There was a certain symmetry in my daughter’s first clear act of rebellion.

She knew her mom was not a big fan of tattoos–all those worries about judgment from others, not to mention how well her daughter would like this permanent statement at thirty…fifty…eighty, when both styles and skin would have shifted significantly.

Fortunately, other parents had warned me of the freshman tattoo phenomenon (and Ellie had hinted there might be one in her future), so I wasn’t too shocked when she showed up with one only about a month into her first semester. The biggest surprise was how much I liked it!

A delicate vine twines around her lovely ankle, then deftly metamorphoses into the soft tuft of a single feather, followed by a line of sparrows in flight. And below the birds, there is a date and one word: “FREE.”

The date represents the day we believe her beloved dad died. But rather than some morbid symbol, or simply his initials, she chose to focus on the one and only positive aspect of his death: his freedom.

She knew he was now free from pain, free from grief, free from fear. Now he could leave all of that behind and spend the rest of time totally immersed in the presence of the very author of love, soaking up his healing, grace, and unconditional love. Picturing Steve’s face as I write this, I imagine his brow smooth, without furrows, his jaw relaxed, and his eyes clear and radiating a deep peace. Oh–and even more, I picture him with deep smile lines–the result of much laughter. I feel certain God has a “wicked” sense of humor!

And now that Ellie and I (with the support of so many of you) have made it past this dark “anniversary” yet again, we too are free–free to focus on living well the lives we’ve been given. So thank you for the many ways you have helped us move forward over the past few years. Through your love and sacrifice, you have given us a healing preview of heaven on earth.