+
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
We are a small, independent media company on a mission to share the best of humanity with the world.
If you think the work we do matters, pre-ordering a copy of our first book would make a huge difference in helping us succeed.
GOOD PEOPLE Book
upworthy

commemoration

Joy

Man honors mom's passing with a tattoo of her handwritten diary entry from the day he was born

"The second I saw it I thought to myself, 'Oh my god, these were her first thoughts about me.'"

Photos courtesy of Jake Bley

Jake Bley wanted to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his mother's passing.



When kids are growing up, they often see their mother in one dimension—just "Mom"—without much thought for the life she lived before kids or who she is outside of that role. It's usually not until we reach our own adulthood that we recognize, "OH, Mom is much more than just my mother," and if we're lucky, we then get to know her in a whole new light and celebrate all that she is.

Jake Bley is lucky to be getting to know and celebrate his mother, Nicki—but in a very different way than most people do.

toddler in mom's arms and adult son with arm around momJake as a toddler and as an adult with his mom, NickiPhotos courtesy of Jake Bley

Nicki Bley was only 46 when she died after a year-long battle with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2014. Jake, one of Nicki's five children, was in his early 20s when she passed.

"As a young mother, our relationship was closer to a friendship than a usual mother/son relationship," Jake tells Upworthy. "I could go to her about anything, and she was always supportive…she was one of my best friends."


woman bald from chemo laughing with her adult son

Jake and Nicki just months before Nicki passed

Photo courtesy of Jake Bley

Shortly before she died, Nicki gave each of her kids a special gift. To Jake, she handed over her collection of handwritten diaries she'd kept from the time she was 8 years old.

"When she gave each of her children our gifts she was very sick," he says. "But she told me she gave me the diaries and other sentimental items because she knew I would value them, and I could process her thoughts throughout the years. Get to really know who she was and value that. The good and the bad."

"It has been 10 years since she passed, and I only started really looking at the items recently," Jake shares. "It has been too hurtful to explore them until now. That's when I found the little red Collins from 1989, the year I was born. From there, I flicked to the day I was born and that was when I saw her entry—'only a little fellow.'"

Jake had been born prematurely, weighing only 5.7 pounds at birth, and Nicki had jotted "Only a little fellow" as a note beneath his statistics.

"The second I saw it I thought to myself, 'Oh my god, these were her first thoughts about me," Jake says. "I couldn't stop thinking about it."

As part of his healing journey, Jake decided to tattoo the phrase on his leg, in his mom's handwriting, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of her passing.

"I took the day off work, very nervous, and I walked into a local tattoo artist studio with no booking," he says. "Up until then I didn't feel like I could commit. My tattoo artist Riley was incredible. I told her the story, and she took the 1989 Red Collins diary and copied the handwriting on to a transfer for the tattoo."

"I love meaningful tattoos," she told him. It was Jake's first time getting a tattoo, but he says that all of his nerves instantly vanished when he saw the final product.

"It was perfect. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and it was a happy moment. When I got back to my car I cried happy tears, because for the first time in a very long time I was letting myself feel my emotions."

He shared a video documenting the tattoo experience on TikTok:

@jakebley

TW: GRIEF. I know shes watching over me. #Tattoo #Grief #griefjourney ❤️

Jake says his grief over his mother's death has been complex. "It's not until years later that I started to understand the impact of losing a parent, and the need to not only experience, but feel my emotions," he says. "Taking the time to rediscover my mother, and getting this tattoo a decade later has been part of my healing journey."

Jake's story has gone viral on social media, with people offering their words of comfort and their own experiences with remembering their loved ones, which has given a whole new dimension to Nicki's legacy.

"It has been so wonderful seeing the love pouring out from the community," Jake tells Upworthy. "The thought that 10 years on my mother's handwriting, love and memory not only lives on but is celebrated by so many truly fills my heart."