Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

Thank You, Stranger: A memorial tattoo, a car and a cosmic coincidence

A woman with a tattoo of a car standing next to a car
Becky Gilbert got a tattoo of a green Subaru Forester in memory of her grandmother.
Courtesy Becky Gilbert
A woman with glasses smiles
Becky Gilbert got a tattoo to memorialize her grandmother Jean Gilbert (pictured).
Courtesy Becky Gilbert

Thousands of people on TikTok have been taking part in a trend where they share coincidences and connections, many times with people who have passed.

A Minneapolis woman went viral when she shared her own story of a big family coincidence. She talked about it to our producer Ellen Finn for the latest in our series, ‘Thank You, Stranger.’

If this story reminds you of help or even friendship that came from a stranger, we want to hear from you! Call 612-361-1252 and leave a voicemail.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

[LAURIE ANDERSON, "O SUPERMAN"] LAURIE ANDERSON: (SINGING) Well, you don't know me, but I know you. And I've got a message.

CATHY WURZER: If you're on TikTok, you probably recognize that song. It's "O Superman" by Laurie Anderson. Thousands of people are using it alongside stories of coincidences and connections, many times with people who have died. A Minneapolis woman took to TikTok with her own story of a big family coincidence. She talked about it to our producer Ellen Finn for the latest in our series, "Thank you, Stranger."

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ELLEN FINN: Becky lost her beloved Grandma Jean back in 2010 when she was just 15 years old. Jean was a lifelong artist, and Becky remembers her grandma encouraging her to be creative as a child.

BECKY GILBERT: But because I was 15 when she passed, I never knew just how similar we were until I was older. And I feel like even after she's passed, I've just gotten closer to her in a weird way as I've learned more about her and more about myself.

ELLEN FINN: So Becky decided to get a tattoo to memorialize her Grandma Jean, but she needed to decide what image to tattoo onto herself.

BECKY GILBERT: I am not a car person. My grandma wasn't a car person. But I got the idea at dinner one day with my husband, I'm going to get my Grandma's car tattooed on me. She loved her car. And when see Subarus, I do just think of her. But I could have gotten a million other tattoos that remind me of her in different ways. But for some reason, I was like, I'm going to get a Subaru tattoo for her.

ELLEN FINN: Which is what makes Becky's story so magical.

BECKY GILBERT: We were at dinner and I started looking for tattoo artists. I knew the style that I wanted and what I was picturing, and I found this guy. His name is Matt.

ELLEN FINN: Matt worked out of BlackEnd Tattoo in Minneapolis, and Becky knew she wanted him to give her the tattoo, so she found a random picture of her Grandma's car. It was a 1999 green Subaru Forester.

BECKY GILBERT: And was like, heck, yeah. I'd be so stoked to do that because I own a 1999 green Subaru Forester. And I was like, no way. That's so cool.

ELLEN FINN: Becky was still riding the high of that coincidence a few weeks later when she was on her way to the appointment with Matt to get her Grandma's tattoo. As she got closer, she noticed Matt's green Subaru Forester parked out front and on it, a bumper sticker that was unmistakable.

BECKY GILBERT: The cobalt blue, very standout bumper sticker that says, "Clarity is power," because Clarity was her maiden name.

ELLEN FINN: It was then Becky realized Grandma Jean's old car now belonged to Matt who is about to tattoo that very car onto her arm.

BECKY GILBERT: I walked into my appointment speechless, and I told him as well as I could. I was rambling and trying not to sob. I was trying to explain-- it's not just that you own a Subaru Forester. That is her Subaru Forester. The reaction for both of us was just utter speechlessness, and we truly just like stared at each other in disbelief. Like, what is happening? This feels like very supernatural and cosmic and weird.

My Grandma Jean was an artist, really passionate artist for her whole life, and Matt is an artist. He does tattoo and mural work. So this car helped him get to his gigs and his shows, and I just know my grandpa would have loved that. A car doesn't mean a lot to most people, but I feel like it really did change Matt's life and let him do these things he was so passionate about.

And for that reason, that's a big thing. My grandma had a hand in this. It wasn't just like it fell into the hands of a random tattoo artist that I got tattooed by. It fell into Matt's hands. That's so his car, and he was supposed to have that car. That's just kind of what it felt like. I am very woo woo.

My grandma was also very woo woo. At her funeral, we had a medium who was great friends with my grandma and connected me and my sister to my grandma at her funeral, so that tells you a little bit about the kind of person she was. And I do feel like very guided by my grandma, and I feel like I do get signs from her all the time.

But this felt a lot more. There was a lot more going on behind the scenes than ever before. It just kind of confirmed the woo woo-ness that I've that I've held with me throughout my life because it felt so much more orchestrated than anything I could have ever imagined.

CATHY WURZER: That was produced by Ellen Finn for our series "Thank You, Stranger." If you'd like to submit your own story of kindness or inspiration from a stranger, email us at minnesotanow@mpr.org or call in to our story line at 612-361-1252.

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