Tribute 

History doesn’t teach you everything but it does offer plenty to learn from. While tracing the lines of tattoos and their history I found out a dagger means betrayal and a rose can mean a world of things but most likely they mean something related to beauty. A dagger signifies betrayal because it is a small double-sided weapon that is easy to conceal and in order to use it one has to be very close to a person, both literally and usually metaphorically. Think Cesar, his killers didn’t have guns or swords, his friends and acquaintances stabbed him repeatedly with short, sharp blades. Brutus did it while looking him in the eyes. How graphic, morbid and poetic.

A rose is so symbolic the information can be daunting. Most notably they are a representation of love and/or beauty. Different colors mean different things. For example, yellow roses mean friendship, white roses mean purity and remembrance. Some rose colors don’t grow naturally and have to be man-made, they too carry significant meaning such as, a blue rose, which denotes mystery or going after the unattainable. A black rose means death. To me, all the colors have beauty to them. Personally I think dead or dying roses are gorgeous. Roses are classic, a timeless symbol of love, passion and adoration.

When you have something as sharp as a dagger and something else as soft as a rose, what’s the meaning behind this starkly contrasting combination? That was my question. I’ve always admired the rose and dagger design but I wanted to know what it stood for, if it meant something like death to love or beauty is pain, I predetermined I would look elsewhere for art to admire. There’s just certain things I won’t adhere to no matter how appealing they may be, it’s not the thing it’s the principle of the thing.

The beautiful thing about art, poetry, writing and pretty much anything creative is that anything can mean anything. However, everything has to start somewhere. I researched to find the source of the rose and dagger image and found that the majority conclusion for the design’s meaning is to fight for love. There’s some variations depending on whether the dagger pierces the rose or is placed behind it, but in total it is a message of love and honor. To love even when it’s hard. Fighting for love even when it hurts reminds me of Christ being crucified. Scripture says, there is no love that is greater. I resonated deeply with the roots of the meaning since I’m someone who is a slave to loyalty and anchored in family. 

As of October 28, 2016 a rose and dagger is my most recent tattoo. I added something a little extra as well, since my newest addition honors my blood. It’s a traditional style rose and dagger tattoo with what I think is soft shading, done in black and gray resting on my right hip. My rose and dagger was done by Jr. Diaz at Venture Tattoo in Oak Park, IL. Below the rose petals, off to the side, is the abbreviated scripture Proverbs 31:25. From idea to ink this evolved quite a bit, originally I wanted it all in red ink but we decided that aesthetically, the best style would be traditional. It’s so different-not the design itself-tons of people have this tattooed on them, just the fact that it’s one of my tattoos. I never thought I would wear a traditional piece let alone be able to pull it off, but the longer I have it the more I love it. There are a few other details but I think I’ll keep those to myself because revealing everything is simply not classy. What I love most is that it’s not even about me. This tattoo is about the most badass woman I know.


When tattoo day finally came, the artist and I messed with the design quite a bit. I changed the hilt because I liked an asymmetrical handle better. I worked with the artist on several different types of daggers. We went through a lot of different patterns and small details etc. The artist was as patient as you would expect an award-winning artist to be. Venture Tattoo has amazing work so I don’t blame them for being arrogant, although it is true that humility makes the great greater. When I arrived I wasn’t fully decided on the placement and I was grateful that he helped me figure that out. Considering how much the outline hurt on my hip I’m so happy I did not put it on my ribs. I got it on my right side because Mama is always right. Thank God for my little brother who showed up when I had no one just to hold my hand. For this tattoo I definitely needed it. In total the tattoo took about 2-2 1/2 hours. On a scale of 1 to 10 the pain level was an 8 for the outline, the shading I think I could’ve slept through. 


On the eve of the appointment, my mom actually stopped boycotting my decision long enough to ask me why I was getting that design to represent her when she doesn’t even like tattoos. It’s a weird thing to want to honor someone when they are completely against it. In the weeks leading up to my appointment if I even mentioned it, she would say no in the tone of a toddler and her eyes would fill with endearing sadness. I think I would have canceled if I hadn’t been in her shoes so recently. Someone I know got a tattoo for me that I did not want them to get. The funny thing is, it doesn’t matter if I don’t like the tattoo someone got for me because I’m not the one stuck wearing it for life. Just like my mom doesn’t have to wear or, since she insists, even look at mine.


I told her I am getting the rose and dagger because it represents love and loyalty and fighting for what matters even when it’s hard. It makes me think of our relationship because things have not always been easy but they’ve always been worth fighting for. What used to be a massacre has now become something of a masterpiece and I think that is rather beautiful. I told her I was getting the bible verse Proverbs 31:25 because I believe it is the closest line in the description of what it means to be a godly woman that almost justifiably explains who she is as a woman, to me and to the world.

My Mama is a woman of dignity. She knows her worth, she’s confident in her value, she’s fiercely independent and she’s downright fearless. She is a strong woman. She knows how to fight spiritually, emotionally and even physically. She’s the only opponent I would actually be scared to go up against. She has unbelievable endurance and stamina, she tackles challenges for fun and she most definitely laughs at fear because she knows it’s not even real and that Jesus certainly is.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.-Proverbs 31:25

She is clothed in strength. She wraps herself in strength the way people wrap themselves in sweaters, scarves and down coats for Chicago winters. She is my soldier. My mother has dignity in a world that seems to have forgotten what that is. She taught me by example how to be a lady, what I would define as; a female with self-respect. She knows her worth and value and because she is a woman anchored in Christ, she carries her head high. Watching her Godfidence is the reason I behave the same way. Even before Jesus, she had standards and went after what she wanted and she didn’t stop until she got it, she is still that way today. She taught me what to be just by being it herself. I know how to work hard because I see her crazy committed tenacity every single day. I’m not exaggerating, it is like living with the energizer bunny. My mother is Leslie Knope. I don’t settle because she never did. 

My mother is clothed in strength and dignity. She is my soldier and my aspiration. 

My mother is fearless, she has always gone for it. She takes risks but she doesn’t go in blind and she’s not so full of pride that she goes where she shouldn’t alone, but if it came down to it, flying solo hasn’t ever bothered her before. Even if it did, she would still go for it. She would feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s what courage is. All through her life she has taken negativity and whatever else may be against her and used it as fuel for her success. She left a broken home unscathed and seamlessly slipped into independence. She conquered obstacles and had a long-running successful nursing career. After that, going off her Godfidence, she switched careers and went into construction, which was also a success. There were rough battles but it’s my Mama so of course she won the war. Whatever she’s up against, she learns from. There is always something for her to glean. Now she is the owner of Naomi’s (Naomi as in the book of Ruth) a profit with a nonprofit café. I can almost already hear her amusement at whatever mountain she stumbles upon next. She can laugh at the days to come. 

My mother is my soldier and my aspiration; she is my excelsior. 

My Mama is all that I want to be and she’s even left room for me to just be me. She’s helped me more than I can say and she’s fought for me harder than anyone ever has, what’s more is that she continues to do so. She loves me more than I can fathom. She was my constant advocate and bodyguard and soldier when I was a kid growing up with a disability. She made sure I had independence despite the hand I was dealt. She fought with me and for me through my abhorrent adolescence, and never forsook me in my deepest rebellion, for that alone I know God blesses her. She helped me grow up and taught me things even when I didn’t care to listen. My mother’s prayers were the catalyst of my salvation in Christ. The power of a praying parent can turn the world upside down and because of that heavenly impact, one day I will be one myself. She taught me by example how to be a woman of self-respect and kindness and solid work ethic. She taught me who to be just by being it herself. In a world of hypocrisy, I treasure that rare gem of what it means to be authentic. She’s been with me all the days of my life encouraging me to make the worst of times the best of times, allowing me to fall as many times as necessary until I learn how to stand up on my own. The legacy of my mother has taught me things that will last a lifetime and I’ve only just begun to realize how much she put out there for me to learn. Even now, she’s teaching me how be the best woman I can be. How many people in the world can say they have a mother like that?


Mama I love you. I also love tattoos. I know they are not your favorite and I know you think ink is no longer unique, and occasionally trashy, and to some extent I agree. I know you are concerned about my wedding but I am not because odds are the husband I have will wear more tattoos than me. I also know that you know, true love goes much deeper than the surface. However, if it makes you happy I will camouflage most of them on the day I say I do. I love you Mama, this tattoo is your tribute.-J

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