A Tribute to a Beloved Son

Story and photos by Leah Morningstar Tattoos by Kevin Polanski, DistINKtive Arts Studio, Brantford, Ont.



Superior Outdoors



103 TATTOOED YOU A Tribute to a Beloved Son In 2012, Laurie Reed was living in southern Ontario, managing a large retail space and life was busy but good. Tragedy struck on June 5 of that year when Reed’s son Jack was killed in a motorcycle accident—a parent’s worst nightmare. At first, Reed was in shock. She didn’t really know what to do with herself, so she just kept going to work every day. She needed to keep busy and keep her mind occupied. While it was good to stay occupied, the chaotic and unpredictable nature of being in charge of such a large space was unsustainable. Reed needed a job that would keep her busy without being an emotional and physical drain. In 2014, a friend told Reed that there was a position open at the Estée Lauder counter in Sears, and that was the beginning of her journey into the world of makeup and beauty. Reed soon found that she loved working with makeup, and helping people look and feel their best. She moved on to the Lancôme counter and shortly after, in 2016, accepted a job as a Shoppers Drug Mart beauty manager in Thunder Bay. The idea of moving to Thunder Bay was daunting at first but Reed’s husband Derek encouraged her to make the leap. “My husband and I have been together for 26 years now,” she says. “He’s been with me through tragedies and triumphs and his support has never wavered.” They moved to Thunder Bay together and Reed was soon in her new job. Reed has always loved tattoos, but she never aspired to be fully covered in ink. After her son’s death, while trying to keep busy, Reed decided she wanted to pay tribute to Jack in a permanent and meaningful way. The accompanying photos show two beautifully inked arms, all done by Kevin Polanski in Brantford, Ont. As a whole, it’s a colourful and brilliant piece of work that took years to complete. A closer look reveals smaller details: for example, the word “Triumph” is a nod to her son Jack’s favourite motorcycle. The clock that rests at 2:35 pm marks the time of his death. The other arm is full of jewelry, makeup, and all kinds of pretty little things. One arm represents the joy of being a mother to Jack and the sorrow of losing him, the other arm represents the beauty industry that helped rescue her from the depths of despair and grief. Some people think that makeup is frivolous and unnecessary, other people love it, and others still are completely indifferent. But Reed knows firsthand how makeup can improve lives. “When I’m putting makeup on someone, touching their face, and giving them personal attention, it can be very intimate,” she says. “You never know what someone is going through and I try to be the light in a potentially dark space and offer an opportunity for them if they need to talk.” Seeing Reed at work amongst the makeup, answering questions, and recommending various products, it’s clear this is something she was meant to do. Not only does she know about all the products, but she truly listens to her customers. It’s little wonder that she’s won so many awards in her career and that her customers think so highly of her. Those arms full of tattoos are visible every day: conversation pieces that connect Reed to her son, and to the joy and sorrow of others.