This Family Portrait Has A Beautiful, Bittersweet Backstory

September 12, 2017
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There’s a reason more than 20,000 people have shared this photo.

This Family Portrait Has A Beautiful, Bittersweet Backstory

Can someone convey unconditional love, loss, grief, hope and joy all with a single tattoo?

That seems to be the case for a husband and wife whose backs are adorned with a matching pair of wings. A touching photo displaying their his-and-hers tattoos has gone viral—and when you hear the heartbreaking story behind the image, you’ll understand why.

A Heartbreaking Loss

Steven and Gloria Kimmel’s son Isaac was born in 2014. When he was just six months old, doctors diagnosed Isaac with spinal muscular atrophy. The rare, progressive genetic disorder that affects the muscles and nervous system is estimated to occur in one out of 6,000 live births.

The Kimmels, of Kendallville, Indiana, shared details of little Isaac’s trials and triumphs on a Facebook page called Isaac’s Strength. Although doctors told them that the disorder was terminal, Isaac’s parents relished every moment with their son and even participated in a clinical trial that led to a new drug for SMA patients.

While he did regain strength for a time, Isaac contracted a viral infection that his little body simply couldn’t fight. Sadly, Isaac passed away at just 14 months old.

As a way of dealing with their grief, which Gloria called “unimaginable,” the Kimmels decided to have matching angel wings tattooed on their backs.

‘He Is Always With Us In Spirit’

“The tattoo was meant to be his angel wings,” Gloria told Yahoo Beauty. “He was half of each of us, so we each had one of his wings to hold us. He was the angel that was holding us together when we were so lost without him. The tattoos are a reminder that he is always with us in spirit.”

Shortly after what would have been Isaac’s third birthday, the Kimmels had cause for celebration when their daughter, Claire, was born. To share their excitement while remembering their precious son, the family had a photo taken with swaddled Claire resting on their backs, the angel wings aligned perfectly behind her.

Gloria’s sister Grace Arend shared the photo on Twitter.

“My sister & her husband got tattoos of angel wings after their son died 2 yrs ago,” Arend tweeted. “They had a baby girl in June. This moves me to tears.”

Thousands of people were touched by the emotional family photo, which has been shared on Twitter over 20,000 times and liked nearly 70,000 times.

Gloria pointed out to Yahoo! Beauty that even now, two years after losing Isaac, she is still learning new ways to cope with her grief. As anyone who has suffered a loss knows, grief doesn’t have an expiration date. For Gloria, she says support from loved ones and her church, plus grief journaling have helped. Here’s hoping the arrival of their beautiful, healthy daughter will help them heal as well.

Final Words of a United Flight 175 Passenger to His Wife on 9/11 Will Live on in Powerful Recording

Minutes before United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, 38-year-old Brian Sweeney made a phone call to his wife from the back of the plane.

“I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked,” Sweeney said in a voicemail left to his wife, Julie Sweeney Roth. “If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times—same to my parents and everybody—and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye, babe. I hope I call you.”

After leaving the message, Sweeney called his mother and told her he loved her before abruptly hanging up the phone, according to CNN. The call, made at 9:00 a.m. that morning, was completed three minutes before the plane crashed into the top floors of the South Tower.

Sweeney’s words can be heard at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, where people in attendance can pick up a telephone and hear the message for themselves, as Roth did, 16 years ago today.

Sweeney, from Barnstable, Massachusetts, served as a pilot in the Persian Gulf War and was an instructor for the Navy. At the time of the attacks, Sweeney was working for a Defense Department contractor, Brandes Associates. His calm, composed and loving message to his wife allows listeners to intimately reflect on those whose lives were taken that day. For Roth, her husband’s voice helped to give her comfort in the days following the attacks.

“He was a warrior, and you just didn’t believe that something like this could take him away,” Roth, who is now remarried, said in a video published by the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. “All I needed was that message, and I think he very selflessly left it. I don’t think he left it until he knew he wasn’t coming home.”

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