Tattoos ~ A permanent mark

Tattoos…I have changed my thinking on them…I used to say they were “ok”  for others but not my family.  I know how people are judged by them…I had done it myself and I didn’t want my kids to be…I didn’t want them to lose out on a job…or be less thought of…I didn’t want them to be negatively affected by them.  

Lauren wanted a tattoo starting when she was about 15 yr’s old.  She had become friends with a young man from New York, who was full of life experiences and travels, and had a saying on his collarbone written in Gaelic…yes Patrick is Irish… that said “Journey with purpose.”  Oh we tried to talk her out of it and then we tried reverse psychology saying she could have one when she turned 18 yr’s old…thinking she would forget about it or change her mind by then.  Well that sort of worked…and it helped that she hated needles…she reached 18 and didn’t immediately run out and get that green four leaf clover tattoo she wanted.  Not long after she was of legal age to get a tattoo… I started to rethink my stand on them.  I had two friends who had gotten them and they explained why they choose to get one and the meaning behind their special art piece.  They were done for significant events in their life…for retiring after 20 years from the fire department and for getting out of a controlling marriage…both were gotten in celebration of life.  Okay…that makes sense to me…I can sure understand that reason….it wasn’t gotten on a whim…picked out of a book or off the sample wall at the tattoo shop.  So then my stand turned to…if you are gonna get one it should be for something important and meaningful in your life…don’t get one because “everyone else” has one….it should be unique to you.  

Well fast forward a few years and Lauren was getting ready to graduate from SFA…so she was thinking of tattoos again…in celebration of that major life event…of her future and the starting of her adult life.  She was scheduled to graduate in August 2010 and was almost finished with her course work and only needed to do her 300 hour internship that summer.  Our life and family was shattered on March 7, 2010…never to be the same…a life changing event…a permanent mark.  Weeks later as we went through Lauren’s things and were looking at pictures, videos and other things on her laptop computer…we found examples of tattoos she was using for inspiration to create her own unique tattoo…a pineapple for her degree in Hospitality…wings for her faith…and yes…four leaf clovers.

Taylor…our 20 yr old son at that time…Lauren’s younger brother…quickly said he wanted a tattoo in her memory.  He carefully thought it through and took his time deciding just what he wanted…a back piece with her full name and lyrics from a song he partially rewrote…for a sister he loved…and would never forget.  Bryan and I went with him to get his unique…special…memorial marks on his body.  I too said I wanted a tattoo and knew right away I wanted her literal signature and heart/cross she would make after her name at times…and her birth day and angel day dates…permanently inked…marked on my skin…for a daughter I loved…and I would never forgot.  Bryan and Taylor were with me, a few months later, when I got my mark and Bryan is now considering a portrait piece on his arm. 

I know the Bible says we shouldn’t mark our bodies.  But she had already “marked” my body and soul in other ways…some visible…laugh lines…gray hair…stretch marks…drooping parts… and invisible ways…heart full of love…a hand reached out to others… hugger and kisser…looker for joy and laughter and… now a hole in my heart that will never be filled.  

Lauren and I shared an aversion to needles…yes at our ages…we still hated needles and shots.  But as nervous and scared as I was to get my tattoo…as soon as he started marking me…I felt a peace and calm come over me…I know it was her…I know she approved it and was right there with me…holding my hand.  And as my tears of both joy and sadness were rolling down my face…I think God was too…gently smiling and saying…I understand…this need to mark your body…for the one who left a permanent mark on your heart and soul. 

The tattoo is Lauren’s literal signature and heart/cross she used to make after her name at times.  It was taken off a napkin she wrote it on a few days after her 16th Bday and could drive by herself.

I chose the placement of my tattoo carefully.  I wanted it to be discreet but easy to show…and most importantly…where I could see it and touch it anytime I wanted to. 

6 thoughts on “Tattoos ~ A permanent mark

  1. Suzanne, this is wonderful! First off, Patrick!! I forgot all about Patrick…I have no idea how! I love reading old stories like that. Secondly, I’m glad you wrote this, so many people look at tattoos as nothing more than a sign of rebellion, or a mark of a bad person. Sure, some are silly, or look like a stupid idea, but until you ask, you never know what it means to the person who has it permenantly marked on their body, they chose that for a reason! And last of all, I’ve had people point this out to me before. God says our body is a temple, and we should treat it like one, so how is decorating your body any different than the stained glass and ornate decor you find in a place of worship. Interesting point of view…food for thought maybe!
    I have 4, and they are all special to me, regardless of what anyone thinks of them. They are mine, and I love them. And yes, I want more!!
    <3<3<3<3 youuuuuuuuuu!
    –Skippy

    • Thanks Skippy…for the kind words and your “food for thought”…I have not heard that before and that analogy make sense to me too. Love you too, Suzanne

  2. As you Alstons remember, I have always been a “symbol” person. These are reminders, to me, of person, places, spirituality. Also, as I have often state, white, fluffy clouds remind me of my dear friend, Lauren; and, make me feel grateful for a life that empacked so many so positively. Thus, you have chosen symbols/tatooes in Lauren’s remembrance. I love each of you so much!!! grannie joy

  3. I too, often put a heart with a cross, very similar to Lauren’s, when I sign my name.
    This article brought tears to my eyes, as I have been thinking of getting a tattoo in my brother’s memory, who we lost to suicide March 11th.
    I am terribly afraid of pain, but I think this was just the “push” of encouragement that I needed.
    My brother and I were supposed to get matching tattoos in memory of our Mom who passed April 4th last year, but he left me before that time came. And though he won’t be here to hold my hand as I get a tattoo for him, I know that he will be smiling down on me, proud for finally facing my fears.
    My heart goes out to you and your family Mrs. Alston. I miss Lauren’s beautiful smile. And I absolutely Love your “marking.”

    • Casey…let me again express my condolences on the loss of your Brother and your Mother…I know you miss them both terribly. I know that they would understand your desire to mark their loss on your body in remembrance of them…and I’m sure they will be with you when you do so.

      The signature of Lauren’s that I used was taken off of a napkin we found in her first car, you might remember Hans, from when she was 16 and one of the first days she got to drive herself to school. It is as she wrote it…except of course the dates. Taylor and I got our tattoos from Casey’s in Nacogdoches. I used Pat the owner and he is very understanding and gentle…he also recently did my 18 yr old niece who got Lauren’s signature too. Hugs and Love to you, suzanne

  4. This is a response on the FB link from a sweet girl and friend of ours and Lauren. Thanks Shelby for giving me more “food for thought”…love you friend.

    Shelby Portwood: One of my religion classes last semester had a guest speaker, a young Rabbi who was covered head to toe in tattoos. An old Jewish proverb talks about how slaves were tattooed on their hands an foreheads with their master’s symbol, so that for the rest of their lives everyone would know who they belonged to. In the same way, we are called to “mark” ourselves for the Lord, so that when others see us, they immediately know who our heart belongs to. I have a feeling that God will have no problem with marking your body in remembrance of such a beautiful, wonderful life! Isaiah 49:16 even says that the Lord has all of our names “engraved” on his hands! How cool is it to think that God has tattoos?!

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