Jay Allen's Song 'Tattoos to Heaven' Goes Viral Thanks to the Story of a Terminally Ill Toledo Man

"I believe these tattoos will be coming to heaven with me when I go," Don Caskey tells PEOPLE. "Every single one of them gives me strength"

Don Caskey doesn't know how much longer he will live.

Diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer back in 2019, the towering figure with the burly beard and the wide smile isn't quite sure how long he will be able to keep his disease at bay or how long he will feel this good or where the road ahead might lead him next.

But he does know that wherever he is headed, he will be taking his tattoos with him.

"I've never been a big churchgoer, but I believe in God and I believe these tattoos will be coming to heaven with me when I go," Caskey, 54, explains in a recent interview with PEOPLE about the hundreds of tattoos he has accumulated since his diagnosis. "Every single one of them gives me strength."

And every single one of them also tells an incredible story. Because shortly after finding out that his cancer was terminal, Caskey went on a crusade to find people who would get matching tattoos with him.

"I figured I would get 20 or 30 tattoos," says the father of five, who got his very first tattoo at the age of 40. "And today, I have gotten 305 tattoos with people in six different countries."

Don Caskey
Don Caskey. Don Caskey/GoFundMe

In fact, his 280th tattoo was alongside none other than country artist Jay Allen, who too has long experienced the power of ink emblazoned on skin.

"Every tattoo tells a little piece of my story," explains Allen, 34. "One day, I looked in the mirror and decided that I wanted to always be reminded of what God made me to be. That's when I started getting tattoos every time I went through something life-changing or important to me. Now, every morning, I look in the mirror and am reminded what I have been through. It's so easy to beat yourself up and think that you are not accomplishing anything, but now, all I have to do is look at my skin. It's like looking in the rearview mirror every morning."

One particular morning last month, Allen was forwarded a message from Caskey, who had heard the singer-songwriter's heart-wrenching song "Tattoos to Heaven," and was instantly touched by how the song seemed to foretell his own story.

"[Caskey] had been trying to get a hold of me for a while, so when my manager forwarded his email along to me, I knew it was important to read," remembers Allen, who wrote "Tattoos to Heaven" back in 2018 alongside co-writers Cory Batten and Micah Wilshire. "Then I showed it to my girlfriend [country artist Kylie Morgan], and I knew I just had to respond to it."

Don Caskey, Jay Allen
Don Caskey and Jay Allen. Courtesy Jay Allen

Soon after, the two men found themselves at ArtWerks Tattoos in Nashville, getting matching tattoos delicately crafted by tattoo artist Louie Lopez.

"It was the first time I had ever met him," remembers Allen, whose heartbreaking song "Blank Stares" went viral back in 2018, serving as a tribute to his mother who was battling Alzheimer's disease at the time (she died in 2019). "At first, I thought the whole experience was going to be heavy and somewhat depressing, but I walked in and [Caskey] was a beam of light. I mean, here is this big, bearded dude sitting there dealing with a terminal disease, just smiling with a sparkle in his eye. He is one of the most sincere, kindest, sweetest human beings I have ever met. This guy is an actual angel."

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The two men chose to get matching tattoos on their upper shoulders of an anchor which, within the Christian faith, represents a sign of hope and the belief that one's soul is going to pass on to heaven. As the tattoos were still fresh on their shoulders, Allen uploaded the experience on his TikTok account, and in his words, things "exploded." The very next night, Caskey joined Allen on stage as his show in Illinois to not only show off their matching tattoos but celebrate the song that brought them together.

"You just never know what songs are going to connect with people and bring on the healing," says Allen. "I'm just proud of this man and in awe of his story, and so very thankful to God that I get to be a part of this."

And for Caskey, he feels much the exact same way.

"I currently have a waiting list of people who want to go and get a tattoo with me," he says with a laugh. "The most humbling part of it is the stories about each of these tattoos. Somehow, sharing these tattoos with people around the world is inspiring all of us to keep fighting through whatever we are going through."

And yes, Caskey says he would love to get some more tattoos in the time he has left.

"People are constantly asking me, 'When are you coming to California?' or 'When are you coming to Scotland?'" he chuckles. "I would love to try, but cancer is not cheap, you know? I'm technically homeless and I don't have a car, but I'm loving life. In a way, I feel like I have been blessed with cancer. I would never have been able to do these things without it and meet all of these people and share all of these stories with them. It's been one of the most surreal experiences of my life."

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