When people pass away, there are a number of things family members can do with their remains. They can go the traditional route and have them buried at a plot in the cemetery. They can have the person cremated and spread their ashes in some of that person’s favorite places. There has even been a trend in recent years to compress a person’s remains into an article of jewelry so a loved one could carry them around forever.
Before 41-year-old Chris Wenzel passed away, he told his wife his dying wish. It was certainly something that people do not hear every day. But it was in alignment with his passion for art and his life’s work which was tattoos.
For many years, Wenzel suffered the debilitating symptoms of colitis, a bowel disease that affected his large intestines or colon. Although medical science can help address the symptoms, there is no known cure. That means that Wenzel’s life was in jeopardy because colitis can result in some life-threatening complications.
Because Wenzel knew that his life might be cut short, he asked his wife Cheryl to follow through with his last wishes if it ever came to that – if he was the first one to go.
So what did Wenzel ask his wife to do in the event of his untimely demise? He asked her to preserve his tattoo art. Because the tattoo art on his body was essential to Wenzel’s life, he did not want it burned in cremation or lost to the worms in a burial. Tattoos first entered his life when he was nine, drawing his own. And as an adult, he joined the Electric Underground Tattoo shop to ink clients. He has also completed a lot of work on his wife, Cheryl. That’s why she was honored to hear his dying wish.
“I thought, ‘that’s different, but yeah, that’s cool,’” she told The Globe and Mail. “I don’t care what it takes, I’m going to get this done for him. You can hang a picture on a wall. A tattoo is something that has been done for hundreds of years. It’s just preserving it.”
Although Chris Wenzel had no way to predict it, he suffered chest pains and then died in his sleep in October. As soon as she found her husband dead in the morning, she began researching where she could fulfill his dying wish – to preserve his body art after death. Her search quickly united her to a place in Ohio that does just that.
Kyle Sherwood has dedicated his life to helping people preserve their loved one’s tattoos after death.
“Tattoos, you know, tell a story about a person,” Sherwood said. “And for someone to get something tattooed on them that they’re displaying for life, you know, means something to them. You wouldn’t burn or bury a Picasso, and that’s what some of these pieces are.”
Save My Ink Forever removed Wenzel’s skin and carefully framed his body art. The process took three months and cost Cheryl $70,700.
Now she has her dead husband’s skin hanging from her walls.
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