'RIP' shirts have changed how people mourn in South Louisiana

'RIP' shirts have changed how people mourn in South Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Scott Freshwater runs Images on South Choctaw. It's a silk-screening and embroidery business with digital printing. Freshwater says in his business, sometimes customers come in weeping.

"They just lost of loved one, and they're scrambling to find a picture sometimes of what they want to appear on the shirt," said Freshwater.

The memorial T-shirt has become a part of modern mourning in the Baton Rouge Metro area. Images has a digital printer that puts the design right on the cotton of the shirt without an iron on. Freshwater says he can do small batches because he is able to pull the digitally printed t-shirt and placing it in basically a Panini-style iron, something to press the colors with heat, more deeply into the fabric. The designs usually have an image of the deceased.

Freshwater said, "They'll almost always say 'Gone But Not Forgotten.'"

To get an idea how prevalent this is, think about how we used to mourn. People had funerals, wakes, burials but that's about it. Now there are beautiful candlelight vigils after deaths, for anniversaries of deaths.

A parent recently wearing a rest in peace t-shirt told 9News, "Chad, is my son. He got killed in 2007 - the violence in the streets."

Many memorial outdoor gatherings feature balloons soaring into the sky....Freshwater said he did memorial T-shirts for one of the teens who died in that Baker shooting earlier this year.

Funerals kept death in churches, and formal religious rituals...but these t-shirts are on our backs during our daily lives...

Is that healthy? LSU Social Work teacher Margo Abadie also works with the Crisis Intervention Center.

Abadie said, "Grief are the internal feelings that you keep inside. So sadness, in some cases guilt--if it's a complicated loss, Mourning is that feeling of getting those feelings outside yourself. And that seems to be the healthy part."

Abadie says her social work students organize the yearly Circle of Support walk to raise money for the Crisis Intervention Center. And families in their grief support group at the Center walk in memory of their loved ones and they make Rest in Peace T-shirts.

"In our society when everyone's so busy and you get one day of annual leave for a funeral?" Abadie said. "That's not enough for people. They need that opportunity to keep that person in their heart, to keep that person in their memory."

Copyright 2014 WAFB. All rights reserved.