When parents find out that their kids want to get a tattoo, they usually respond with hesitation. There are many concerns that come with this: How will it end up looking? What will their peers think? Is the tattoo they want now still going to be relevant to them decades from now?
When Diana Register from Meridian, Idaho found out that her daughter wanted a tattoo, these thoughts crossed her mind too—but then she found out what her daughter wanted and it changed everything.
When 15-year-old Kaitlyn wanted a tattoo, her mother, Diana Register, had reservations.
When Register’s 15-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn asked her if it was okay to get a tattoo, Register wasn’t sure how to answer.
“I’m pretty sure that most teenagers, and some adults, who are tattooing what’s cool to them now won’t love it forever and will eventually look at it with regret,” Register told Love What Matters. “So when my teenager asked me for one, trust me, I thought about it. And thought about it.”
Register soon learned that what Kaitlyn wanted was a small tattoo to honor her father, Chad, who passed away from cancer two years prior. Even with this new information, Register struggled to say “Yes.”
Then they talked about the tattoo her older sister, Savanna, had: Roman numerals at the top of her foot that spelled out her father’s police badge number. The tattoo Kaitlyn wanted would incorporate those same numbers as well, which Register found deeply meaningful.
“I started thinking about the meaning and it was so much deeper than just numbers,” she said. “You see, after his valiant fight with his disease, his badge number has become synonymous with strength, courage and hope. That’s what it means to me, and clearly what it means to my kids.”
This led Register to think back to the moment her husband passed.
The tattoo Kaitlyn wanted would honor her dad. This made Register think of the day of his death.
The night of Chad’s death, Register told Kaitlyn that she didn’t have to go back into the hospital room and watch him die. She said she would stay with her in the hall, in case she didn’t want to watch.
“I explained what was happening, that he couldn’t breathe, that there was a gurgling in his throat and it sounded like he needed to clear it but couldn’t,” she said. “I told her he would not wake up. I told her that he was going to stop breathing. And she didn’t have to watch that.”
Yet none of that deterred Kaitlyn. She rushed straight passed her mother to visit Chad at his bedside. With tears in her eyes and a feeling she might throw up, she firmly held his hand and told him it was okay for him to go.
“She stayed with him while he died and didn’t leave him for an hour after. She held his hand while he took his last breath, much in the same way that he held hers when she took her first,” said Register.
In looking back on that moment, Register realized just how much respect Kaitlyn had for her father and couldn’t help but see some of him in her.
Realizing the amount of respect Kaitlyn had for her dad, Register allowed her to get the tattoo.
Later that same year, Kaitlyn won a championship for state gymnastics. She moved houses and changed schools. She got involved with school programs and made new friends. Despite the vast amount of change in her life, she remained strong.
“The things she has endured and the way she has survived is the true mark of all the things Chad was: strong, courageous and full of hope,” said Register.
With that in mind, Register knew she had to let Kaitlyn get her tattoo.
“When Kaitlyn and her sister decided to get a tattoo to respect the battle and to honor their hero that fell, there was no way I was standing in the way of that. Not for one second,” she said.
Now Chad’s whole family has tattoos that honor him. Register herself has a copy of his EKG tattooed on her foot so that, every time she looks down, she knows a part of him is still alive.
Needless to say, Register, Kaitlyn, and Savanna will keep their tattoos for life.