My most recent English paper was on cause and effect. After a comment my instructor made, the gears of my brain begain to crank & spin…I would write about the cause/effect of my tatoo. For those of you who do not know, the tatoo is the chinese symbol for the word monkey. Monkey was my big sister’s (who passed away three years ago) nickname. I wrote this paper for her…
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death.” Song of Soloman 8:6
Cynthia Diane Mobley was born on the afternoon of September 17, 1979, red-faced and crying, at Madison Parish Hospital in Tallulah, Louisiana. All six pounds, thirteen ounces of her tiny little body were a picture of perfection to her seventeen year old mother. Over the next couple of years, Cindy became quite the little climber; clambering on every table, cabinet, chair that she could find. For this reason, she was given the nickname “Monkey” by her father. Two years, one month and eight days after that spunky little girl, called Monkey, came into this world, she became a big sister. She and her little sister, Luci, were the very best of friends in their early childhood. They shared a bedroom, toys, clothes, secrets and an unconditional love for one another. As the two girls grew older, their personalities began to clash. Complete opposites, these sisters seemed to have nothing in common. Cindy was wild, careless and always seemed to find some kind of trouble to get into. Luci was quiet, cautious and as shy as the day is long. However different these sisters became, one thing remained a constant in their lives – their unconditional love that bonded their hearts, their souls together
The first signs of Cindy’s illness became blatantly obvious as she entered her early teens. The wild and careless little girl grew into a reckless, self-destructive teenager. At fifteen years old, she was admitted into her first rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol abuse. During her stay at this facility, she was diagnosed with Manic Depression and Bipolar Disorder. The doctor treating Cindy said that she was “the most profound case of manic depression” that he had witnessed in a child as young as she. Cindy was a very sick young lady! The chemicals in her brain that controlled her moods were, in a word, chaos. As she got older, her disease progressed. The medications the doctors prescribed never seemed to control her ever changing moods; the peaks and valleys that plague a manic depressant. Cindy was lost; drowning in the troubled waters of her illness.
Over the next several years, Cindy merely existed among the turmoil of her own mind. She gave birth to two sons; both of which, as a result of her inability to properly care for herself and her unborn children, were born with mental and physical handicaps. The natural “mother’s” instinct that occurs to most women upon the birth of their children did not occur to Cindy. She lacked the ability to bond with her sons; the chaos that corrupted her mind would not allow her. Guilt, resulting from the sense of responsibility for her sons’ handicaps and her inability to care for them, fed her disease. She withered to a gaunt ninety five pounds and was living in her car. Everyone who loved her felt as if they were living in limbo; waiting for the “bottom to drop out.” In the early morning hours of June 16, 2001, the bottom did drop out. Cindy was driving down a dark and curvy highway. She had been drinking and had not slept in many hours. She lost control of her white Nissan Sentra and, after flipping several times, crashed into a tree. It was on this fateful morning that Cindy, twenty one years old, became paralyzed. An incomplete quadriplegic is what the doctors called her, and very lucky to be alive.
Cindy survived for seven years after the car accident that injured her spinal cord. These years were spent living in various nursing homes and hospitals, totally incapacitated; depending upon others to care for her every need. Now unable use the restroom independently, she had to wear a catheter and a diaper at all times. She was unable to feed herself, brush her own teeth, bathe independently, wash & style her hair or shave her legs – acts of daily living that we often take for granted. She would never be able to walk down the aisle and marry the love of her life. Even worse, she would never again have the ability to hold her sons in her arms and hug them tight. However, she had plenty of time to sit and think; to battle with the enemy that was her mind. It was a treacherous hell that Cindy lived in: from the early years of her mental illness, to the last days of her life.
In the wee hours of a warm May morning in 2008, I got a telephone call from an Emergency Room nurse at Saint Frances Hospital, telling me that I needed to drive the hospital as quickly as possible. My sister, Cindy, was being admitted with Pneumonia – a very dangerous diagnosis for a quadriplegic- and wanted me with her. When I arrived, Cindy explained to me that she would not be taking any supplemental oxygen or breathing treatments. This decision meant that she would die before the end of the day. Then she looked at me and said “I’m just so tired. I can’t do this any longer. Are you going to be mad at me?” Her words burned in my ears and ached in my heart at the same time. How could I tell her that it was ok to give up, and yet, how could I not? She followed with “I can’t wait to get to Heaven. I am going to come back and tell you all about it.” I smiled at her and told her that I would be okay; okay without her. It was the most difficult lie that I have ever spoken. Cindy’s last breath crushed me like a ton of bricks. I climbed into the hospital bed with her wrapped her in my arms, hugged her as tightly as I could and begged her, I begged her to breathe. That moment will be forever etched into my mind; holding my sisters lifeless body in my arms, sobbing, pleading with her to come back to me. The loss of my sister was a devastation that has changed my life forevermore.
With the memory of my sister at heart, I made the decision to get a tattoo of the Chinese symbol that represents the word monkey. This symbol sits, permanently etched into my skin in black ink, on my left forearm. It is a daily reminder of Cindy: the nights that we scratched one another’s backs until we fell asleep, the times that we played dress up for hours; feuding like crazy, one vowing to never speak to the other again (only to make up fifteen minutes later); holding one another in times of heartache. For masochistic reasons (I suppose), I made sure that the tattoo would be seen daily; by myself and anyone else who glanced at my arm. I understand the preconceived notions that others can have about people with tattoos; especially a woman with a tattoo. I relish irony of the “good” sister being branded by that image. Even more, I love when others ask me about my tattoo; because, then I get to tell her story. Yes, her life-story was filled with struggles, tears and disappointment; however, her story is also filled with triumph, determination and love – the unconditional love of sisters – that endures both Earth and Heaven alike.