The other day when I mentioned themes of the tatto, I mentioned (1) the endurance of St. Sebastian, (2) people helping people (with the example of St. Irene), (3) the timeless nature of the message (in an anachronistic more modern setting), and (4) with it set where my spirituality had really grown (Baltimore). There was one theme that I left out but was reminded of the theme by a comment from my wife, a recent fundraiser having to do with cancer, the many students, colleagues, and advisees I have who are women, and a run this morning with a great running friend. The theme of people helping people is one view of St. Irene helping St. Sebastian. The other view is the importance of strong women.
My wife's comment--she realized that despite the numerous car accidents our family has had relatively recently each of us is still in one piece and no one was every really injured. We should count ourselves lucky. The emotional and spiritual strength that it takes to leave unfortunate events behind and focus on the positive is amazing.
The cancer fundraiser--I've done a bit of that myself over the past two years. This was a different American Cancer Society program. It reminded me of my mother and the fact that she is a cancer survivor for more than a decade now.
My colleagues and advisees--may women of intellectual strength. Future movers and shakers as researchers in public health, teachers of public health topics, and advocates for those less fortunate.
My running friend--someone I had not run with since last October who was out for a while with a stress fracture. As we ran 10 miles in an average of 7:34 pace while carrying on a conversation most of the way, it was clear that despite her injury she had not lost a stride since the last time we had run together.
And, of course, I could list ways in which each of the women (or groups of women) listed above are strong in the other aspects I listed, but the examples of emotional, health, intellectual, and physical strength illustrating the presence of strong women in my life were the easiest to give. Including a strong woman figure in the tattoo will serve as a permanent reminder.