Andrea Cortes’ ‘whole life fell apart’ when a house fire claimed the lives of her sister’s entire family. So, Andrea decided to get a tattoo in memory of the 4 beloved nieces she lost. And the touching memorial tattoo is helping her heal.
Andrea Cortes, who goes by Andy, was always very close with her sister, Michelle Speer. In fact, Andy was even living in a cottage behind her sister’s house that was part of the family’s farm.
Andy was just as close to her sister’s children — Elli (11), Adilynn (7), Emma (5), and Anniston (2). She loved being their Aunt and watching these precious girls grow.
But in October of 2016, tragedy struck.
24-year-old Andy looked out her window to see something horrifying. Flames completely covered her sister’s house, just yards away from the cottage.
Andy called 911 to report the fire and then desperately tried to go into the house to save her family. But the thick smoke from the blazing inferno made it impossible.
"Nobody ever realizes that something like this could happen to them," Andy said.
Michelle Speers, her husband Mike, and all four of their children perished, reportedly from smoke inhalation. And this type of tragedy is just what sets the stage for in memorial tattoos like the one Andy has today.
Memorial Tattoo Honoring Lost Loved Ones
For Andy, the loss was absolutely devastating.
"Our family has always been super close,” she said. “My sister was my best friend and my rock, and she and Mike allowed me to be a part of raising my nieces-I had a special bond with each of them."
And so, Andy came up with some memorial tattoos ideas as a special way to honor her lost loved ones. She settled on a tattoo in memory of her beloved nieces.
Using the girls’ handwriting from their schoolwork, Andy had Elli’s, Adilynn’s, and Emma’s signatures tattooed on her left arm. But because Anniston was only 2 years old when she died, she hadn’t yet started writing her name.
Andy didn’t feel right not having her youngest niece represented in some way. That’s when she remembered an email she’d received from Michelle sometime before the fire.
“Michelle was working from home one day, and while she was on a conference call, Anniston kept trying to get her attention, saying ‘Mommy’ over and over,” Andy recalled.
As it turned out, while her mom was on the phone, Anniston had used markers to create a “masterpiece” by scribbling on the wall. And Andy decided to add Anniston’s “masterpiece” into her memorial tattoo.
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Aunt’s Tattoo Helps With Healing
Healing from such a terrible tragedy isn’t easy. And even now, Andy still feels a “huge hole” left from losing her sister’s family. It’s something she struggles with regularly.
But the tribute tattoo is inspiring Andy to keep moving forward.
“Missing them will never get easier,” she wrote on Facebook. “But I honor them by living my best life full of love, happiness, and adventures because I know that’s what they would want.”
Andy will always carry the family of six in her heart. But now she also carries her nieces around on her arm, too.
"I think it has helped me with the healing process to have these tattoos on my arm,” she explained. “I get to tell their story, share my memories with people, and keep them alive in a sense."
Thanks to Jesus Christ, we can take comfort in knowing death is not the end. But even so, one of the hardest parts of losing someone we love is that they are no longer here with us physically.
And that’s where memorial tattoos can sometimes help those who are grieving.
Memorial tattoos provide lots of different ways to express grief. For example, after losing a child, a memorial tattoo for dad and mom could be their child’s footprints.
Featured Image Credit: Facebook/Andy Cortes
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