Fam­ily and friends get tat­toos in mem­ory of Jess

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By VICKY MUNRO [email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @vick­y_afm

THE fam­ily and close friends of Ruis­lip girl Jess Shep­herd, who passed away on Septem­ber 7 af­ter a seven-year bat­tle with can­cer, have got match­ing tat­toos to re­mem­ber her for­ever.

Rang­ing in age from 22 to 62, they had Jess’s hash­tag #roar­for­jess, which sup­port­ers across the world and some celebri­ties tweeted in her hon­our, as tat­toos at a West Dray­ton par­lour.

Close fam­ily mem­bers even had some of Jess’s ashes mixed with the ink to cre­ate a more tan­gi­ble con­nec­tion to her.

Jess’s aunt Ch­eryl English had a large piece done with one of her favourite quotes – “Don’t be sad, it’s a waste of a day” – as a trib­ute to Jess’s re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive at­ti­tude.

Steve Evans from Mantra 2 Tat­too wanted to help them cre­ate a last­ing me­mo­rial and raise aware­ness of neu­rob­las­toma, the rare can­cer Jess suf­fered from, hav­ing fol­lowed her story for years.

Jess’s grand­mother Louise Walker said: “As a fam­ily we wanted to do some­thing unique that would leave us a per­ma­nent re­minder of our beau­ti­ful Jess.

“We de­cided we all wanted match­ing tat­toos and chose Jess’s hash­tag #roar­for­jess.

“Some of our close friends who had sup­ported us dur­ing this jour­ney also wanted to have the tat­too, so we had a un­usual me­mo­rial day.

“Close fam­ily had Jess’s ashes added to the ink, for­ever etched on our hearts and now on our skin.”

She added that Steve, who is do­nat­ing all prof­its to Neu­rob­las­toma UK, was “ab­so­lutely won­der­ful, es­pe­cially with those who had never had a tat­too be­fore”.

She said: “It was Jess’s grand­fa­ther Steve’s first tat­too but it wasn’t as bad as he ex­pected.

“Steve was bril­liant at keep­ing ev­ery­thing calm and re­laxed.”

This spe­cial act of mourn­ing comes just un­der two months af­ter Jess’s FUNeral, which she or­gan­ised her­self at Break­s­pear Cre­ma­to­rium on Septem­ber 27.

Mourn­ers, all dressed in pink as it was Jess’s favourite colour, gath­ered at lunchtime for a uniquely cheer­ful cer­e­mony, fill­ing both the main and over­flow chapel.

Out­side the streets were dec­o­rated with pink bal­loons and rib­bons in both Ruis­lip and Hare­field, where Jess went to school, and well-wish­ers clapped as her bright pink hearse drove by.

The ser­vice was con­ducted by cel­e­brant Karen Hop­kins and both Jess’s mother, Danielle White, and her grand­mother, Louise Walker, spoke.

Jess’s gran Louise de­scribed how Jess planned her own funeral when it be­came clear she was near­ing the end of her life, adding that “she did not want any­one to be sad and she wanted them to have fun”.

One at­tendee, Eoin Han­nan, 64, a friend of Jess’s mother, stayed true to Jess’s wishes by com­ing dressed as the Pink Pan­ther.

Jess picked all her own mu­sic, which in­cluded Cir­cle of Life from The Lion King, one of her favourite films, All About That Bass by Meghan Trainer and Zip-a-dee-doo-dah from Song of the South, as she nick­named her grand­mother Doo-dah.

Her favourite song Roar by Katy Perry, which cel­e­brant Karen noted had “lyrics that could have been writ­ten for her”, was also played, hav­ing re­cently been ded­i­cated to Jess by the singer at a con­cert in June.

Perry is one of many celebri­ties to have shown sup­port for Jess af­ter be­ing con­tacted by her friends and fam­ily on so­cial me­dia, who all used the #roar­for­jess hash­tag that in­spired the tat­toos.

Mourn­ers were asked to dance to All About The Bass as a mov­ing trib­ute to Jess’s love of danc­ing and re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive at­ti­tude, as typ­i­fied by her com­mon say­ing that be­ing sad is a “waste of a day”.

Mum Danielle said: “De­spite the hand she was dealt, she al­ways in­sisted on liv­ing life to the fullest. I re­ally did not want to let her go.”

Grand­mother Louise said: “I would like to thank ev­ery­body who dec­o­rated Hare­field and Ruis­lip so beau­ti­fully. You made us cry in the car all the way here.”

She also thanked Hare­field In­fant and Pri­mary schools, where Jess stud­ied, for sup­port­ing her grand­daugh­ter so well.

She added: “I do not think a day ever went by when she did not want to be at school. There were times when I had to say you are not go­ing and she would not speak to me for hours.

“But our big­gest thank you is to Jess’s med­i­cal teams, who have worked tire­lessly over the last four and half years. We love you dearly.

Even out­side the grounds of Break­s­pear Cre­ma­to­rium, Jess’s im­pact was be­ing felt, as the streets of Hare­field and her home Ruis­lip were gar­landed in pink in her mem­ory.

Passers-by clapped as her bright pink hearse drove by and many shops had pink win­dow dis­plays or signs with her name.

Street lamps were fes­tooned with pink bal­loons and mul­ti­ple res­i­dents posted pic­tures to Face­book of the dec­o­ra­tions put up by her loved ones and sup­port­ers.

One or­gan­iser posted to Face­book that they would leave the dec­o­ra­tions up for a week in her hon­our be­fore be­gin­ning to take them down.

In ad­di­tion to her “FUNeral”, Jess also or­gan­ised an “af­ter­life party” in Hare­field at the Hare­field Cricket Club for her sib­lings and all her friends.

It fea­tured amuse­ments like a bouncy cas­tle and a visit by “Miss Bal­looni­verse”, a per­former she had met pre­vi­ously at char­ity events.

Fam­ily and close friends got match­ing #roar­for­jess tat­toos in mem­ory of Jess Shep­herd

Ch­eryl English, Jess’s aunt, had a large tat­too done with one of her favourite say­ings

Jess’s grand­fa­ther Steve got his first ever tat­too

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