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BY JEFF FALK

Some would look at it like the body is a gift from God, and because it is, it’s perfect and can’t be improved upon.

Others might take the approach that the body is a blank canvas, our’s to adorn and decorate to the fullest of our human creativity.

Perhaps a bit of old school versus new school. But no rights or wrongs. Simply a matter of perspective.

The art of tattooing has literally been around for thousands of years. But it has never been more popular in main stream culture than it is right now.

And because sports imitates life – and art – more and more tattoos are being displayed on local athletic fields.

Drey Murray and Shaela Shellehamer both just happen to be basketball-playing student-athletes from Lebanon High School. And they both just happen to sport tattoos while they’re representing their school and themselves.

But perhaps the most important thing the two have in common is that their tattoos express deep personal beliefs, as well as the influence that family has had on their young lives.

“It was my choice to get it,” said Shellehamer, the Cedars’ junior sharpshooter. “No, I don’t think I’m going to regret it. I got it for a good reason. I didn’t get it for something dumb.”

“I don’t get them just to get them,” said Murray, a senior point guard for LHS. “I get them because they mean something. They’re part of my life. They’re part of my story.”

Murray is the proud owner of three tattoos. Embedded on his right arm is a cross with the phrase ‘only the strong survive’ surrounding it.

Murray also has a rose tattooed on the inside of each shoulder, one honoring his mother Renee Henning, who passed away when he was 11, and the other acknowledging the influence his grandmother, Roseanne Stegman has had on his upbringing.

“That’s something that’s been my motto since I was 11 years old and lost my mother,” said Murray of ‘only the strong survive’. “With basketball, staying in school and all the things I’ve overcome, you have to be strong to survive.

“Growing up, I didn’t have my mother, so obviously one rose is for my mom, who is no longer here,” Murray continued. “My grandmother has always been there for me. She’s a very strong woman, someone I admire and look up to.”

In a way, Murray’s tattoos have helped him through tough times. And in a way, he wears his heart on his shoulders, literally.

“It was obviously real difficult,” said Murray. “I remember feeling real empty. I wanted to give up, but I had a lot of family who helped me stay on the right path. For me, that was basketball. If it wasn’t for basketball, I don’t know where I’d be right now.

“I’m not ashamed of them (his tattoos) at all,” Murray added. “People ask me about them. More than anything, they’re my motivation. ‘Only the strong survive’ is a daily reminder for me.”

Tattoos can be painful, and they are permanent. Murray, 17, got both of his tattoos in Lebanon, and each cost $160.

“I don’t think I’ll ever regret it,” said Murray. “The one on my arm just reminds me to stay focused, and it’s a reminder where I came from. How can you regret that? A big thing in my household is you don’t get a tattoo that’s useless, it has to mean something. You can’t walk into my house with a meaningless tattoo.

“I had these tattoos in mind for a long time,” Murray added. “I just feel like they’re part of me and who I am. There was no decision to make.”

Murray already has his next tattoo in mind, and it too would embrace the concept of family. A shield, with wings around it, and in the middle of it the inscription ‘my brothers’ keeper’.

“It just means you’ll do anything for your brother,” said Murray. “I have a brother on my basketball team, Josh Spaulding. He’s always been there for me. Brothers are big for me. Other than mothers, brothers are the next most important people in my life.”

Like Murray, Shellehamer’s tattoo is also a tribute to a fallen family member. In memory of her grandmother, who died when she was younger, Shellehamer adorned her left shoulder with the image of a swallow holding a locket with its tail.

“I wanted to get it for my grandmother, because she passed away a couple of years ago,” said Shellehamer. “The locket represents me. She’s always with me, and I’m always with her.

“I don’t have a problem with people looking at it,” Shellehamer continued. “I think people should respect what it is. I wasn’t going to get it on any other part of my body.”

Shellehamer, 16, also got her tattoo locally. And she needed the permission of her mother to do it.

“My mom had to sign for it,” said Shellehamer. “She wasn’t OK with it at first. But I told her I was going to pay for it, and she said ‘OK’. My mom has one on her ankle.

“Right when I saw it, I wanted it right away,” continued Shellehamer. “I liked it, and I thought she’d (her grandmother) like it.”

Shellehamer’s next piece of body art would involve the phrase ‘One love’ inscribed in a way that when seen upside down it says ‘Family’.

“Yeah, I actually do have another one in mind,” said Shellehamer. “But I don’t want to get it too soon. I’m going to wait until at least basketball season is over.”

Where Shellehamer and Murray differ is the extent to which they have been exposed to tattoos over the years. But there’s no denying that the popularity of body art continues to grow.

“I only know a couple of people who have tattoos,” said Shellehamer. “Lauren (teammate, Chambers) has one. I guess I know more people without them.

“Yeah, there are more people getting tattoos,” added Shellehmaer. “I feel like more parents are becoming more into their kids’ lives. Most of them (tattoos) are for family members. Maybe our parents are just trusting us more.”

“I know a lot of people who have tattoos,” concluded Murray. “All of my brothers have got tattoos. It’s true, I do know more people who have them than who don’t. There’s always been people around me with tattoos. I’ve seen it from a young age.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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