This family portrait has a beautiful, bittersweet backstory

Posted September 7

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.

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 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, the Kimmels decided to have matching angel wings tattooed on their backs.

"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.

To learn more about SMA and how you can make a difference, visit

[h/t: Refinery 29]

This story originally appeared on Simplemost. Checkout Simplemost for other great tips and ideas to make the most out of life.


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all