A tribute to you: How getting a tattoo became the final piece of the healing process

People decide to get a tattoo for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes it’s for a nostalgic reason, or something they really like, or some kind of political statement. But more often than not people get tattoos in tribute to something deeply personal to them.

When I was younger I didn’t understand the point of tattoos. Why permanently scar your body for something that can quite easily (and painlessly) hang on your wall or be kept tucked in your wallet? In my creative moments I like to think of myself as an artist, but I never understood the point in using your body as the canvas.

As I got older and things started affecting me more deeply, I started understanding the point of a tattoo–that something can touch your soul in such a way that a mere poster or crumbled-up photo in a wallet could in no way suffice. I knew several people who had gotten tattoos in remembrance of deceased relatives, or as inspirational reminders to be their best selves. That is all well and good, but nothing had affected me so deeply that I felt inclined to have it etched into my skin for the rest of my days. That is until my Carmela passed away.

The bracelet that I made out of her old dog tag was just a painful reminder of what I had lost. Every time I looked down at it and let my thoughts wander for a moment I would become overwhelmed by her loss and immediately break down in tears. I stopped wearing the bracelet and instead opted to keep it in my purse to feel like she was still “with” me.

Dog tag remembrance

I wanted something that would pay tribute to the amazing dog she was, but wouldn’t hold the same depressing magnitude that her dog tag gave me. I decided to get a tattoo.

As soon as I decided that I would get a tattoo in tribute to Carm, everything else clicked into place. I knew the design and the placement of the tattoo that I wanted. I also realized that her birthday was the following week and what perfect timing it was that my local tattoo shop had an opening that day.

The thing about me is once I’ve decided something that’s it. There’s no debate or second-guessing. It was a done deal. Even though a tattoo (for all intents and purposes) is permanent, I had no qualms about getting it done because it was for Carm.

Paw print tattoo

The tattoo artist I worked with was precise and efficient. The whole process took less than an hour, and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. It felt more like somebody was pinching me with only with their fingernails. While irritating, it’s not really painful. My tattoo artist, Matt, and I discussed Star Wars the entire time, and to me that was perfect. Here I was talking about something I loved while getting a tattoo in tribute to someone I loved. It couldn’t have worked out any better.

It’s been a few weeks since I got my tattoo, and I still have no regrets. It’s been interesting to watch the expedited healing process. Much like matters of the heart it burned at first, then it just felt raw and exposed, then it finally scabbed and healed. Now it’s just a part of me like she is for the rest of my days.