A Woman With Alzheimer's Got A Tattoo Of Her Son's Face

Xavier in Stories

There really are some things in the world that are as unfathomable as a mother's love.

Read on to find out the heart-wrenching reason why this woman with Alzheimer's got a tattoo of her son's face.

With the needle’s help, she hopes to remember forever from Chattanooga Times Free Press on Vimeo.

When someone has been hit with something as unmitigable as Alzheimer's disease, one of the things that scares one the most is eventually forgetting the people you love. 58-year old Rita Stonecipher would know, but she wanted to remember something by through ink.

Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo

Rita Stonecipher have had it rough the past several years. She sits down in Chris Nash's, her tattoo artist, studio as she tells him the story behind the ink. For the past nine years, Rita has been having gaps in her memory—losing the word she'll say next in a conversation, forgetting where she parked her car. It's exactly what she feared.

At 58, Rita has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Working as a nurse at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute with an eidetic memory at that, she tried everything she could to keep her memories going; to keep them from completely slipping away. But it all left her merely frustrated. That's when she had to accept what was really happening.

Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo

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Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo

Tanner, her son, had always been there for her. She knew he was somebody she could count on. But when Tanner got back from Iraq in 2005, something in him changed. This happened around the time Rita's memory lapses were taking place. There were things that changed something in him as a Marine Corps helicopter mechanic back there. He soon ran into trouble with the law when he started drowning his trauma into alcohol, getting arrested twice for DUI in Nashville and twice more in Dade County,

It was then when Rita received a call from the Dade County sheriff bringing in the news of every mother's worst nightmare. Tanner hanged himself in his jail cell. The first stage was denial. Rita insisted that it could possibly be murder and demanded an investigation.

Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo

She then called out to talk show hosts, Fox News anchors, and even country music singers for help. Anyone who might be able to give her answers. But deep down, Rita knew that suicide may be part of the equation. That's when she blamed herself for depending on Tanner to care for her as her Alzheimer's eats her up when he still has a family, a job, and not to mention, the horrors from his years of service that still haunted him to his last days.

Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo

With the Alzheimer's disease making its way into her system, Rita knew that she had to do something to keep the memory of her son alive, even after she won't be able to remember his name.

Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo

Fast forward to Rita sitting under the machine as artist Chris Nash revs up his gear, it wasn't until that point when Rita opens up about the man she was getting a tattoo of. The bereaved mother recalls that man's childhood, how she watched him grow up, and how she's now watching that man's daughters grow up as well. She's afraid that the girls might forget that man. She's afraid that she eventually will, too.

Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo
Chattanooga Times Free Press / Vimeo

It's inevitable, her disease. But Rita wants to see the face of the man, who will always be her little boy, whom she will never see again long after the disease eats away her fondest memories. A time when she won't even remember her own name. That little boy will always be in her arm, smiling back at her. And hopefully, through her foggy memory, she will smile back and that boy's smile will make her feel the same way she did when she can still remember why that little boy made her smile.

"I can still hold him," she says as she folds her arms, rocking it back and forth.

Heartwarming story
Heartwarming story

What are you talking about, my eyes are just sweating.

Read the whole story here.

Xavier

@Xavier

When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife

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