The Meaning of Tattoos.

I have tattoos. Most people like them. Some people love them. A few people seem to think I have “spoilt” myself. One thing I tend to hear a lot (and I’m sure those of you with tattoos will have heard it too) is;

“What about when you’re older?”

Well, on behalf of all my tattooed brethren I hereby, officially answer this very common concern. . .

I will be older, and have tattoos.

That’s about the size of it.
 I will not wake up when I hit 60 and begin hacking limbs off in a frenzy of regret. I will not need to revert to the days of the leper and shuffle around the streets of Bolton ringing a bell to warn the innocent, clean skinned public of my approach. The sun will still rise, the stars will still shine. The world will not end.

Quite frankly, I shall be happy to reach old age and not be incontinent, ill or barmy. The least of my concerns will be whether or nor a picture on my skin might look odd.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of crap tattoos. (except it is a really funny thing to Google when you’re bored) or tattoos for the sake of fashion/celeb following. (The wonderfully talented lady that’s done all of mine gets an influx of people wanting the Cheryl Cole hand tattoo every time the X Factor’s on. I just think it’s a shame. If you’re going to have one it should be about you – be beautiful – or mean something special.) Let me tell you about mine.

Some of you will know about my Mum passing away. The night she died, I was sleeping on a camp bed at the foot of her bed in the Hospice, and was shaken awake by the nurse on duty that night. I woke up with a massive jump having only just drifted off listening to Mum’s laboured breathing and the beep beep beep of the intravenous morphine machine. The nurse  quietly explained that Mum’s breathing had changed, and that her nose was very cold. She suggested I come and sit with her and say my final goodbyes. I sat by her bed. For the first time in days she had shut her eyes and her mouth, and was no longer gasping, but breathing very gently. I held her hand. I wanted to get in and cuddle up but there was too much machinery and  too many wires. I thanked her for being my Mum, kissed her on the forehead and said “Night Night, God Bless.” Her breathing stopped. I felt the nurse’s hand on my shoulder and I turned to ask her “has she gone?” The nurse leaned forward and Mum – I like to think in one last act of defiance – gave a final deep breath.

Then she was gone.
 I sat there for some time and watched her. The nurses hand didn’t leave my shoulder. As I watched, it was like her face kind of morphed – back into the face of Mum again. No pain, no awful stare and gasping mouth, no blue skin, just Mum. Even the faintest trace of a smile. The really strange thing was that even though it was the middle of January, the middle of the night, and below freezing temperatures, I could hear birds start singing. Clear as a bell. I turned to ask the nurse if she could here them too, and she said she could, and that some very strange and beautiful things can happen when someone dies.

To commemorate that bitter sweet, beautiful moment of comfort, I have my back covered in garden birds and cherry blossom. I’d sit in the tattooist’s chair and concentrate on the buzz buzz and the scratchy pain and for a short while every week or so, it helped to take the other kind of pain away. I now have what I consider a beautiful commemorative piece for my Mum.

Grace was born 10 weeks before she died. She saved me from going to pieces at an awful time. I don’t know what I’d have done without her and my husband. Consequently, I have “Servo per Venia” tattooed on my wrist which is latin for “Saved By Grace” and my husband’s initial “S” on my neck. A gesture I knew he’d love to show him how much I love him. In future times, when I have a defiant teenager playing us up, or testing my patience, I shall look at my wrist and remember how precious and important she is, and how she unknowingly got me through the hardest time of my life.

We subsequently (apart from Grace) had a horrendous year for reasons I simply don’t feel ready to share with the world quite yet, and the Phoenix on my leg represents rising up from bad things and coming out stronger. I have always loved and been fascinated by the concept of the phoenix. It was the perfect thing to get done and tells me and others how strong I can be.

I love my tattoos. They make me feel beautiful and unusual, like I’m a living breathing piece of art. They tell a story. They are part of me.

So . . . what about when I’m older???

Bring it on!

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “The Meaning of Tattoos.

  1. Msissa

    What a sad and beautiful story, and what brilliant tattoos; the birds and blossom are an amazing tribute xxx

  2. I think that is a fantastic tribute. I wish I had the courage to do something like that in memory of my mam but can just imagine her shouting at me for getting a tattoo, she was anti them.. me I’m just too chicken to get one done.
    BNM

  3. Robo

    Hey lovely x you are a truly beautiful person xx kind generous funny and decorated! Perfect xx

  4. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

  5. What a fantastic post (should come with a warning though as I’m very emotional right now!) I use the same answer as you when people say about my tats when I’m older.

    Your back piece is just stunning and a beautiful way to commemorate your mum.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I think your tattoos are absolutely beautiful. What a wonderful tribute to your mum. I still have a little scar on my nose from when I had it pierced at school, people said I would regret that but I never will. Wishing you well today and thanks for your message to me. You’ve reminded me of the little flurry of snow just after my mum died, it was January then too.

  7. A truly moving post.

    And your back is beautiful. So beautiful in fact it makes me want to go out and get a tattoo myself!

    If I wasn’t so wussy (not because of needles but the knowing it is permanent)…. one day though!

    I hope you come back soon xX

  8. M-J

    What a lovely post in memory of your mum and in honour of Grace. I had our third daughter two days after I buried my mum having too spent such a long time in the hospice waiting on her to be at peace. I feel exactly the same about my youngest daughter as you do about Grace. She stopped my heart from physically cracking in two. I now have some wings tattooed in memory of my mum and my two lost boys who I hope have found her. You tattoo is beautiful.

  9. What a beautiful post, it’s made me cry as I remember that moment when my life changed forever & my Mum passed away.
    I was 7 months pregnant at the time with my only Daughter & she got me through the hard times too & she still helps now 8 years on.
    I don’t care what others think about my tattoos they are for me & me only and will always be beautiful reminders of my children & my Mum.
    X

  10. carol

    Wonderful post thank you so much for sharing x

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