The 'Dukes of Hazzard' star got Alicia's thumbprint tattooed on the part of his hand where her thumb would rest when they held hands, calling it a "bittersweet" tribute
John Schneider lived his whole life without getting a tattoo. But after his wife Alicia Allain Schneider died from breast cancer earlier this year, he knew he needed to make his love for her permanent.
"That had to be God," he tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "After Alicia passed, we were at the funeral home, and the gal that ran it was great friends of Alicia and then later friends of mine. She said, 'We do thumbprints now.' And as soon as she said that, it was like, 'Bam, you're going to get this.'"
The idea was a meaningful one as Schneider chose to get the tattoo inked on his left hand, near the base of his thumb "where her thumb would be if she was holding my hand."
"Because that's where her thumb was most hours of the day," he explains. "It didn't take any thought. It didn't take anything. It just popped into my head."
"Again, I think that's not me. That's got to be God," he continues. "Inspiration like that has to be because when the tattoo guy did it, he said, 'I've never done this, what a great idea.' And he's probably done 3,000 tattoos and had 4,000 himself. And then, everyone I show it to, most of the time, male, female, young or old, they cry right away. It's like, 'That's great.'"
As for the actor, he says he find the ink to be comforting but also a daily reminder of his grief.
"It's bittersweet, but it makes me smile," he shares. "And whenever anybody asks me, 'What is that?' I tell them, and I say, 'Here, hold my hand.' And then they go, 'Oh, my God, that's your wife's thumbprint, isn't it?' Yep. My only tattoo."
While it may be the sole tattoo on his body, it's not the only thing Schneider has done to keep Alicia's legacy alive. Since her death, he's written daily messages to Alicia on Facebook that he calls "letters to Heaven." Those candid, emotional posts have moved his followers, which have grown to over a million since February.
"I do see that this is helping people, especially those who grieve," he shares. "The number one thing I get on my posts is people say, 'You put into words what I feel every day. Thank you for expressing me.' That has to be God."
"Because I don't sit and toil over these posts," he explains. "I wrote tomorrow's post already. I couldn't stop writing. That's how I used to be about screenplays. That's how I used to be about making the next movie. I just couldn't stop ... I'm that way with the Facebook post. I don't know how long I'm going to do it. I suppose God will tell me it's time to stop. Because while it's cathartic, it's also pulling off a scab every day."
"I do believe it's making her proud," he adds. "But I'd rather have two followers and her; that's not what I have."
Schneider has also launched an AliciaWear clothing line featuring phrases she used to say, like "Love That" and "Go Do," and has plans to release an album called We're Still Us in her honor.
"The writing helps, but the writing hurts," he explains. "I'm trying to keep some form of inspiration but it's very hard, like a candle with a wick and no flame."
As he continues to grieve, Schneider hopes sharing his story will help others in similar situations and remind people to let their loved ones know how they feel about them.
"I could not have told Alicia Allain Schneider I love her any more than I did," he says proudly. "I miss every damn thing, every day. I have to get to the point where I look around and see where she is, not where she's not. And I'm trying to do that, but that's hard. Somehow I love her more every minute, but with that, somehow I miss her more every minute."
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He's also hopeful that when his time finally comes, he'll get to reunite with Alicia in the afterlife.
"As bad as I hurt, I wouldn't trade a minute of it," he says. "Heaven is real, and I'll get there one day and she'll greet me. At that point, this will seem like nothing, like no time has gone by. Until then, I will endure. That's what she'd want, and I'm going to live the rest of my life — however long that is, 30 minutes or 30 years — doing only that, which makes her smile."
"I'm going to 'go do,' as she said, even when I don't want to, so that when I get there, she'll be delighted with me," he adds.
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