Fly Free, Fly Often

tatoo inkThe tattoo artist lined up ten miniature plastic cups filled with SkinCandy© ink. The colors so vibrant, exquisite, I was tempted to dip my pinky finger into the Candy Apple green, lick it off, and hold it on my tongue. Next I’d try Red Berry Cherry, Raspberry Jam, Candy Corn yellow, Tangerine, and Tastywaves. I liked the idea of sweet ink soaking through my skin, one droplet at a time, becoming a permanent glaze of hardened sugar.
“Will this hurt?” I asked.
“It’s different for everyone,” he said. “Women usually do better than men.”
The artist poured liquid green soap on a cloth, ran it over my ankle to cleanse it; to prepare the delicate skin for something permanent. He turned on the tattoo machine that mimicked the sound of a dental drill, but there was no Novocaine. I closed my eyes and imagined my brother, Rocky standing next to me, flashing that glacier-melting smile, saying, “It’s no big deal, sis. It’ll be over before you know it.”


“This is for you,” I said. “I was going to get Pegasus on my thigh, just like yours.”

“I like what you’ve picked better,” Rocky said. “Remember the song?”

I blinked back tears from the memory, not the pain from the needle, biting into my skin, moving up and down 50 to 3,000 times per minute. I wanted to feel the pain, to share my brother’s experience, etch it into my memory like our tattoos, like his: the dolphins, dancing bears, and Pegasus. Though he’d described the sensation to me any time I asked, now that he was gone, it helped me to feel closer to him. I closed my eyes, my breath moving in rhythm with the humming of the machine, the stop and go of the needle piercing skin, making wings.


Dragonflies collected me; I didn’t collect them. Long before I became familiar with animal totems and the divine messages they offer, before I was introduced to the spiritual meaning of the dragonfly, I had already received one dragonfly gift after another, in one form or another, since I was a child: pins for my coat, earrings, necklaces, Christmas ornaments, paperweights, towel hooks, stained glass pieces, canisters, plates, candle holders, scarves, cards, a painting. Year after year, gift after gift until I surrendered, and said to my  friends and family, “Yes, I collect dragonflies.”

stained glass

In 2005, I wrote a children’s book about fairies and a dragonfly. When my youngest brother, Kevin married Jessica, I wrote them a song for their wedding. The refrain going like this: the fairies and the dragonflies, the fairies and the dragonflies, the fairies and the dragonflies will lead you home. Rocky hummed and sang the chorus throughout the weekend. So when my sister-in-law, Galye said, “Why don’t you get something personal, like a dragonfly with Rocky’s name in the wings? I could hear Rocky humming that song, and I knew a dragonfly was right. Pegasus was his, not mine.

I went to my Animal Speak book and looked up the dragonfly as I had many times throughout the years. I read,  Dragonflies remind us that we are light and can reflect the light in powerful ways if we choose to do so. “Let there be light” is the divine prompting to use the creative imagination as a force within your life. This is what the dragonflies and damselflies teach us. Life is never quite what it appears, but it is always filled with light and color. Dragonfly can help you to see though your illusions and thus allow your own light to shine forth. Dragonfly brings the brightness of transformation and the wonder of color. (Animal Speak, pg. 342)
Dragonflies live short lives. Once they’ve grown wings, they fly free for about 2 months; they know they must live to the fullest during their short lifespan. As they mate, either on branches or gliding through the air, their lithe bodies form the shape of a heart.


Now I carry my brother’s name around on my skin, etched into the filmy wing of a dragonfly; I carry his spirit around in my heart, BOTH to honor his life and as a reminder of how to live mine. He flew free all over the world, shining his light, sharing his laughter, embracing his one colorful, beautiful, precious life. My dragonfly reminds me that we are each responsible to believe in, and shine our own inner light to illuminate each other’s lives in the most magnificent ways. It’s our gift, and our right to embrace the fragile splendor of each moment, to share our creative spirits in our own unique way, and to live life to the fullest in the short time we are here.

I think Rocky whispered these lessons to me on the eve I got my tattoo, because I woke up at 3 AM and wrote them down:
1. If you’re not going to love with your whole heart, don’t bother
2. Choose JOY in each moment
3. Go after your dreams as if your life depends on it, because a peaceful life does
4. Take risks. The kind that make you sweat and laugh and sizzle
5. Don’t waste another second reviewing past mistakes, because they’ve made you who you are today
6. Make someone’s day better each and every time
7. Stop thinking about what you hope to do, dream to do, and just do it

When my youngest brother saw my tattoo, he said, “Fly free, fly often.”

Ahhh…yes, and lesson number 8: Fly Free, Fly Often.
I think I will for whatever time I have left in this one precious life.

And you? What life lessons would you add to Rocky’s list?

Thank you always to my readers for taking the time to read my thoughts on my journey since I lost my brother. And on another note, I feel blessed to have lived long enough to experience the joy of all those who have waited and waited and waited to marry their partners. Miracles really are always waiting for us right around the corner. Another powerful reminder to NEVER give up!

 Love, light and blessings,


21 thoughts on “Fly Free, Fly Often

  1. —-Dear, Susan,

    My heart leapt when I received your post.
    Your words soak and drench and resonate sweetly & fully inside.
    Your passion and heart are like the colors you write! Such exuberance! Such LOVE! Hope!
    Candy Apple green, Red Berry Cherry, Raspberry Jam, Candy Corn yellow, Tangerine, Tastywaves.

    God sent me “YOU.” What a gift you are.

    “Fly free, fly often.” ( this is how one should live!)

    PS. Your tattoo is fabulous.

    Xxxxxx Love and MORE from MN.

    1. And Kim, God also sent me YOU! I read your post and couldn’t comment from my phone…no idea why so I’m heading over there now to leave my own “love” note to you!

      LOVE YOU! and thanks always for reading and taking the time to comment. xoxoxoxox

  2. Susan–I love how you capture that adorable spirit we were all hopeless drawn to like the sweetest candy. I’m grateful for the lessons Rocky continues to share through you and your writing. Big Hugs Denise

  3. Wow wow wow sis how surreal, thank you for sharing the utmost soul whispers you are receiving and ackowledging as your life passion and purpose is revealed to you and the world. At 50, I have learned to take a step back and evaluate what my blessing blockers have been and yes all the ones you listen are at the top.
    I would add 😄❤️❤️
    Let Go and Surrender Often
    Be Patient and Trust Often
    Believe and Dream Big Often
    Laugh, Laugh and Relax More Often.
    Yes Take Risks that make you sweat More Often❤️❤️❤️

    1. Hey sister! Thanks for adding to the list:-) Take risks that made you sweat more often….love this….and I’m learning one baby step at a time.. and you’re helping me! Love you!!

  4. Susan, That is beautiful … Thanks for sharing. Let’s get together soon, I miss your beautiful smile and insight. ️Xoxo Claire

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Oh Claire, Thanks for reading! I would love to get together soon!! I was just thinking about you the other day. I finally have my own group at the Center for Grieving Children on Wednesday nights! I’ll shoot you and email soon.

      Hope you are enjoying this weather!


  5. Hi my amazing friend, another BEAUTIFUL post! And I agree, the green just looks delicious!

    Love the Life Lessons, especially number 5. And 2…and…well all of them are great reminders of a life well lived. It got me thinking about my own list. The dragonflies have been a part of my life as well. Love where you wrote: “embrace the fragile” it reminds me of my own lesson about being fully myself: dare to be vulnerable.

    So aside from “Be (all of) You” I would add:
    – be gentle with yourself (but only always), self care is is a neccesity, not a luxury
    – Play more often
    – to Rest is Divine
    – Trust Life; remember that everything is always working out for you

    I loved the comment that suggested “Let Go”. That is a big one for me too. For me that translates as Trusting Life.

    Love how you are embracing all of those lessons. Love the post. Love the inspiration. Love YOU!

    1. Yvon, I love what you added, especially the last one…TRUST life! Sometimes I think it’s the easiest and hardest thing to do. I’ve learned so much since Rocky’s death and still have a long way to go. Thank you for your insights and wisdom and your willingness to always share them with me. I love you too my friend! xoxox

  6. Beautiful, as always, Susan. You have such a great ability to pull us into your emotional space, not forcefully, but with great grace, love, and tenderness. I was so happy to see a post from you in my inbox. I hope you’ve been able to find some time to keep working on your book. The world needs your writing! I look forward to more lovely posts from you. It’s a gorgeous tattoo and and even more beautiful message. Blessings to you, my friend. xoxo

    1. Kelly, thank you for always supporting and encouraging me!! I always look forward to your posts, too. LOVED the last one about fear. It spoke to every part of me. What I love about your writing is the way you tackle real life issues and weave in your humor and make me choke on my coffee. It’s a gift to bring levity to complex life issues that block us from moving forward and becoming the highest and grandest expression of ourselves. I think I might have missed one from you…I have to go back to your site. I was at a writing retreat last week. I’m working on a new book…but can’t say too much about it right not…it’s non fiction! You know, after Rocky died I stopped looking for an agent for my novel. I think I’m going to self-publish it and move on. I wrote another novel, too, but it’s first draft…needs tons and tons of work, but I want to write this non fiction book first. What is going on with you? Are writing another novel? Email me! xoxo

  7. Another stunning transparent story by Suzie. I think this story is my favorite. Keep gliding into the light and keep sharing your life with us. You speak for all of us that have no voice and are paralysed by our own fears of expression. Love you.

    1. Eve, thank you my friend. I love what you wrote: “keep gliding into the light…” love the image of that…and I will:-) And Eve, you do have a voice…a beautiful voice…and I love you, too! I hope you are doing GREAT!! Miss you! xoxox

  8. Love your Tattoo.. Loved your Brother.. So inspirational- his soul lives through you.. That’s a thought worth hanging on to ☺️.. Perfect.. He would say. (Never a dull day)!

    Dare to dream … Big Bri.. Soaring in the sky like angel on our shoulders. Blessed are all that he knew .. A genius through and through ✌🏻️💙

    1. Nina,
      Thank you for this beautiful message. His spirit lives through all who knew and loved him. I am trying to live a more courageous life because of him…because of how he lived his life. He is an angel now helping us all. I feel his presence in my life every day. Sending you much love! xo

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