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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Octogenarian relishes fun found in new ink

It started five years ago when Helen Lambin got a tattoo of a peace symbol in the middle of a daisy to celebrate a milestone birthday. Next came a baby dolphin, and then the mother dolphin. Before long, she was getting her arms and legs inked with a variety of symbols that appealed to her, including several that spoke to her spirituality.

Lambin isn’t unique in her love of body art, but few people get their first tattoo at 75. Now 80, the member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Chicago, is usually planning the next tattoo before the latest one is done.

Though she gets them for personal enjoyment, she found an added bonus in her new passion. “They have been a bridge, which I didn’t anticipate,” she said. “It’s a bridge that crosses gender, age and race. People come up to me all the time and ask me questions. Most of them are friendly.”

Lambin said the original impulse came “like a deep voice from the sky that said, ‘Get a tattoo.’ My daughter said it was God saying, ‘You lost your shoe,’ ” Lambin joked.

Rosemary, her 49-year-old daughter (son Joseph is 50 and daughter Jeanne is 43), got a tattoo a decade earlier. She was only a little surprised her mother followed in her footsteps. “I think it’s great,” Rosemary said. “Society has all of these expectations about what someone should do at a certain age. But she’s not hurting anybody or anything, so why shouldn’t she do it?”

Members of Immanuel have been positive about her hobby, Lambin said. She even served as president of the congregation.

Her tattoos include a Christian fish symbol and a symbol for the Trinity. She also has footprints and a lamp to represent Psalm 119. When she decided to get the Luther Rose, she asked her pastor if he thought anyone would be offended. “He told me he thought it would be fine, depending on where I put it,” she said.

Lambin said she puts tattoos only where they can be seen in polite company — her arms and legs. Before choosing a tattoo, she researches it to make sure no hate groups use the symbol.


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