Blending cremated remains into tattoos, creating "virtual tombstones" online and displaying "Rest in Peace" car decals or T-shirts are unconventional ways people increasingly are using to honor the dead this century, a Baylor University researcher says.
"With 'do-it-yourself' memorials, people are creating their own ways of memorializing the dead, particularly in a more secularized society," said Candi Cann, Ph.D., an assistant professor of religion in Baylor's Honors College. "Some people are alienated from some common traditions such as a long funeral Mass. Cohesive rituals may not be part of their lives."
She made a presentation on "bodiless" memorials at the recent international conference, "Death, Dying and Disposal," of the Association for the Study of Death and Society.
In research based on interviews with the bereaved, Cann found that such memorials are "the opposite of what occurs in the religious realm with martyrs and saints and with relics," Cann said. "Martyrs and saints bring us closer to holiness and to God through their bodies and narratives of their suffering."
But modern-day bodiless memorials are increasingly "returning" the dead to us through visual or virtual "replacements" that are more personal than a memorial in a cemetery or in nature.
Wearing a tattoo as a tribute is not unlike customs of Victorian England or the Civil War era, when people sometimes wore a lock of a loved one's hair or a photo in a brooch or watch chain, Cann said.
"People simply want to carry the dead with them," she said. "They see a tattoo as forever."
Generally, it's young people who get tattoos to express grief, Cann said. "Often, they choose one of their grandparents that died, because that's their first loss."
Some go so far as to blend cremated remains with tattoo pigment, although medical experts advise against the practice, and many tattoo artists refuse to do them to avoid legal complications.
|Contact: Terry Goodrich|