My Lola (grandmother) was known for her rose gardens, both in the Philippines and in Chicago, USA. People would navigate around the neighbourhood, using her rose garden as a landmark.
Whenever I was with lola, our hands were never idle (the devil, y’know). We would either be crafting or gardening. It was usually the latter. Plant new roses, create new sections, take cuttings, prune, deadhead old blooms…I learned all I know about growing roses from her. She was proud of her greenfingers, attributing it to her Ilocano heritage (she cooked an amazing diningding!).
She passed away recently. She went down fighting, there was no other way she would go. Stubborn. I didn’t expect how bad it hit me. And how long it is taking. I felt guilty, I’m not usually one to get a blow and go down. I could hear lola tsking: We are fighters. What are you doing feeling down?
One morning when it was quite hard, I took a pen and started drawing on my shoulder. Like I used to do when I was in middle school. I drew a basic sketch of a rose. Four weeks later, after finding the right artist, deciding on the right style and image, I had a rose inked in.
Everyone heals in different ways. Everyone has different needs when it comes to death. This was mine. And nothing was going to stop me.
Stubborn, as my mom said.
Lola is not here, getting inked doesn’t change that. It’s still hard to deal with.
But I love my rose. It’s like it was always there, under the skin, waiting to bloom.
The tattoo was freehanded and then inked by Keven ‘Butch’ Johnson in Ultimate Skin Leeds, recommended to me as the best tattoo parlor in Leeds. A brilliant artist, who was happy to have a great conversation and kept it going for a three hour sitting. Knowing that this isn’t my last bit of bodyart, I probably will be heading over to his shop again soon.