If you didn’t already know I had a tattoo, you might be a little surprised by that headline. But that’s OK. I decided to write about this tattoo because it has special significance for me.
My sister, who was born on the same day I was–but five years later–died after a 14-month battle with cancer on July 5, 2019. I decided to get a tattoo honoring her. I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to look like, so I wrote out a description of what I wanted it to mean and gave that document to the artist. Here is what I wrote:
My sister died on July 5, 2019, after a 14 month battle with cancer. She was 41 years old. I would like to honor her with a tattoo — not a memorial looking backwards in sadness, but looking forward with hope, knowing that I am stronger than I was.
I’m not sure what I want — I just know I that it needs to be symbolic and hopeful. It also doesn’t have to be small. I do know that her favorite flowers were red and dark pink roses. I am thinking I want it to be on my upper left arm and it can extend downward from there. I am also open to a tattoo that requires multiple sessions.
I think perhaps if I tell you a little about us, that might help with some of the symbolism.
My sister and I were born on January 17. We were 2 hours, 53 minutes — and five years apart.
Yes, you read that right.
We used to joke around that we were really twins. She would say that she looked over, saw what was in the womb with her, and kicked me out. Then sat back and partied for five years.
I always say that I looked over and saw what who was with me and ran screaming from the womb. I locked the door behind me and it took her five years to chisel her way out.
Personally, I like my story better. LOL!
My sister was known for being very vocal and opinionated. Once we stopped fighting, I liked her because I always knew where I stood with her. She’d tell me exactly what she thinks.
I tend to be quiet and I try to see all sides of an issue, but my sister was not that sort of person. I was always known as the nice one.
She even admitted this out loud once.
We were both at Mom’s house one day making greeting cards. I borrowed one of Mom’s markers and forgot to put it back. Then forgot I still had it when Mom was looking for it — until she saw it next to my arm. Mom started giving me a hard time about “stealing” her marker. I gave her a hard time right back, playing innocent.
“Who me?” I asked. “I would never ‘steal’ your marker! It must have been my evil twin.”
My sister immediately look up, scowled at both of us and quipped, “I did not!”
Mom and I laughed so hard we cried.
I remember the day my sister was born. Oklahoma actually had a blizzard that day and the roads were covered in ice. I remember my father loading my mother and I in his truck and then slipping and sliding all the way to my grandma’s house where I stayed while Mom went to the hospital. I remember being very upset because I felt like I’d been abandoned on my birthday — and I didn’t get the cake that Mom had decorated for me. In retrospect, I realize I was being very selfish. But I also think that Mom (or someone) could have done a better job of preparing me for getting my world as an only child turned upside down on my birthday. (I also realize my Mom was the baby of her family, so she had no idea.)
My sister didn’t have the easiest life, which is why she developed a tough outer shell. To start out with, she had a real brat for a big sister. Yes, I’m talking about me. If I could go back in time and kick my own ass for being mean to her, I would.
It seems so silly now, but I was really not happy with her for “stealing” my fifth birthday. Her first memory is of me hiding her pacifier when she was about two-and-a-half years old. I remember feeling very strongly towards her at the time (I would have been about seven-and-a-half.), but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized I had hated her.
We fought like cats and dogs for years growing up. We are the opposite on so many things. I am a bookworm and she loved movies and TV shows. I am an introvert and she was an extrovert. I overanalyze everything (I’m guessing you’re not surprised by this…) and she just didn’t worry about it.
When I moved out to go to college, we started figuring out how to get along with one another and over the years, became friends. We could talk about anything.
She understood why I had been such a hateful brat, and I let her Gibbs slap me on the back of the head without complaint because I totally deserved it. (We were both NCIS fans.) After she had her daughter, I would go over to her place, or back to her room at Mom’s house, and we’d watch her favorite TV show, Friends, together or movies.
During her life, my sister made a lot of rough choices — possibly as a result of having such a mean big sister and relatively strict parents. She ran away from home several times as a teenager, partied, and got brought home by the police once.
After she had her daughter, she turned her life around, focused on working to support her (since the father didn’t want to do anything besides cause trouble), and went back to school so she could get a better job.
She put up with a lot of crap from people and made a lot of mistakes. But she dedicated her life to God, to being a great mother to her children, and to being a great wife. (She was in the process of divorcing her husband when she died. He has been convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. I don’t want to talk about it.)
Favorite Bible verses
Her favorite Bible verse was Psalm 139:13-18:
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my bodyPsalm 139:13-18
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!”
She especially relied on God in her last few months, as she tried to deal with both facing death and the destruction of her family. My parents opened up their home to her, my niece, and nephew, cared for her during the last months of her life, and are now working to adopt her seven-year-old son.
I’m not sure what from all of this needs to go into the tattoo. I do know I want to have some sort of symbolic reference to us being (sort of) twins. I think there needs to be one or more red and/or pink roses involved, but I don’t want them to be cliche. I think I’d also like a reference to the Bible verse and to our birthdays. (For the record, I was born in 1973 and she in 1978.)
I have no clue how to visually represent any of this. I am more of a writer than an artist.
I have been thinking that I do want the overall feel/message of the tattoo to be positive and looking towards the future. I don’t want it to seem like I’m stuck in the past, and I don’t think my sister would want me to be.
I’m thinking the tattoo should symbolize a turning point, a realization that life is short and that I need to be brave and do what needs to be done. (Which apparently includes getting tattoos…LOL)
You can see a bit of the tattoo in this picture. I’ll show a better picture once I’ve healed more.