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Dead Things, Part 5: Framing Dead People.

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skin

Author: Kara Mae Adamo.

Okay. I’m coming out of retirement.

Here we go…Dead Things No. 5: Framing Dead People.

I have tattoos.

I love them. Contrary to everything every bigotted “how things are supposed to be” naysayer has said, I have never once regretted a single solitary drop of ink on my skin.

Now, I’m not covered head-to-toe. I will actually be getting my third and fourth tattoos at the end of this month and, with the exception of the sizable daisy dripping its way down my rib cage, none of them are very big. They are, however, very personal. They are small bits of art that allow me to exist as a walking canvas and that notion alone is poetic enough to make me eager to continue gathering them here and there.

Right now I have two: one of them is a small [used to be yellow] rose on the right side of my neck just under my ear. That tattoo is symbolic of my love for my mother. I was always a daddy’s girl and I was unfair about it when I was younger. I claimed my Sicilian heritage and sort of disregarded the other half of my ethnicity. By 19, I realized that I had become hurtful. The yellow rose was my mother’s father’s favorite flower and, after his death, it became the family’s flower. It shows up at weddings and funerals and holidays…and so that tattoo is for her. It’s my tip-of-the-hat to a wonderful person that, for the first nearly 20 years of my life, I was unfair to.

The second is that giant daisy. My mother, my sister, and I all have the same daisy. They put theirs on their foot but, since I have a sort of psychological block about people touching my feet, I put mine on my ribs. They are, with the exception of stem placement, identical.

My third will be a semicolon turned into a butterfly and my fourth will be a scripted phase reading, “Dance in the Chaos.”

All things I will always cherish.

But, as with my initial Dead Things posts so many years ago, I still must beg you all: please, for the love of all that is holy or sacred or whatever, Don’t keep my tattoos.

Burn them with me.

A question for those interested in this…er…practice: Do you keep your scabs?

Are you that guy? The one that took Goldmember’s habits to heart and thought, “yanno…I bet that makes a wicked collection”?

Because, if you are, please tell me…so I can delete you from my Facebook…or my twitter…or my phone…wherever we are connected.

I find it creepy enough when people collect butterflies and pin them behind a frame. Like…that thing used to fly around. It saw stuff and probably had little fluttering opinions about things…and now it matches your wallpaper.

For realzies: stop it.

Obviously, I am bringing this up for one reason and one reason always: people are already doing this.

Let me put this in perspective for you.

When I first got my rose tattoo, I lived at home with my parents.

As it was healing, it would scab over and them the scab would fall off. As you could imagine, since my skin was permanently dyed in that particular area, the scabs were colorful.

One day, to my sadistic delight, an entire green leaf scabbed over and came off intact. It was even in the shape of the leaf and had the line work and everything!!

My dad jumped about three feet when I showed him.

I giggled with glee.

Flaying a dead person and fitting their tattoo behind glass is exactly the same thing. You are torturing them after death and then preserving them. It’s worse than a wax museum.

Although, the notion does beg some questions.

Alternative Textiles

I am curious about the opacity.

Do you cut out a full layer so that the colors are vibrant, or do you only shave them off like the dermatologist does when he’s removing questionable moles? If that’s the case, does that mean that they are transparent and, as such, that light shines through? Could you turn them into little stained glass ornaments? I bet you could make a solid lampshade out of your loved ones after enough of them have passed.

Tiffany Lamps may have met their match.

The former PETA member in me is wondering if some crazy person is willing to make them into cool patches for a jacket or jeans. It’s sort of the same as wearing leather, right? It’s just pre-decorated.

But enough of that: let’s focus on the current trend: fitting them behind glass against a black background as if they are fine art.

Preservation

In order to preserve my tattoos (which, in case I needed to specify, are on my living skin), I generally use unscented lotion. Technically, when I go out into the sun, I am supposed to use baby suntan lotion because it offers extra protection and prevents the ink from fading out compared to the rest of my skin. If you are keeping the dead person’s skin, do you continue to, (pardon me, but I can’t help the reference) put the lotion on the skin? Do you use Aveeno? If you’re about to move and you’re transporting the skin during daylight hours, do you apply Coppertone? What SPF is recommended for dead skin? What if it shrivels up like the old people at the beach?

Which brings me to the next topic:

Appraisals

Recently, my parents came to visit me. While we ate dinner, they tuned into The Antique’s Road Show. Some of the stuff on there looks like complete garbage, but it’s worth a lot of money. A lot of different things go into such an appraisal. For one thing, if the piece is in good shape, it is worth a lot more. If the Scab Art is shriveled up, does that mean it’s worth less money, or does that mean it’s older and thus worth more? I assume that, provided said Scab Art is from a famous person, it would be worth more…but what if the tattoo was in bad shape at the time of death? Does that prove authenticity and then, converse to any original train of thought, raise the price? Do they run DNA tests?

Many tattoos are garbage artistically speaking. If the image was not a part of your loved one’s skin, would you still frame it? If the answer is no, then I need you to rethink your reasoning. What you are really doing is keeping their skin.

Look up the episode of Dexter called Finding Freebo. It’s from the third season…I think it’s like the second episode or something. You, skin collector, are Freebo. And you’re Goldmember. All of that.

But, then again, despite being a professional artist, I seldom have any grasp on current market trends. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a prerequisite for the job. Perhaps there will be Dead People Tattoo exhibits soon…in which case a whole other topic comes into play:

Documentation

Do you offer a small index card off to the side detailing the artist, the skin’s former owner, and the date of death?

What if you don’t know the meaning behind the tattoo? Is it up to interpretation? Do you place a quote from the dead person?

There are so many genres. I could open a whole museum. Can you imagine curating the show?

Do tattoo screw-ups have their own category?

Will tramp stamps and arm bands of fake tribal crap and Koi fish on arms be less in-demand because they are so popular?

What about those terrible attempts at portraits? Will they be considered kitchy in that B-movie way and, thus, more sought-after? If you can provide the original photograph, will that up the price the way a signature does? Or is it like when I write a note in the books I sign…making the tattoo too personal and, thus, lowering the value?

Here I thought I would just have to live with my tattoos until I drop. Now I really am a walking canvas…fresh and ready for me to kick it so I can be hung on a wall.

Ooo! I know!! I’ll get realistic looking butterfly tattoos. Then, when my future children have them cut out of my arm or whatever, they can put them behind glass and can just tell people they collect butterflies. Now they won’t seem like such complete and utter creepers.

There. I fixed it.

As always, in case you guys think I’m full of it, here is the link:

https://savemyink.com/

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Dead Things, Part 4.

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Author: Kara Adamo.

I thought it was over.

It had been years. I was sure we had moved past this. I was older…wiser.

I had written 3 Dead Things installments. I had done my part.

I even left…fled through the night and wound up landing 5,000 miles from home so I could recuperate. High up in the mountains, the Dead Things stories were but a memory…a faint shadow in the back of my mind.

So firm was my belief in these delusions that I managed to convince myself to float back down to my swamp and get on with life. I had a clear head. I could press forward with reckless abandon.

And then, just when I had brewed some tea and sunk myself down into my chair, I made a horrible, derailing mistake.

I went online.

Dearly Missed, Long-Lost Readers, it is my most unfortunate and regretful displeasure to present to you…

Dead Things, Part 4. 

When I was a toddler, my parents decided I was lonely.

I say it this way because I am fairly certain that all toddlers talk to themselves and that my parents were merely casting their desire for a second-born on to their unknowing daughter in a fervent attempt at rationalizing a possible replacement. Or maybe they just were in a phase where they liked babies.

Or they wanted a backup.

Either way, I ended up with a little sister I lovingly call Rickie.

Wonderful as this is, when Rickie was born some of the adults in my life realized how traumatic such an ordeal would be for a three year old. As such, I was given a gift. It was a stuffed lamb that I cleverly named Lamba.

Lamba was a boy—my male twin, to be exact—and he had his own voice in a weird accent nobody has ever heard before or since.

Lamba is the toy I clutched as I slept.

Rickie had a butterfly blanket.

I know many other children who had dolls or teddy bears that served very much the same purpose. They are inanimate best friends that comfort you as you slip off to that weird little dream land every night.

As adults, we generally lose our necessity for these objects. They become cherished knickknacks on our shelves or are hidden away in trunks and attics.
We learn to clutch our pillows—or perhaps a pet. Eventually, we find other adults with which to co-sleep. Cuddling becomes the adult version of clutching a teddy bear.
If you are an adult who still clutches their teddy bear, please don’t tell me. It is better that I never know. I like my delusions, remember?
But even if you are—for arguments sake—one of those strange grown people that still requires that little bit of comfort to ward off the boogie man…my assumption is that this toy or blanket or whatever has, in some corner or other, a tag bearing a name brand.
Or it is something that your auntie sewed you…or at least it is full of plush and polyester.
My assumption, dear friends—and forgive me if I am assuming without cause—is that your object of choice is not full of the rotting, decomposing organs of your former husband.
In Belgium, there lives a woman whose choice was exactly that. For a year.
We do not know her name, but we do know his. Marcel H. was 79 years old when he died of what is thought to have been an asthma attack. His wife, stricken with grief, chose not to say anything to anybody.
Instead, she cuddled this slowly mummifying corpse until her rent was late enough times in a row for authorities to wonder what was going on.
Naturally, this poses a few questions for me.
1. Why Did Nobody Report the Smell?
I am no pathologist. I have delved into many different studies in my time, but that one never made the list. I am a big baby with a weak stomach and I could never psychologically handle the idea of dissecting frogs in biology.
But I do know that things smell when they start to rot. Despite the smell emitting from this flesh covered insect trap, neighbors never reported anything strange. I would like to know why.
Was their place already that bad? Could they have been possible contesters for the show Hoarders? Did he smell that bad before he died?
I imagine cracking a window would not have cut it. Perhaps she owns a thousand scented candles that she burns all at the same time. I know that those little wax cones work really well for my shoe closet. Maybe that did the trick.
2. Was He More Pleasant to Sleep Next to Post-Mortem?
People have strange sleeping habits. My sister used to kick like a jackrabbit in her sleep when we were kids. It was astounding. She would jolt her legs back and thump like a character in Bambi until the wee hours of the morning.
She may still do it. I refuse to find out. I am a bruiser.
Then there is my best friend, Kelli. Kelli is a terrifying sleepwalker. She lives an entire second life completely unconscious. You will wake up and she will just be staring at you from glossed over eyes, just murmuring to herself in her sleep. Stephen King should really look into making a character based on it. Frightening stuff.
I think I drool.
No—that’s incorrect. I know I drool. I am not a salivating Labrador or anything like that, but I definitely give most toddlers a run for their pacifiers.
Which is strange, given my thing about spit, but that is neither here nor there.
Perhaps Marcel was a wretched snorer like my grandfather or my great aunt. Maybe the neighbors never reported anything because they were so overwhelmed by the sudden quiet that they merely counted their lucky stars-er-sheep and called it a night.
Perhaps he was one of those people that talks in their sleep. Nothing is more terrifying, if you think about it. There you are, reading a book, and then suddenly the person next to you starts babbling about unicorns and spaghetti monsters. It does not matter if they have done it for years. It’s spooky every single time.
So maybe she simply relished in the fact that, finally, he had shut up.
But of all of the things people do when they sleep…kicking, sleep walking, drooling, talking, snoring, etc…one thing seems to be relatively consistent.
Usually, they are breathing.
3. Did You Ever Worry About Pissing Off His Ghost?
As an adamant nonbeliever, I am not necessarily suggesting that this could actually happen. But, as an adamant nonbeliever in any certainty beyond the lack of someone’s pulse meaning death, I am also not tossing the idea aside completely.
As we have already established, I clearly know nothing.
While there has been a separation of Church and State in Belgium since the drafting of their constitution in 1831, there is still a predominate sway toward a life of faith. 71.51% of the population considers themselves Christian. In fact, aside from a mere 22.31% that claims either atheism or agnosticism, everyone else seems to believe in some sort of after life.
It seems logical that this little 70-something year old woman probably falls in that category.
I never knew Marcel, but I know that if my significant other was clingy enough to clutch my stagnant, smelly, rigid corpse every night, I would have a few choice words for him.
Then again, I am not always a huge fan of extended cuddle time, anyway. At first, sure, but throughout the night I am likely to kick myself free. Eventually, I get claustrophobic.
Anyway,
Since this is my fourth issue of the Dead Things saga, I guess I now have to be on the alert. Evidently, I had not heard it all…and I probably still haven’t.
So I have decided that we, as a group, need to set a series of ground rules. For those of you who will not understand my references, I will be turning each of these rules into hyperlinks to the corresponding Dead Things story. We shall call this list The Dead People Rules.
  • Dead People Rule Number 1.
  • We do not eat dead people. We are not cannibals. If they are cremated it does not mean that they are well-done. Under no circumstances is another person, dead or alive, to be literally consumed by a loved one or stranger. You are not a vulture. Go to the supermarket.
  • Dead People Rule Number 2.
  • We do not ride around with dead people. They are dead. Let them rest. This is not a real-live remake of Weekend at Bernie’s. And leave their credit card alone. It is still stealing. Let the government take care of that. They hate competition, anyway.
  • Dead People Rule Number 3.
  • We do not wear dead people. This includes Buffalo Bill psychopaths as well as the unfathomably creepy people who pay money to turn their loved ones into jewelry. I do not care how well those earrings set off your eyes and your outfit. If it used to gasp, do not add a clasp.
  • Dead People Rule Number 4.
  • We do not sleep next to dead people. I am freaked out by seeing a corpse in a casket. I cannot imagine viewing one as a teddy bear.  Plus, as I hinted earlier, within a week it starts to mummify and bugs start crawling around inside. The only time that is ever cool is in the old 1990s cult classic, Beetlejuice. I do not care how many awesome pairs of striped tights you own; you will never be Lydia Deetz.
  • Dead People Rule Number 5.
  • Necrophilia. I will not blog about it. Just don’t do it.
So I hope that five is enough for now, but at this point I have learned my lesson. I realize now that having my guard down is a fool’s mistake.
So, dear ones, until next time…
Sweet dreams.

Dead Things, Part 3.

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You know what I like about that movie? It's a movie.

Author: Kara Mae Adamo. 
Okay, now I’m just upset.

This is relatively “old news,” but I’m going to complain about it anyway.

My last two “Dead Things” blogs revolved around the disposal (or the lack thereof) of peoples’ remains. Apparently, ashes make a great snack when you’re not wearing them around your neck and matching them with bracelets and high heels.

At least, at that point, we’re really just dealing with charred carbon. It all turns intoplant food anyway, right?

But what about before all that?

Death freaks me out. It’s not the people disappearing part—I’ve kind of squared with that one for the most part and, with a few exceptions, I know I’ll generally always be able to handle it.

I have this huge secret paranoia that I, at some point in time, am going to be stuck with a corpse.

I’ve felt it coming since I was a youngster—searching the elderly with a wary and distrusting eye, always convinced that if I let my guard down they were going to stroke out right there in front of me.

I’m fairly certain it has something to do with growing up in a retirement-focused town where we played yahtzee and went golfing and bowling as teenagers.

Either way, it’s always lurked in the back of my mind. Some soothsayer part of me also must have known I was going to accumulate some terrible karma in the next ten to fifteen years, too, because I was also always worried I’d be blamed for said demise.

Moving on.

Evidently, this fear is not shared by everyone (probably not even most). In the case of Robert Young and Mark Rubinson, being stuck with a corpse appeared to have been the coolest thing since sliced bread.

Please allow me to explain why.

So Young was a 43-year-old dead-beat living with his old college buddy (Jeff Jarrett…more about him in a minute). He’d recently fallen on hard times and began couch surfing with Jarrett to get through it while partying it up with 25-year-old Mark Rubinson.

So at some point, Jarrett stops moving around and talking. Young, in a streak of brilliant observation, decides something is probably wrong and makes a phone call.

Here is where paranoid-me would stray from his path: would have called the cops and made them fish a corpse out from the couch or lazy boy or what-have-you because Idon’t like touching clammy things—especially clammy things that once had a pulse and are suddenly lacking one.

Young and I, as it turns out, are different people.

Instead of calling the cops or even a freaking relative, Young called Rubinson (who was just finishing up a shift at the bar he worked at). I’m sure you can already imagine this, but Rubinson did not exactly arrive at the scene with a gurney.

These two geniuses lifted their friend up and carried him out of the house.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…okay, well, maybe since they’d fallen on hard times they didn’t want to pay for an ambulance…they’re still trying to get him help. 

This would be stupid even if it was true.

As it happens, it isn’t true.

Instead, the two of them decide to reenact the movie Weekend at Bernies and take Jarrett’s freshly cold body on a joyride all over Denver…on his dime.

You know one key thing I really like about that movie? It’s a movie.

They went and drank at a place called Teddy T’s for an hour and a half…then went to Sam’s No. 3. Jarrett didn’t want to go in—he was content just sitting there in the backseat of the car. Don’t worry—he was cool enough to cover the bill, though.

Deciding that it was time for Jarrett to get some rest, the two of them took him home and laid him down in his bed before taking off for a quick bite to eat at Viva Burrito and then hanging out at a strip club named Shotgun Willie’s. At some point they let it leak to a valet (and, subsequently, a police officer) that there may or may not be a dead guy at their friend’s house.

But, you know, no guarantee or anything.

So, naturally, the police raise their eyebrows for a minute or two before arresting the two Larry Wilson and Richard Parker wannabe’s for identity theft, abusing a corpse and criminal impersonation.

And their response?

We didn’t know he was dead.

I’m sorry…what?!

You didn’t—I—ugh.

It’s the type of thing where you hear it and then you get that feeling in your brain like when you eat ice cream too fast and everything blacks out because of the pain in your head.

Dearest friends, here is my published and written out consent: if I’m dead, charge whatever the hell you want on my bank cards. I don’t give a shit. But please–please–don’t take me with you. If I am dead, I am going to be in no mood for partying, I assure you. I will be silent and smelly and probably very antisocial. Do yourselves a favor. Tell the cops. I may be small, but lifting me dead-weight is still going to hurt in the morning.

Which brings me back to their response…you didn’t know? You carried him, for godsakes.  How could you not know he was dead? And even if he was passed out (explaining away his sudden escalation in heaviness), wouldn’t he have moved or had a pulse or something?

Actually, scratch all of that. If he was passed out, why would you drag his butt out of the house? I once passed out at a party about five years ago and my jack-ass friends drew all over me with permanent marker. I woke up on the ottoman in the front yard covered in dew.

It wasn’t cool then—and they knew I was alive.

Sooo, what have we learned? Here, tell you what…I’ll set up some simple guidelines for you.

Number 1: Check for a pulse if your buddy isn’t moving or breathing.
Number 2: Call the authorities and a close relative.
Number 3: Back away from the corpse.
Number 4: Stay away from the corpse.

See? It’s so easy. Just keep these four steps in mind and we won’t have to go through this again, okay?

Also: stop using comedies as guidelines for what to do in sticky situations.

Dead Things.

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I can’t believe we even have to go over this.

I know I complain about things a lot. It’s actually kind of part of who I am: someone who has an innate knack for finding absurd illogical oddities in day-to-day life. But these days, it’s not so much a “knack” as it is simply being even remotely observant.

This one has to do with death.

I’ve lost people in my life. My grandma Lillie died when I was 18. My great-grandparents passed away before her. I’ve had friends pass away and pets, of course. I miss these people. I think of them often, and I do have a small part of me wishing I had some sort of firm afterlife-oriented belief system so that I can imagine they’re partying it up somewhere else, just waiting for me to join. That’d be great. And if my skeptical side is incorrect and they actually are chilling on a cloud somewhere, I hope they have a nice cold one waiting for me.  This is not a rant about illogical religious practices. I’m giving up on that one for now.

This is a blog about illogical PHYSICAL practices. Get your heads out of the gutter; I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to the obsessive compulsive fascination people have with keeping their loved ones’ ashes. I understand keeping a watch or photographs. They meant something to you. I wear the opal necklace Lillie gave me and there is a turquoise ring great-grandma Thelma left me that I particularly favor. I get it. But their charred remains? Really? I pray to whatever the hell is out there that my future children find it in them to let go instead of keeping me in a jar somewhere. Sprinkle me wherever you’d like. It all turns into plant food anyway. Make it a nice little non-religious ceremony and get rid of me. A Viking funeral would be awesome…or put me up on pilings and roast me like the Greeks. Then, party it up with lots of booze in front of a camp fire at the beach and talk shit about my quirks until you pass out laughing. It’s good for the soul.

Do. Not. Keep. My. Corpse.

Not embalmed. Not cremated. Nada.

There is actually even a website that specializes in turning cremated pets into keepsakes. I love my cat, but like my last one, when he goes, he goes. I’m not turning him into a little knick-knack. That is his purpose while he is alive. When he’s dead, he’s off duty. I get that they turn them into glass “works of art,” but you can buy the same exact thing elsewhere for less money that is made from some other prehistoric “pet”. It’s the same damn thing. That glass paperweight isn’t going to have your pet’s personality, and so help me god if you carve its name into its own remains, I’m going to freak out.

I understand that it’s a sentimental thing to do. I do. My boyfriend keeps his old dog’s tag on his keychain. But it’s not actually Taz. It’s a keychain.

The real problem I have with the whole thing is that it screws with the entire coping process. Grief is healthy. Acceptance comes after it, along with healing and strengthening. You build yourself up from grief. It’s important. Closure, especially, is important. If you’re wearing Fido around your neck, how are you ever going to move past it?

Now, that’s the pet half of this debacle. It’s less serious and, let’s face it, crazy people have been stuffing their pets for years. This is the modern-day version of that…I get it. At least now, Spot’s not staring blankly out at you through glass beads where his eyes used to be. (Sorry, I know it’s candid, but it’s necessary to acknowledge the reality of the situation.) The other, far more worrisome part of this deals with people who are now paying to turn their loved ones into jewelry.  I can’t be kind about this. First of all, it’s hard enough to date a widower or widow (or so I’ve heard)…but can you imagine complimenting them on a diamond necklace only to find out that it’s actually what’s left of the dude in all the old photographs?

Secondly, I must ask simply because I cannot help myself, is it still considered stalkerish if they’re already dead to be absolutely everywhere they are without them knowing it? I mean, you’re wearing them. It’s like an after-death hostage situation. I know all diamonds are made of remains from plants, animals and probably humans, but at least I don’t personally know all of my jewelry. See how weird that sounds? I love Robby, but I don’t plan on turning him into a pair of tear-drop earrings so I can have him with me always. If I want sparkly conflict-free gems, I’ll just buy moissanites. They’re essentially shooting stars…or at least they share the same chemical makeup of them. And, they’re cheaper. Why spend almost four grand to make a quarter-carat diamond out of your loved one when you can sprinkle them around in cool places like the beach or out into the wind for free? When my mom goes, she wants to be planted in a Christmas Tree farm. She said that that way she’d be a part of Christmas forever. It’s bizarre, but at least she’s kept it to just Christmas. I’m not stowing her away in a jewelry box somewhere, matching her to outfits and high heals.

Here’s another concern. According to the spokesman for the cheerfully named “Ashes to Ashes” (the company that insists on pushing this bizarre though, I must hand it to them, apparently lucrative business), Each person has enough carbon in them to create between 50 and 100 diamonds. What happens when the crazy murderer types (it sounds far-fetched, but they are out there…what about the gold diggers that wind up killing their spouses for a fortune?) decide to off their “loved ones” for their carbon? It’s very conspiracy-theorist-esque (New term. Deal with it.), but it could happen. Plus, people have ransacked tombs for years. What’s to stop them from one day doing the same thing with freshly dug graves and ashes? Seems like a feasible possibility. There are those who have no respect for the dead. In my home town, they caught people sneaking into Rest Lawn Cemetery (which is for some reason located right smack dab in the middle of town). These crooks were actually stealing dead people’s jewelry. So there. It’s not so absurd of a concept now, is it? How do you regulate carbon that’s already been charred beyond recognition? This could be a whole new form of embezzlement.

But I digress. The most important part of this is that people are now finding a short-cut to dealing with death that, other than perhaps the pharaohs, I can’t imagine another culture even considering. Either you’re finding some way for that person to always be with you–kind of a sparkly security blanket–or you’re even more of a narcissist than I am and you yourself want to be around forever. Impermanence is beautiful. Accept it.

If for some ungodly reason you are interested in this strange practice, here are the two respective websites. Just keep in mind that, if Jonathan Demme directed a movie about this, it would be along the same lines of “Buffalo Bill” from Silence of the Lambs. Don’t kid yourself. It’s still live people wearing dead people. It just sparkles more and there’s less sewing involved.

http://www.petcremainsinglass.com/about.html

http://www.ashestodiamond.com/index.aspx?BType=atd&BAg=atdt&gclid=CPWzu_asnqQCFY5a7AodGQiiEw