Lessons from a Tattoo

I met her in the hospital. She was a patient that was assigned to me for her admission work up. I was a recent graduate nurse and was learning from each new patient; but from this one, I gleaned a lesson that has helped to shape my life.

She was an elderly lady and by first impression she had lived a hard life. There were no masks of make up or hair color treatments. Her clothes were ragged and old. They may have fit at one time but now they were bigger than her thin frame needed. Her wrinkled skin looked like she had spent a lot of time in the sun.

An admission procedure involves asking many questions about presenting problems and taking a health history. Then a physical examination is done looking for signs and symptoms that will help in establishing a preliminary diagnosis. It was when I was checking her skin that I noticed the markings of an old tattoo on her forearm. I didn’t want to be biased but I couldn’t escape thinking that she did not in anyway fit into my category of someone who would get a tattoo. I asked her to tell me about it. I sat in rapt attention as she told me her story.

It happened during the Depression Era. Her mother had died when she and her brother were very young, about 2 and 3 years old. Her father was not able to find work in the Texas area where they lived. Finally, as a last resort, he agreed to take an assignment with the Coast Guard. This meant that her broken hearted father had to place his two children in an orphanage. Learning that he would be out at sea at least 6 months and fearing that somehow the children would get lost in the system, mixed up with other kids, or he not have the right paper work to reclaim them, he did a profound thing. He had his name tattooed on their arms so that no one could ever question who these children belonged to.

My heart was flooded with compassion and respect for this father. Then I was reminded of how like our Heavenly Father he was. Isaiah 49:16 quotes the Lord, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.” I don’t think my patient was given a path in life that was easy to walk. I do think she could look at her arm and know she had a father who loved her.

How many times, when my faith has been worn thin, have I comforted myself with the assurance that my heavenly Father has carved my name on His hand. Do you have that comfort today?

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