MiMi’s Ink – A Sister’s Memorial Tattoo

Mimi got her first tattoo under her left arm – “La La La” scrolled out in decorative script. As I mentioned in a previous post, she doesn’t know why she got the third “La”. Maybe it’s the ‘rule of three‘ that makes the extra “La” inherently satisfying. Perhaps a line of three “La”s was more visually pleasing than two. Sometimes I think of it as representing the abrupt interruption of a life. A pattern of repeating ”La”s whose sequence ends before its expression is complete. (As time passes I realize that the more I complicate my perspective, the less I have to deal with the one simple fact that my daughter is dead.)

Mimi told me that when she got the tattoo, she apologized to the artist for making him bend over her armpit. He said he’d done worse – like tattooing the upper most area of a man’s inner thigh.


Every summer the girls would go surfing with their dad at La Jolla Shores, near San Diego, California. Stingrays settle themselves in the sand under the shallow waters near shore. Avoiding the ray’s painful, potentially life-threatening sting became a focus of the girls’ time at the beach. Scary, yes, but the stingray is also a beautiful creature, gracefully winging its way through the blue green water. The girls planned to get matching stingray tattoos when MiMi turned eighteen, but Lena died three months before MiMi’s eighteenth birthday.

Mimi got a stingray tattoo. She designed it herself, a symbol of a stingray rather than an absolute representation. The diamond shape of the body nestles on the underside of her wrist. Unlike the truncated second “LaLa” in the tattoo of her sister’s name, the stinger on Mimi’s tattoo is much much longer than an actual stingray’s, perhaps ten times the size, traveling halfway up her arm. My zeal for complicated symbolism leads me to imagine the extra long stinger is a counterpoint (no pun intended) to the shortened “LaLa”. The pain of her sister’s interrupted life far greater than the pain any normal stinger could ever inflict.

image of Mimi's Stingray Tattoo

Mimi and Lala had made plans to get stingray tattoos together, but were waiting until Mimi turned 18. Mimi designed this tattoo after her sister died. photo by Cassidy Turner

When I asked Mimi for photos of the “La La La” tattoo, she sent the only one she had – a shot of herself and her friend Gabriella about six months after Lena died, at the Coachella Music Festival. Mimi looks like she’s having  a great time, her tattoo the only evidence of the great loss she’d recently experienced. I’m including this photo as reassurance to those of us who have faced great emotional challenges in life (and really, who hasn’t?). Even in the darkest periods of our lives, human nature provides the capacity for finding a moment of joy.

4 thoughts on “MiMi’s Ink – A Sister’s Memorial Tattoo

  1. Cheryl

    as usual, your words sing out the truth…finding that joy seems to be in our dna…regardless of the loss or tragedy or pain we have faced….i love how you write…need to see you, girl….

    1. shaye Post author

      finding joy in our dna…yes, I believe it is an intrinsic part of what makes our species successful. if not accessing joy, at least finding whatever relief we can from otherwise debilitating circumstances.

  2. Shelley

    Yes, this post is about time. I have been checking back, looking for a new one… knowing that your journey, your path, is somehow validating my own. Thank you for coming back and writing your self here.

    “Even in the darkest periods of our lives, human nature provides the capacity for finding a moment of joy.”

    I live for those moments where we find the moment of joy. I had a whole day and night of happiness on Friday. I wish I could say today was the same, but it was a black crush of sadness. But I can remember the moment of joy. Please keep writing Shaye. I love you! I wish I had met Lala. But I am sure that I know the best of her through the little of you that I know… as her mom.


    1. shaye Post author

      thank you for checking back and staying connected and saying so.
      yes, the dark moments can encroach upon us and we can only hope they eventually become less frequent and the happy moments more frequent and something akin to peaceful quietude the rest of the time.


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