Article: Wearing the Dead

wtd2Death. When the Reaper performs his duty, many survivors seek to fill a gulf in their lives. They immortalize their loved ones, hold on to memories. Some even fashion the loved ones’ remains into art.

This infatuation with preserving memories is embedded within our cultures. Cemeteries and eulogies serve as testimonies. The Victorians famously kept hair and crafted intricate works of art including everything from braided watch bands to broaches. They posed the deceased for post-mortem photographs and wore the images in over-sized lockets.

These days, the ashes of a loved one can be compressed into gemstones and diamonds to create jewelry. Such transformations cost between $3,000 to over $30,000 dollars. Watches specially designed around such a diamond mark time for the grieving. Custom-made broaches or pendants can hold ashes, some crafted into intricate shapes. Children can find comfort carrying bits of their departed loved ones housed within stuffed animals. Fingerprints can be retrieved from a body and crafted into dog tags, keychains, and more. Companies include human remains in the crafting of beads for bracelets and necklaces, colors customized to suit the personalities of the departed or the taste of the bereaved.
Instead of remaining in the cemetery, the dearly departed have left visible marks on their loved ones. Many people use their bodies to convey loving remembrances of their departed, transforming their bodies into memorials with tattoos. From initials and names to miniature footprints and portraits, people carry their grief in this personal way.

wtd1Many immortalize their deceased loved ones with tattoos. College student Dylan Black’s ankle bears her mother’s initials surrounded by angel wings. At least once a week, Chris Blick at American Tattoos in Verona, Pennsylvania captures likenesses in portraiture on clients’ skin. Talented tattoo artist Rich Ware at Altered Images Tattoo in Maine tells of one client who carried his father’s ashes with him everywhere. Ware incorporated some of the ashes into the black ink, and now the client carries his father within his own skin. The tattoo depicts a four-armed alien hanging from a cross before Stonehenge. Said Ware, “The alien is a nod to Frank Frazetta.”

In these ways, people cleverly preserve special memories of important people and carry them tangibly, all in an attempt to thereby deal with mortality and loss.

One Reply to “Article: Wearing the Dead”

  1. Thanks, Kerry. We have a couple of key chains made with the tail hairs of a horse we loved. Not sure I’d want to do that with a human loved one’s remains, though.

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