By Devon Fulford
One of the only certainties of life is that eventually, we all perish. Despite what we may feel about mortality and the possibilities of what happens—or doesn’t happen—after death, there’s no denying its inevitability. Losing loved ones can be terrifically difficult for the living. Those who are so inclined might opt to memorialize lost family members and friends via significant and distinctive memorial tattoos. These tribute pieces can take on any numbers of forms, based on personal relationships between individuals and the experiences shared together. Let’s meet three women who’ve opted to obtain memorial tattoos to forever commemorate their personal loved and lost.
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Destin Grant’s powerful story explains her memorial tattoos for her parents: “I had a themed tattoo with my mother, until she passed away. It started with a festival in Yosemite National Park called the Strawberry [Music] Festival. My parents were at the first one before it moved to Yosemite. I was made there, my first memories are from there, and we were all free and happy. It was our heart, our happy place.
“My mother got her first tattoo when she was in her 30s of a strawberry patch—a strawberry for [both] myself and my brother. On my 18th birthday my mom told me to draw the first tattoo I wanted and we would get it done the next day. I drew one single strawberry and told her I wanted it on the same place hers was, because it was for her. She was very happy. Both of our first tattoos were strawberries to represent our love for each other and where our happy place was.
“She passed away at 52. Less than a year later my father passed away as well. And a year later I put a huge strawberry tattoo on my chest with wings and a halo, and two branches in each side for the two of them, so that our strawberry hearts can stay together.” Grant’s tribute is a potent and highly visual way of venerating her parents.
Cassidy Hara has two memorial tattoos—one for a beloved pet and one for a dear family member. She explains, “The first memorial tattoo is on my right wrist of Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes. This is my memorial tattoo for a kitty that I had for seven and a half years; I literally got to watch him be born, and sadly watched him pass away from feline lymphoma that metastasized in his lungs. His name was Sake, and he was one of the best cats I ever had the privilege of raising. He was super sweet, loving, kind and [the] most easygoing cat I have ever known.” Pets, like people, are absolutely considered family members by those who care deeply for them.
Tragically, on December 11, 2015, Hara lost her cousin Jess Hara. She says, “My tattoo [for Jess] is of three Japanese cherry blossoms on a branch with a dragonfly. I got this tattoo with my cousin Elizabeth right after the service; we came up with the design as the three cherry blossoms represented [the two of us and Jess]. We all considered ourselves to be, well, the ‘black sheep’ of the family in different ways. Jess was a beautiful soul and is missed.”
Miranda Gibbs’ memorial tattoo for her younger sister, Kristie Gibbs, who passed away is as distinctive as their bond. Her ink can be found on her wrist. She says, “The symbol means ‘to die young.’ The numbers on the right are her birthday and the numbers on the left is the day she died, and her initials are underneath. I chose this tattoo because [Kristie] really liked Chinese culture and had a Chinese symbol tattoo herself! I didn’t want the usual cross and name. She was my little sister and best friend.”
It’s never easy to lose someone to the inexorable occasion of death. But we can keep memories alive and celebrated in many ways. Getting a memorial tattoo for people who’ve gone to rest can be a compelling statement of love and acknowledgment of the affect we have on one another’s lives.