Assistant Multimedia Editor
For some, tattoos can be a way to express compassion for one’s hometown, or sometimes a sign of involvement in a branch of the military. Some other tattoos hold different meanings altogether, such as the ink that belongs to Lindsey Steele.
Steele, a junior and Applied Sociology major, has two tattoos that she got at a relatively young age. She got the first tattoo, located on the back of her neck, at the age of 16, and received her second tattoo, to be found on her left hip, only one year later when she was 17. Yet Steele’s tattoos have a meaning deeper than the ink that resides on her body. Steele’s tattoos represent the major losses she’s experienced in her young life, which include losing her parents, as well as her grandmother and grandfather.
“My birth mother committed suicide when I was six months old. My grandmother had stomach cancer, and my grandfather had pancreatic cancer, so the three of them were all on my mother’s side,” said Steele. “My grandmother passed when I was nine, and my grandfather [passed] when I was 12. I was extremely close to both of them because they were such a tie to my birth mother; I remained very close with them throughout the years.”
All three are represented in one of Steele’s tattoos, which can be found on the back of her neck. The tattoo consists of three stars, one to represent her mother, Linda Steele, one for her grandmother, Christine Lanouette, and one for her Pepe, Henri Lanouette. The color for each star – purple, blue and green, respectively – represent the birth months for the three loved ones that Steele lost. Amethyst, a purple gemstone from February to represent Linda; Sapphire, a blue gemstone to represent December and Christine; and lastly, green to represent the month of August, and the stone Peridot, for Henri.
Yet while the colors used in the ink all represent something different, there is an even deeper meaning at work. While looking for inspiration for a tattoo, Steele stumbled upon an Eskimo proverb that seemed to fit every description of what she was looking for in a tattoo: “Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”
“I knew that I wanted a tattoo and there was nothing that was going to change it. It was just a matter of being old enough to get one, and it was so hard to pick one out because I knew that it was going to be there forever, and then I came across the Eskimo saying, and I loved it and I knew that I wanted something to memorialize that and also memorialize the three of them in my life,” said Steele.
Like the Eskimo saying, Steele’s stars are slightly altered to show the openings that the proverb speaks of, and likewise, Steele knows that her loved ones will never truly be gone.
“You’ll see on the end that the tattoo is faded. It’s not really finished in a perfect way and that’s to symbolize that my life isn’t really ended in any way at all and that it’s still there,” said Steele. “The faded stars that are outlined in red kind of just represent how even though three really important people are gone from my life, they will never fade out of my life.”
While the first tattoo’s meaning is deep and profound, the second of the two, a lotus flower, is no different. Right after turning 17, Steele was dealt with another emotional blow in her young life. Her father, Victor, also committed suicide. Rather than being dragged down by the tragedy, Steele moved on, and used ink as an outlet to help her remember her father and the strife she had been through.
“In Asia and India, the lotus is really important because it grows from the bottom of muddy and murky swamps, and it continually grows up towards the sunlight, and then when it reaches the top, it blooms this most beautiful flower,” said Steele. “I got it to represent that I was coming out of one of the worst times of my life but that I knew that I was going to be stronger than I ever was before. So I felt like the lotus really embodied what I was feeling at the time, that I was coming out of a really bad time, growing up, growing towards the light and then becoming better than I ever was before, which would symbolize the lotus blooming on top of the water.”
Content with the tattoos she has, Steele does not see herself getting another in the near future, if ever again. She is proud of what they represent, and does not shy away from explaining what they stand for if she’s ever approached about them.
“Me, personally, I have them both for significant losses that are in my life. I know other people who have them for the same reason or something important that happened to them, so you’re going to remember it forever anyway,” said Steele. “I think once you tell people the story behind it, they understand a little bit better. Sometimes I think people, when they don’t understand something, they tend to judge it more easily, but I think once people get the idea behind it and they know the story behind it, they’re less apt to judge based on it. I think that telling the story behind it is really important because when you look at it, you say, ‘Oh, she has a flower or three stars.’ I think once people realize the significance or what they mean to me, than I think that it’s easier to understand.”
Nate Brown may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org