Senior Jake Miller Has Two Tattoos in Memory of His Sister, Dannielle, Who Died of Heroin in 2014

In Memory of Boogie


Credit to Riley Witherbee

Senior Jake Miller sits with the memories of his sister, Dannielle, hanging around his neck and designed into his skin. Miller wears a chain with a cross and Dannielle’s fingerprint and has a quote tattooed across his chest so he can contain the precious moments with her from the thirteen years they had together. Miller has consistently worn this necklace everyday for the past six months even though his sister passed four years before.

Needles never used to scared Jake Miller.  Even as the needle pokes through his skin on his forearm repeatedly, he doesn’t mind it. He has a lump in his throat, but not because his arm feels  like a point of a hot knife dragging through his skin like soft butter. That was a tolerable pain. The tattoo shop’s LED lights let out a small hum, and the buzz of the tattoo gun echos in Jake’s ears. The artist breaks his concentration, telling him he’s finished with his work.  He looks at the ink on his arm. Boogie 1990-2014. The tattoo costs $150, but it was priceless. He was sitting in the chair for two hours, but it would remain on his skin forever. Needles never scared Jake until his 24 year old sister died of an overdose in 2014.

Senior Jake Miller’s half sister, Dannielle “Boogie” Durborow, overdosed on heroin on May 18, 2014. In memory of her, Jake had a tattoo done on his forearm Feb. 2, 2017.  He recently got a second one on his chest on Aug. 1, 2018.

“She was awesome,” Jake said. “She was my best friend. I didn’t have that many friends when she was alive, so it was just me and her against the world.”

Durborow was battling with drug addiction since she was 11 years old. She was in and out of rehabilitation centers that only worked for a couple of weeks. She argued with her mother, Gina Miller, and Jake. She slowly lost herself to the drug. The opioid was driving a wedge between her and her mother, father and Jake.

“Addiction is a disease that affects the entire family,” Director of Public Affairs from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Denise Farrell said. “These families are frequently fighting a silent battle, fought alone, too often rattled with guilt, confusion and judgement from other parents and society as a whole.”

Unaware that she was using the drug again, Gina heard from Durborow’s father, Glen Durborow, that morning. He had come to the house to tell the family that she had overdosed that night, leaving this world a friend, a daughter and a mother to two daughters. Full of shock, sadness, and anger, Jake was overcome with grief.

“I was angry with God,” Jake said. “It was a shocker. I wanted to know if she overdosed on purpose or if she did it on accident.”

The family had to not only deal with the harsh amount of grief over their lost loved one, but they had to balance out the feel of blame they all had on their shoulders. According to Jake, he feels as if he should have done more to protect her while she was alive.

“You blame yourself all the time,” Gina said. “You think about what you could have done differently everyday.”

Durborow’s passing left such an impact on Jake that he believes in living a sober life. He strays away from drug use, wanting to stay healthy, not only for his benefit, but for his parent’s well being as well.

“Kids today think they will do drugs just once to be cool,”  Jake said. “They don’t realize once you do it, you’re going to keep doing it.  You’re going to keep ruining your life. You’re going to put your parents through what mine went through. It’s not worth it.”

Gina and Jake have had a hard time healing over the death. They find it most difficult around holidays or her death day to cope with the loss. Although Jake has never accepted that his sister is gone, he finds comfort when he talks to his grandma.

“My grandma helped me,” Jake said. “She’s really religious, so she tells me she’s with God now. She’s in a better place than she was because she’s away from all the drugs.”

Although the healing process is hard, according to Farrell, healing is always possible and there is hope for recovery for every family. Jake hopes to reach acceptance soon. Jake uses the tattoos to remind him of her and that she is still in his heart with him. Gina knows that Durborow is always with her, and she believes that she is watching over Jake all the time.

“It’s hard because you want them with you again,” Jake said. “You just want to talk with them again, you want to hold them again. You have to know they’re in a better place.  They’re going to be waiting for you.”