I remember the day Brad got his tattoo. A big, beautiful sun on his arm. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. But then again, I admired most everything Brad did. I asked a lot of questions… “Did it hurt? How long did it take? Where did the design come from?”
Brad loved the sun. He spent so much time on the water – boating, wake boarding, swimming and just embracing the warm, natural rays shining down on him. When I think of him, whether it’s in a dream or in memory, I see a happy guy with curly blonde hair. He’s tan, wearing board shorts and always smiling in the sunlight.
He also loved sun imagery. I remember a time in Cancun after we graduated from high school. It was our big Senior Class trip… one last celebration before our group of friends set out for college, the military, etc. Sipping on long island iced teas, we shopped in the local markets. We came across sun-inspired sculptures, jewelry and trinkets. He would spend lots of time admiring and critiquing the artwork.
The sun has, and always will be, a symbol for Brad. During my freshman year of college, I got a blue sun tattoo on my hip, with purple accents. Part of the reason I got it is because I admired Brad so much. I figured that, by making the sun blue, it would be different enough from Brad’s tattoo. I didn’t want him to think that I was copying him – but, in actuality, I was. I never had a chance to show it to him. He died soon after I got the tattoo.
Years later, after Brad passed away, Aaron and Jeff got the same tattoo that Brad had. Uncle Rich did as well. One by one, the rest of my family followed by honoring Brad with sun tattoos… my cousins, my aunt, my sister and even my mother. Friends in our circle also got sun tattoos in Brad’s memory.
Ironically, the sun is often used as a symbol for life and hope for tomorrow. As the sun sets and rises everyday, it can also represent immortality. It symbolizes the sacredness of life, as well as truth and light.
About a year ago, during an intense outdoor yoga class called “Heal Your Heart,” I decided to get another tattoo.
The instructor (Seane Corn) asked us to dedicate our practice to something or someone who has touched our lives. Brad immediately came to mind. She spoke about the power of our thoughts and putting positive energy out into the world. As I held a challenging yoga pose and began to shake, her words resonated.
In that moment, the sun peaked through the overcast sky and I felt Brad’s presence. I remember a tear sliding down my face as an image of a lotus flower appeared in my mind. Considering I was at a yoga festival, I had seen the lotus flower often throughout the weekend retreat, but I didn’t know what it meant. This instructor continued to speak about growing stronger and learning from our past experiences.
Her words sank in, and it felt as though she was speaking to me directly. She reminded me that we are all one, and she even spoke specifically about grief and depression. I left that class feeling sweaty, inspired and whole.
I reflected on Sean Corn’s words as I researched the meaning behind the lotus flower. I was amazed to discover that the lotus represents the sun.
In Ancient Egypt, the lotus flower is associated with rebirth, considering the flower retracts into the water at night, and emerges fresh and beautiful in the Sun the next day.
The Egyptians therefore associated the lotus flower with the sun which also disappeared in the night, only to re-emerge in the morning. Therefore the lotus came to symbolize the Sun and creation. It is also said that the Sun God, Ra, was born from the Lotus flower.
In Buddhism, the lotus flower is known to be associated with purity, spiritual awakening and faithfulness. The flower is considered pure as it is able to emerge from murky waters in the morning and be perfectly clean. Therefore, in common with Egyptian mythology, the lotus is seen as a sign of rebirth, but additionally it is associated with purity. The breaking of the surface every morning is also suggestive of desire, this leads to it being associated with spiritual enlightenment.
Perhaps one of the strongest associations of the lotus flower with religion is that that is observed in Hinduism. In this religion the lotus flower meaning is associated with beauty, fertility, prosperity, spirituality, and eternity.
So, I decided to get a lotus tattoo with the sun rising up behind it.
Last Thursday, I sat for three hours and remembered to breathe through the pain. I thought of Brad (and Aaron too).