By Darren Humphries
Some people like to collect stamps, coins and my late mother used to collect mugs. I used to collect stamps when I was younger, and some of those who know me would say I like to collect a few things, but my most prized collection is my Angel Ink Collection.
Growing up I didn’t know many people with tattoos, so to have a tattoo would be something foreign to me.
On 7 February 2011 we would be celebrating my son Elijah’s 10th birthday. In our family the 10th birthday was an important one. I recall that my two sisters and I were given a wristwatch, which has always been special for us. I still have my watch, although not in working order.
I wanted to do something special for Elijah’s birthday, but things were different. Firstly, he had Angelman Syndrome and secondly was that he died in 2007, as a result of seizures, and so a watch was not going to be the appropriate gift.
I had been mindful of this for some months before and did my background work and decided that I was going to get a tattoo to mark this occasion. Not just any tattoo, but I was going to embark on having a portrait of him on my upper left arm.
I decided where I was going to get it and I happened to see a voucher from Zealand Tattoo that offered a discount for tattoo work and so I went and cautiously invested my money in a voucher.
I took in the picture I wanted as a tattoo and made an appointment. I had done some reading on an artist named Ray and thought he would be the man to craft this ‘ink’ for me. Wow! What a day – turned out that Ray was learning to live with the death of his brother some years before and so as he recreated Elijah’s portrait on my arm we shared some special moments of connection. Wow! What an experience…
I have written a blog about the Journey with Elijah since not long after his diagnosis in 2006. After Elijah died a friend encouraged me to continue to write it and so I have although these days not so often.
I shared my portrait of Elijah as a blog entry. It occurred to me that other parents and relatives of individuals whose lives are impacted by Angelman Syndrome might also have “ink” and so I posted my image on Facebook and others started sharing their photos. I found parents like me who also had portraits of their children who had died. Over time more ink came out of the woodwork and more people have shared their ink.
It can quickly become a starting point for discussions about our children or family member that creates awareness of Angelman Syndrome.
I now always carry a picture of Elijah with me and so when talking about him I can reach for my sleeve and show people Elijah.
Please contact me if you have ink you would like to share as part of my collection @firstname.lastname@example.org.