‘Such a shame. You have such nice boys you’re exposing to filth.’ She kept glaring. ‘Tisk tisk. I should call CPS and report you.’: Elderly woman scolds mom for tattoo honoring late grandmother

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“Recently, while I was grocery shopping, an elderly lady was talking to my boys. My youngest is always saying ‘hi,’ and, of course, everyone says ‘hi’ back. She was super sweet and very kind and kept saying that I had such a beautiful family. Everything was great and we were all smiles… until she noticed my tattoos. She looked me directly in the eyes and said, and I quote, ‘Such a shame… you have such nice boys you’re exposing to filth.’ All I could muster was, ‘excuse me?,’ thinking I smelled or dropped some food on my shirt. She kept glaring at me and told me, ‘You must be a sh*tty mother with all of these body mutilations.’ I was still in shock. I wasn’t really catching on to what she was getting at when she grabbed my forearm and went, ‘tisk tisk. I should call CPS and report you for harming your children. Is that your grandma’s signature? What a disgrace.’

My mouth absolutely fell open and I couldn’t even speak. It was like a movie happening in front of me where the sweet little old lady turned into this evil being. I couldn’t believe it! I grabbed my kids and left as fast as I could, wiping my tears away the whole way to my pickup. As soon as I got the kids in, I saw her writing my license plate number down. I couldn’t even think straight and all I did was get in my pickup and drive away. I’ve never felt so small and insignificant in my life.

I was so embarrassed about this whole ordeal, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband. Looking back, there was absolutely no reason for me to feel this way. She verbally attacked me in front of my children, and I chose to walk away. Making this choice was hard, but it was right. Some people need more love and kindness in their lives, and they show their own hurt in the wrong ways. Reacting on her level would have only made things worse in the long run.

Shana Gottschall/Bear & Co. Photography

My tattoos are all very symbolic and, I think, tastefully done. The one she was referencing was the one I got for my grandma when she lost her battle to cancer. My grandma was diagnosed with stage four brain, lung, and adrenal cancer on July 31st, 2017. I was three months pregnant at the time of her diagnosis, a full-time college student, and a mama to a busy 3-year-old. My whole life was turned upside down in one phone call and I didn’t know where to turn. My grandma needed a lot of help with daily things and we were there to answer the call. We packed our bags and uprooted ourselves from our own lives to be at her every beck and call. Just like with anyone else, the chemo was hard, and some days were worse than others. The steroids she was prescribed were even harder to handle than the rest. She had her good days and bad days, but she always smiled through it. Even when she was in pain, she smiled and said, ‘it is what it is.’ This became her mantra through her entire battle, and she never let her fears show.

We took her to the emergency room one last time on October 15th, 2017. Her cancer had progressed into her liver and spine. There was nothing more anyone could do, and it was time for comfort care only. On October 18th, 2017, my grandma finished her race with cancer.

Shana Gottschall/Bear & Co. Photography

I knew as soon as my youngest son was born, I had to do something. I needed to keep her with me as a visual reminder every single day. I went straight to 2D Ink and got her memorial piece on my left forearm, her signature as the stem of her favorite thing, a flower, and her thumbprint on my wrist where she held my hand in her last moments. Having her handwritten, ‘Love Grandma’ signature forever embellished on my skin has been an amazing reminder of a life so beautifully lived. At night, when I hold my babies tight, she’s there with me, hugging them.

Shana Gottschall/Bear & Co. Photography
Shana Gottschall/Bear & Co. Photography

When I was verbally attacked, it broke me. She took me to a very dark place emotionally and I didn’t know where to turn. On one hand, I was embarrassed over the whole situation, and on another, I was infuriated that she spoke so ill of me and my parenting without even knowing my name. I got home and went to my safe space, my photography group on Facebook. I posted my story just to get it off my chest and I was in absolute shock at the response. People from all walks of life were encouraging me to get up, brush myself off, and keep doing me. Many of them shared their own stories of similar experiences that absolutely broke my heart in two. Because of their encouragement, I was finally able to sit down with my oldest son and talk to him about the way our words affect other people in more ways than we’ll ever understand.

Shana Gottschall/Bear & Co. Photography

Why is such a beautiful piece of art shredded by those who have different views? I spent months designing my tribute and cried countless tears over the idea of my grandma being with me forever. Why is that so wrong to some people?

In the end, tattoos are what we make them. They can mean the world, or they can just be something we wanted to have. You shouldn’t have to justify any of the choices you make with your body or with your life. Your body is your choice and it’s your canvas to make it as you want. Body modifications don’t make you a bad person, your actions towards others do.

Choose kindness, always.”

Shana Gottschall/Bear & Co. Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters Shana Gottschall of Kenmare, North Dakota. You can follow her journey on Instagram, and her Facebook photography page. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read another inspiring story of overcoming negative comments:

‘Oh honey, you should really wait until you lose the baby weight.’ Other customers heard. It took everything in me not to cry.’: Adoptive mom shamed for ‘baby weight’ by jewelry store employee

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