Ashley knew she wanted a tattoo in honor of her sister, Amy. It wasn’t until she was going thru Amy’s personal belongings after her death that she found the exact tattoo stencil Amy had used years prior to her death.
“I took it into the shop and told (the artist) why it was important to me to use this same stencil. It was also the 2nd anniversary of her suicide that day. He noticed my necklace charm and asked if it held some of her cremated remains. He said that he thought it would be cool to sprinkle a bit in the ink about to be used for the tattoo.”
The suggestion caught Ashley completely off guard.
“I had to think it over a few, but i eventually thought it was a very cool idea. her body is literally a part of mine now.”
Ashley and Amy grew up as step-sisters. Ashley’s father and Amy’s mother fell for each other when the girls were toddlers.
“I have no memory of a time before her honestly. When we were small we didn’t like each other much. We fought for attention and didn’t like that our parents were with someone other than our other parent.”
When Ashley was in 5th grade, Amy in 4th, the girls shed their disdain for each other.
“We realized that we were on the same team and stared forming an actual sisterly bond. We were both dangerously smart and quite worldly as adolescents. We had a lot fun and gave our parents hell!”
Years went by, and their parents added new siblings to the family dynamic.
“As our parents had other children and we grew up, Amy got more and more sad. It was always very clear our parents felt differently about us than the kids they had together. It didn’t help that Amy’s biological father was always stirring up things to get her to hate our parents. Eventually, they gave up on her and let her move into her grandmother’s house at 12 years old. No one ever fought enough for Amy. No one made her believe in herself. No one ever told her that she could be anything she wanted. They all failed her in some way. Even me.”
The girls were separated and living with different grandparents in their teens, but with Amy having free reign, they often would sneak out and run the dark streets of Dallas in her grandma’s old Honda Accord.
“We had no fear of the world when we were together.We were unstoppable and always felt like Thelma & Louise to me. I loved her.”
Ashley soon faces the 5th anniversary of her sister’s death.
“Every year on her birthday and her death day I take time to do something I think she would’ve enjoyed. Sometimes I’ll go somewhere I wish I could take her and I sprinkle just a bit of her remains wherever i am at that moment. She’s in the mountains in Colorado, mountains in Georgia, at a concert or two, the gulf of Mexico and now the Atlantic ocean.
**** Note from The Modern Mortician****
I had the privilege of being a friend of Amy’s for several years. Amy had been weighing on my mind lately, and I knew the anniversary of her death was coming up. I wanted to feature her story and Ashley’s memorial tattoo as a tribute. Ashley- thank you for sharing Amy’s story with us. I know she loved you SO much.
Below is my story about the girl some of us loving called “Rattus.”
I called her Rattus, or rather she had me call her Rattus, in light of her multiple pets of the rodent species. Truthfully, she loved all animals, but she had many a pet rat when I met her. She called me Grape. Why? One summer, every time she came over, I was eating frozen grapes. We were night owls that summer, as we both worked graveyard shifts. We would often visit the 24 hour Walmart in the middle of the night for random items for random art projects we would be working on..or more grapes for me to freeze. Sometimes Rattus would be in a mood to go out of her way to embarrass me. She’d follow me down the isles, dragging one foot and walking with a twisted gait, and moan out “Graaaaaape, waaaaaaeet for meeeeeeeee!” It worked every time. I’d be trying to maneuver the cart to avoid her, and we would both end up in fits of giggles.
Rattus was creative as well as crafty. One day, one of her multiple pet rats died. She immediately went about securing a proper apothecary jar and setting her beloved in liquid suspension on her bedroom shelf. By the time a second passed away months later, she was attempting arterial embalming on it. She then placed it in a formaldehyde suspension and into a jar on the shelf next to the first. She ended up with 5 specimens at one point, each one in states of improved technique in preservation. At one point, I recall visiting her at her mother’s home in the country. She wanted a ride to the other side of the property to check on raccoon remains she set out for cleaning and curing. When we found it, Nature still had some work to do, but you could see the majority of the skeletal structure and much less fur and flesh- and it was pretty fascinating.
I knew Rattus about 3 years of her short life. Rattus aspired also to be a mortician at one point in our friendship, and she would have been a damn good one, too. Rattus was beautiful, funny, talented, but tortured. Physically, mentally; by others, by her own mind… she was either at her highest of highs or the lowest of lows.
We did our best to save her, many times with offers of bus tickets and rides to safe and healing places, but she just loved too hard. She believed she could fix everything. She wanted things to work in her favor FOR ONCE, and she tried- but she had obstacles we couldn’t see. She made us believe she had a plan and she was finally on the right path.
Our beautiful Amy ended her anguish Tuesday May 29th, 2012. She ended her anguish… and gave it to US. To her mother and step-father; to her father; to her sisters and brothers, and her friends. We will carry this broken piece of Amy with us for the rest of our lives.