When Brazilian Rafael Mirim got a new tattoo in summer 2018, he just could not wait to show the artwork off to his younger sibling, Erick. However, although the needlework had a very special significance for both brothers, Erick did not have an inkling about the new inking. And luckily for us, the indelible moment when the little brother came face to face with Rafael’s tat was caught on camera.
Sheila Soares lives in Brazil’s second-biggest city, Rio de Janeiro, and judging by the contents of her Facebook page her family mean everything to her. So it must come as a continual source of comfort and pride that two of her sons – Rafael and Erick Mirim – share a very close bond indeed.
In fact, the pair enjoy such a special connection that in late July 2018 Rafael decided he would pay artistic tribute to their fraternal relationship. He decided to get a tattoo on his arm in tribute to Erick – who happens to have Down syndrome. Rafael’s subsequent plan was to surprise his unsuspecting sibling by unveiling his new inking, while he recorded Erick’s reaction for posterity.
As a result, when Rafael’s tattoo was complete and had healed, he prepared to bare all. The young Brazilian set up a camera in his car in preparation for the big reveal. In the resulting footage, Erick can be seen sitting beside his brother in the front of the car, blissfully unaware of what is about to unfold.
After a few seconds of the video, Rafael undoes his seatbelt and turns to Erick so that he can better see his big brother’s bicep. The younger man looks at the ink covered arm and soon a wide smile breaks out across his face. He then runs his fingers down a particular section of his sibling’s limb as if to authenticate the tattoo’s actuality.
The sleeve design is real all right, and Erick continues to smile and touch the tattoo in wonder for a while. He than looks up at his brother with love and kisses him on the lips. After acknowledging Rafael’s gesture, the affectionate Erick returns to simply staring at the tattoo. He strokes the work of art up and down as his sibling looks on, smiling.
And from Erick’s own facial expression, it is clear for viewers of the video to see that he is awestruck by what Rafael has revealed to him. Finally, the younger Mirim tears his gaze away from his brother’s arm and stretches out his arms for an embrace. The pair hug for a moment, before the 20-second video clip comes to an abrupt end.
When Sheila shared the special video on social media, it became evident why Erick had been so moved by his brother’s tattoo. It turned out that Rafael had honored his sibling by getting an image of his face inked on the tattooed sleeve of his arm. The end result was a highly realistic portrait of Erick, emerging from the open jaws of a roaring lion.
In fact, Sheila posting the footage of Rafael and Erick’s special moment on Facebook caused something of a stir. In August 2018, the proud mom spoke to BBC News about her motivations for sharing the ink-reveal content online. Apparently, she had “wanted to show true love.” The mom added, “Special children are so discriminated, forgotten and not recognized.”
Underneath the video on Facebook, Sheila added a caption for the clip, “Look at my puppy’s reaction to the beautiful tribute,” she wrote. “His face tattooed inside a lion’s mouth. The video is EXCITING. That’s why I saw Rafa asking Erick to make brave face.”
Soon enough, the video gained incredible traction online, clocking up an absolutely astonishing four million views on Facebook alone. The phenomenal success of the footage caught Sheila and her family totally by surprise. However, she believed that the heartwarming clip had become a runaway success for a particular reason.
Indeed, the proud parent detected a touch of the divine in her mega-viral post. Sheila wrote, “My dear friends, when I posted this video I could swear that it would not cause this dimension of sharing that [it has] caused. THIS IS CALLED GOD. Because he was the cause of the success of this video.”
The mom went on to refer to the struggles she had faced raising her kids. Sheila added, “Only US and GOD and the closest friends know well what I’ve already spent in life so Erick is here with us. Our many battles, many approvals, many fights, many defeats, and many victories. But I never gave up on my children. And I won.”
At the end of her update, Sheila concluded, “I swear to all of you that my intention when I posted this video was just to show one more of their episodes. Many thanks to all the friends who shared the video of my children. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart to all you guys.”
One of the many Facebook users who subsequently shared Rafael and Erick’s clip was one Wallacy Martins. And his post was inundated with comments, most of which were positive. One gushing message from his follower Jolene Harrison simply read, “I thought this was absolutely beautiful in every way.”
Meanwhile, a contributor called Lisa Stanley McConnell added, “It’s absolutely heartwarming to see the love these brothers have for each other.” She wanton to make quite a pertinent observation, saying, “The tattoo looks like a Fierce Warrior. And someone with special needs is just that.”
However, this was the internet, and inevitably the viral video attracted some divisive controversy. In the days that followed its appearance online, the footage sparked a debate over the nature of “true love.” And it all centered on whether family members should kiss on the lips. Perhaps predictably, some of the online community went as far as calling the Mirims “perverted” for doing so.
Of those who claimed to be disturbed by the brothers’ outward display of affection, one referenced the fact that Erick has Down syndrome. The internet user wrote, “People who I know and have siblings don’t kiss them in the mouth. Especially if they couldn’t consent legally.” Another cynic added, “The way he was rubbing his arm was creepy… it’s a no for me.”
However, just as some had been quick to criticize the Mirims for their kiss, others did not hesitate to leap to their defense. Amber Machelle Huls pointed out, “My brother has special needs and he kisses all of us on the lips. It’s nothing perverted or gross. He doesn’t even think that way!”
Defending Rafael, Connie Alvillar said, “The fact that he let his brother kiss him like that is beautiful. That is true love between siblings. They both knew what that tattoo represented, and they both knew what those moments of hugs and kisses represented. It was not perverted. It was innocent and loving. Absolutely beautiful.”