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"Memorial Tattoos" Remember Loved Ones in the Flesh

9:26 AM, May 20, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The buzzing of the tattoo gun stopped short. 

"I couldn't think of a better way to, like, let her memory live on than if I were to make her actual being, like, on this earth be part of myself," said Drama, a tattoo artist at Black Anchor Tattoo Parlour on Atlantic Boulevard.

Drama's grandmother, Myrtle, died in 2005 but just last year he decided to keep her memory alive through a tattoo.

However, the scripted letters on Drama's wrist are not drawn in ordinary ink.  It is a "memorial tattoo," a design that includes some of Grandma Myrtle's ashes in the ink.

"That's just a very special tattoo to me," explained Drama.

When he inked the memorial, Drama thought it had never been done before, but over the last eight months he has learned how popular the trend has become.

Despite that, Dr. Mobeen Rathore, an infectious disease specialist at Shands Jacksonville, said he could not find any research on the practice. 

"It is an invasive procedure," explained Dr. Rathore.  "You are putting something in your body and anytime you put something in your body with a needle, you have to be extremely careful."

Dr. Rathore said whenever you put something beneath your skin, there is a risk of infection. 

Tattoo artists who have done "memorial tattoos" said they make their clients sign extra waivers acknowledging the risks.

Drama said he would charge more for the tattoos as well.

People who want "memorial tattoos" bring their loved one's ashes with them in a container and some shops run them through a sterilization cycle in the same machine as the needles used for tattooing. 

But Rex Gill, owner of Eternity Funeral Home and Crematory, said that is not enough to ensure the cremains are safe to inject into your skin. 

"The intent is not for it to be a sterile product that we return to the family," Gill said.  "If funeral homes or crematories knew you were going to use this for tattoo purposes, that would be a whole different procedure that we would have to come up with and right now, that's just not out there."

Drama said he was aware there may be risks, but he has not had any complications except a little fading.

"I really wasn't worried about it, you know.   I really wasn't at all," said Drama.  "I figured if anything came out of it, that was how it was supposed to be, you know.  'Cause I was going to do it anyway."

Drama said no one has asked about the name scrawled across his wrist, but the tattoo is not for other people. 

"I think about her all the time when I see it.  That's another cool thing about it is to be able to, like, remember her, you know, because I look at my own flesh," explained Drama.


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