Then of course there's the enormous gift you are giving—the gift of life—to someone like a little Sean or Hiro. The Japanese boy who arrived at the hospital on the brink of death is now a happy 4-year-old, playing with toy dinosaurs and living in Japan, where he and his family have become locally famous. When Hiro was so sick, his parents, both schoolteachers, could not afford to bring him to the States for treatment, and so their friends launched a national television campaign, raising more than $1 million. On her return to Japan, Hiromi felt an obligation to go back on television to show people the wonders that can occur when a country supports transplants and its citizens are generous enough to donate their organs.
Hiromi and Victoria have stayed in touch through translators and e-mail, continuing to support each other as much as they can. Victoria is also trying to help Hiromi publish her children's book about Sean, The Miracle of the Thousand Cranes. In it, Hiromi writes that even though some people may think the miracle of the cranes didn't work for Sean, it did. His body survived many difficult weeks on life support, and he got a heart. Though he died in the operating room, the thousand cranes led his way up to heaven. Following their flight, Sean was not scared. Now he is an angel, looking down on other children in the hospital.
It is now later in the day on which Victoria and Hiromi have chosen the tattoo. Hiromi has left to put Hiro to bed, and Victoria is walking into the tattoo parlor with Patrick, who is also getting tattooed. Over his heart. They are greeted by an artist who specializes in Asian lettering. Victoria decides to insert a crane between her two characters; Patrick, a cross. As the artist starts copying the characters, Patrick searches the design book for the right cross. But he can't find one. This one is too thick, this one too thin, this one too fancy. Patrick is a man who's used to getting things right. He excelled at school, in sports, and at work, but he couldn't do the one thing that mattered most: save his son.
"I'm okay talking about the facts," he says. "It's much harder to talk about the feelings. You want to protect your child. That's what every father wants. When you can't, you feel like a total failure, whether it was in your control or not. Every time I think of Sean, I feel like I failed him."
If it's been agonizing for Patrick and Victoria as individuals, it's been hard for them as a couple, too. Ever since that night in the hospital when she yearned to stay and he begged to leave, they have responded to the tragedy in different ways. "You assume you had this child together, so who'd be a greater comfort to you than your partner?" Victoria asks. "But we grieve in opposite ways." She looks incessantly at photos of Sean; it pains him just to see one. She needs to immerse herself in her baby's memory; he needs to clear a path in order to move forward.
This is why the tattooing feels promising—something quirky they are doing together to honor their son. Even more meaningful is the foundation they have set up in his name to raise awareness of organ donation and to support families whose children need transplants (see How to Become an Organ Donor ). "I need to make sense of what happened," says Victoria. "Sean was so strong. So brave. He was such a determined little fighter. Why did he die? I need to find meaning. I tell myself he made it through the pregnancy so Delaney could be born. And maybe he made it to the transplant so we could spread the word, tell parents to please, please think about donating their children's organs. Who thinks about this stuff? No one ever wants to think about this stuff. But life can be so unpredictable, you just have to."
We Hear You!