Your Body Is the Best Resting Place

Other than just looking cute or cool and being a sign that you can withstand pain, tattoos can hold a tremendous amount of meaning. Commemorative tattoos can often be the most special. For the wearer, they bring back the memory of a specific person, living or dead, and are a daily reminder of that person’s spirit. It makes the tattoo more special, gives a personal and unique touch to your art, and it’s a conversation starter, which brings me to my own tattoo story.

Last summer I started to get my right arm tattoo sleeve. For years I knew I wanted to get a whole sleeve dedicated to things my grandmother, Mary, and I loved. So I started thinking about all the big pieces, like our favorite Nintendo games, Super Mario 3 and Bubble Bobble. We used to stay up for hours going through all the different levels and worlds, using our free time to explore these relatively new virtual reality utopias where we were the heroes.

We also loved watching movies together when I was growing up. One that we especially enjoyed was Kiki’s Delivery Service by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The animation is simple and beautiful, and the story about a teenage witch leaving home and becoming an adult is emotional. We always got a kick out of the sarcastic and sassy cat Jiji.

Then the kicker — her nickname, Gogo. She’s had that title for as long as I can remember. My aunt Kim, her daughter, always told the story of how that originated. Kim would say, “Your grandmother went out to clubs all the time dancing. She would get up on a milk crate in the middle of the dance floor and shake her ass for everyone to see. She was a gogo dancer, without the pay.” Mary always denied the story, but loved the name anyway.

I told her I was going to get the sleeve after she died. I know, a little morbid, but she said that she wanted to see it done on me so she could brag about it. So I agreed. We went over all the images and ideas we had, and I started getting it done.

I know a lot of people aren’t fortunate enough to have their loved one help choose their tattoos, but if you’re designing your own, get creative. Think of something that truly represents your relationship and what you collectively loved and run with it! Whether a portrait, a religious symbol, black and grey, colored or new school, if you imbue their spirit in the design, you will not regret it.

Now there is a way to kick your memorial tattoo up a notch. You can have your loved one’s ashes infused in the ink, also known as cremation tattooing. I know, it may sound weird at first, but these tattoos are becoming increasingly popular. The process is quite simple. The ashes are filtered and sterilized, then the tattoo artist puts a very small amount into the ink before tattooing and that’s it. At the moment, there are no studies showing whether this has negative effects. For some people who feel that they want their tattoo to be a strong link to their loved one, this could be an amazing opportunity to have them with you forever.

A lot of people say that you will regret getting a tattoo, but a memorial tattoo is different. It isn’t just a last minute dumb idea you choose to be cool, or a drunken stumble into a tattoo parlor. It’s a well-thought-out, meaningful interpretation of a person you cherish. From first-time tattooers to seasoned professionals, anyone can rock a commemorative tattoo. It’s truly a special way to honor your loved one.

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