Memorial Tattoos

by MSO
US Army infantry man with a tattoo commemorating the lives of three of his fellow soldiers.

Spc. Steven Baker’s said, “I wanted to get something done, but I didn’t want it to be blatantly out in the open for everyone else to see. But every time I want to reflect and think back on them, I can look in the mirror and remember.”

Tattooing has been around for centuries most predominantly in Asia and is believed to have started as a medical practice to treat various diseases. The practice spread to the western world as explorers brought home tales of tattooed savages and many British sailors began getting tattoos while in these far away ports. Many sailors used the tattoos as a method of identification. If they were ever lost at sea, a distinctive tattoo would help people identify their body. However it wasn’t until the 19th century that the upper classes started to get inked and tattoos began to be seen as a type of art form. King George V of England, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and many other kings began having their royal crests tattooed on their bodies.

Since that time, tattoos have become mainstream and are used by both sexes of all economic classes. The meanings have become more personal and it’s not uncommon to see a group of family members or friends all sporting the same tattoo which is why¬†commemorative tattoos have become more commonplace in recent years. Families, teammates and groups of close friends are regularly getting a tattoo to remember one of their group after a death. Here are some of the more common tattoo designs that are being chosen to commemorate a loved one.

Names & Dates: Perhaps the most simplest and direct way of honoring a loved one who has passed away is by having their name and/or dates of birth and death tattooed on a chosen part of the body. The size can be small and written in a script on the shoulder blade, or can be a full back piece, displaying both first, middle and last names, date of birth and death and an accompanying quote or meaningful passage that relates to the person.

Hearts: Losing someone close to you is hard. The emotions are heart-rending and once time has passed, the wound slowly heals, but still, there is always that feeling that something is missing, almost as if there was a hole in your heart which can never be filled. Because of this feeling, some people often choose a simple or elaborate heart tattoo to fill that void for the one they loved.

Winged Hearts: With hearts representing love, vitality and life, wings are often associated with angels, heaven and death – so the combination of the two shouldn’t seem contradicting. For people, depending on their religious beliefs, a tattoo representing the idea that your loved one has earned wings or is with angels watching over you from the other side can often provide comfort. These form of tattoos are a way of carrying your guardian angel with you no matter where you go.

Portraits: Portraits are perhaps the most predominate of all memorial tributes. They can be a very moving and emotional experience, and like most memories that fade to distant murky thoughts of gentle remainders, pictures have always been used to fill in the missing pages of memories. With memorial portraits, it is taking a favorite image – a captured moment of time and immortalizing it on the skin as a constant reminder.

Religious: Religious memorial tattoos can come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are not limited to just one symbolistic ideology. Tattoos allow for a world of creative expressionism to unfold, allowing people to combine elements of their beliefs, emotions and tributes. Perhaps the most common image used for religious memorial tattoos is that of a cross or crucifix, either with or without the name, date of birth/death tattooed in a banner wrapped around the cross. Some other religious memorial tattoos take the form of angels, whether they are smiling down upon us, hugging a tombstone or shedding a weeping tear, praying hands clutching rosaries, tombstones with epitaphs and more.

R.I.P.: Simply enough, R.I.P. the oldest sentiment to commemorating a loved one who has passed is a popular memorial tattoo. While our loved one has passed away, we want nothing more but for them to be at peace, free of pain and suffering.


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