subtle, though I guess I would. You can make your own judgement.
But, it does the trick. It’s a very personal and physical thing that reminds me of my kooky, hilarious, honest grandad and it gives me a warm feeling in my heart whenever I look at it and remember him.
I’ve always been really close with my mother’s side of the family. We are a small lot – just my grandparents, my parents, my sister, my aunt and two cousins, and the lovely partners who have joined us over the years. We have a great family dynamic – we are all kinda bonkers and we have always had great fun getting together. Some of my favourite memories have just been spending time with them, and my grandparents were the center of it all.
My grandad was a complete joker. I believe they call it banter now, and he was the king of it. Every Christmas and Easter, this would culminate in a “ditty” he’d write – a rude poem where he’d slag off every family member (except himself of course), and it would have us in fits of laughter and grandma would inevitably be rolling her eyes. He used to chase me and my sister up the stairs, shaking his walking stick at us and shouting that he’d call the “grandad police” on us, with a twinkle in his eye. He’d organise easter egg hunts for us around the garden every year, with witty clues to keep us guessing; he taught us most of the card games we know and he’d always have a witty line in response to you.
Then he had his fall, and nothing was the same after that. It was hard for us all, but I know it would have been a lot harder if we weren’t as close as a family. And seeing my grandma care for my grandad was both heartbreaking and inspiring – such an act of real love. When he passed away over a year later though, it still felt like a punch to the gut. He’d gone beyond all expectation, and had fought everything that his body had inflicted on him, but he was always going to lose in the end. He passed away in his house, with his two daughters, a grandchild (my sister) and his wife, my amazingly strong grandma, at his side.
A week later, and we were back home in Birmingham. Mum had just come back from walking the dogs and I started to help her de-walk: I took off the dogs harness and started to put away the bag we take on doggy walks, and I stopped. Inside the bag, was at least two fistfuls of pure white feathers.
I’ll admit, my first thought was “Oh God, has mum finally lost the plot?”. So I tentatively asked “Mum, what are these?”, while holding up a hand of feathers. And then she started to cry, making me even more worried.
After taking several gulps, mum explained that she had been walking the dogs when, out of nowhere, these feathers had drifted down in front of her. There was no sign of where they had come from; no blood; no signs of distress. Just these white fluffy feathers. She went on to say that she had once been told that feathers were a sign of angels, and that she thought it was a message that grandad was at peace.
I gave her a hug and felt myself tearing up. If you were to ask me if I believed in God, I’d say I was an atheist or agnostic (totally depending on how I felt on the day if I’m being truthful), and maybe it’s leftover from childhood, but whenever I think of my grandparents who have passed away, I cannot help but imagine them in heaven.
Anyway, the next day, a Birmingham-based tattoo artist whose designs I’d been lusting over for a while (@rwa_tattooer on Instagram if you’re interested) announced he suddenly had a space that week to tattoo one of six designs he’d done, and one design just happened to be a delicate little feather. It felt like fate. So I emailed him and got it all organised.
My lovely little sister, Ems, came with me, and she waggled her eyebrows at me helpfully while I endured the tattoo pain! It was worth it though. Every day when I glimpse my tattoo, I remember the man who made me smile and laugh so much growing up; who offered me wisdom and who always let us all know how proud he was of us. I know that he is missed by so many, and that’s why I know I will never ever regret this tattoo.