Sunday, May 26, 2019

Death Before Dishonour

Paraphrasing Emily’s words: 

People made fun of my “shitty tattoo”.   They asked if it was done by an amateur.  

What very few people know what makes this tattoo special is it was drawn by a Vietnam war vet with only 2 fingers.   You see it is a commemorative piece for a man that was a real father to me. He hated tattoos and said if I ever wanted a meaningful one, he suggested the military slogan "Death Before Dishonour" and he wrote the best he could, what it should look like. 
The tattoo artist replicated it exactly, I just added his initials.  

I want the world to know that man saved my life...   
His name Was Kennith McNabb...
He was the family I always wanted and never had...  
He was my rock, and the first glimmer of hope I had in my life was when I met him.

Death Before Dishonour Tattoo Image
My mother was at the Ottawa Rehabilitation Center after losing one of her legs. One day when I was there visiting her, we were out on the patio having lunch.  I looked over my shoulder to see a man struggling to light his cigarette and dropped the lighter, I quickly ran over and lit it for him... My mom realized who it was (she was a social butterfly) and asked him to join us...  

At first I didn’t know what to think, he was quiet and let my mom do all the talking.  Then I asked him a question and realized that he spoke very slow and softly due to multiple strokes he had had.  At first to look at him it made me sad, he had 2 fingers on each hand, (due to frostbite).  Aside from the strokes he also suffered he had recently had his only remaining leg amputation as well.    But the more I listened to him the more I realized how amazing this man was. 

A Vietnam Veteran  born and raised in Buffalo NY. Lost one leg in the way, then Diabetes cost him the 2nd Leg). He had moved to Canada after the war and became a Social Worker after attending Carleton University. 

He was amazing to talk to;  a great listener. After meeting him the first time I decided to start making a conscious effort to pop in and see him when I was visiting my mother. 

When he was released (and I was 15yrs old) he offered me a job at his house doing lawn work and some cleaning around the house for extra money... Eventually this turned in to regular visits and I started taking care of his entire house plus prepping his meals for the week ahead …  after always a good chat. He would let me vent about my life and stuff going on at home - he was the only person to know about my abuse and the first person to cry for me. 

He made me feel amazing like a princess, eventually he started taking me shopping for school clothes and stuff he took care of me like I was one his own daughter, and one day I called him Dad and to both of us it felt right, for the first time in my life I had someone to call Dad and he acted like a dad, always taking care of me...  

One day when I was reaching up to the ceiling to dust off some spider webs he noticed a glimpse of one of my tattoos on my back, and told me to show him and I did.. He HATED it!!!  After yelling at me for a while about it he said " Emily you're a real life solider, and IF you ever get another tattoo I want it to say "Death before Dishounor ", which he said was one of the oldest army slogans."   I told him if he wanted me to get it he had to draw it out for me and he did....  

Years later we were still as close but I was 20yrs old and I was still taking care of him and his house, except I was old enough to go to the legion with him once a week for a beer... One day in July I was on my break from work so I thought I would call him to confirm our weekly beer date and got no answer on his phone so I left a message... After a couple of hours from not hearing back I worried but thought I will try him back later...  two days passed and I still hadn't heard from him and I started to worry, he was not answering his phone...So I called the local pub which he frequented and got one of his friends to go check on him.... I received a phone call from the person I sent... He was found dead in his bed, he had died of a heart attack in his sleep... I was instantly mortified and left work, not knowing where to go I went to his house (he had already been taken) and I slept on his back porch to feel close to him.. My rock my glimmer of hope was all of a sudden gone... 

A couple days passed and I received a phone call from someone who had claimed to be his cousin. The thanked me for my services and that was it... 

I continued to struggle in the years to come with my emotions over such a loss...  Then one day I looked at that piece of paper that he had prepared for me. It was time...  I sat in my friends barber chair handed him the paper and told him that's what I want...

I finally got "Death before Dishounour" tattooed on my body on the same shoulder I looked over and found him for the very first time.  To this day I have no closure over him, but I will forever have his words on my body and will always be proud of that. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Baby Girl

Motherhood is very special.
If we are fortunate, it is a tender bond that we have experienced personally. For Christine, the bond spans a wide spectrum depending on if you look at her mom or her daughter. She writes… 

My bum tattoo was done when I was 18. It is a special tribute to my adoptive mom. My real mom had me when she was only 16. She was in an abusive relationship and ran away to have me, her baby. Understanding her situation, she decided to give me up for adoption. My real mom knew she could never give me a proper life and she never even named me. 

The lovely women who raised me worked at the hospital where I was born. While she got to hold me right away, she had to file the necessary papers and get me officially named so for 4 months I was just “Baby Girl”. 

Tattoos were frowned upon by my dad, so I got it on my bum so he would not see it.  On Christmas Day when I was 23 I got a key chain with the words “baby girl”. We finally told dad and he just laughed. I thought you were sitting and driving funny for a while.  

With my background, having a child was of course very dear to me. Unfortunately, due an earlier surgery doctors told me I’d never have my own child.  Always sad on Mother’s days and when I saw mothers in the malls, I wondered if perhaps prior relationships might have worked if she’d tried harder. Still I kept trying. I spent 10 long years trying and had given up. There was an emptiness I wanted to fill.  Suddenly I found I was pregnant. 

At first, I was both surprised and angry – I felt lied to. I could get pregnant.

It was however a terrible pregnancy. I had to have 9 weeks of bed rest, plus constant IV for the baby.  My water broke at 27 weeks “Lyra Jean” was born quite premature. The hospital was amazing and helped pull her through.   

Looking back, is a joy. I had my miracle and was officially a mom. 

While some other women might be jealous, I sort of lamented my luck. 

You see, I had no Tiger Stripes, never had stretch marks, no lasting scars.   So, I scared myself … and got the tattoo “Lyra Jean” on my ribs. It’s not just another tattoo, but a proud symbol of my daughter, my own pride and joy. 

A story gone full circle.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Beyond Cancer

So many of us are touched by cancer, be it personally or via a loved one. Hearing that dreadful diagnosis creates instant fear and panic.  Today we share the story of a three-time cancer survivor Kelly Davidson.  You would be hard pressed to find a more positive and amazing lady.

This is her Tattoo Tale.
Kelly made headlines when she revealed a tattoo of fairies and butterflies in the place where her breasts once were. She suggests her “tattoo symbolizes a transformation, my metamorphosis, like a butterfly I changed on the outside but remained the same on the inside.”
“It is my badge of honour and strength, a piece of beautiful art that I wear with pride because it  represents how I kicked cancer’s ass and how breasts don’t define who I am as a person or a woman.” 
For sure here is a lady that tries to focus on the positive believing there is a rainbow at the end of the storm. 
The breast cancer was not her only challenge. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 11. Then came her breast cancer at 28, with a mastectomy at 28 and again at 29.  Plus at age 31 she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. 

Years after her last cancer diagnoses, she is deemed to be in complete remission.        

Life after cancer? 
I met my husband after the mastectomies and he still saw me as beautiful (even when I didn’t).  We got married in 2013 and a year later we had our beautiful son.  😊 

She says she has grown so much and appreciates everything; taking nothing for granted.  Having had her thyroid and spleen removed, dealing with 33 treatments of radiation starting at age 11 plus enduring 6 chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, she understands the fear and worry. 

Her advice and wisdom to others:  
Cancer does not define who are.... you may have changed on the outside but you are still the same on the inside.... just stronger and with more knowledge - cancer is not the be all end all .... 
I am living proof of that.  

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Awakening

Who among us is so fortunate to have a life without hardships.  Many lament their challenges and cite their difficulties as the reasons they are held back, and can’t possibly take control and improve their situation. Helen Keller once said: Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.   

Here is Betty’s story, her tale of inspiration…

Most of my tattoos are related to a past filled with hardships and the victories that go with them. Many of my tattoos started appearing after my therapy in 2008, I consider myself to have been given a second chance, that is why the word ‘’LUCK’’ is tattooed on my fingers.
I had what many might call a delinquent lifestyle, filled with drugs and violence. It was a lifestyle in which I felt trapped for a very long time.  Then one day I woke with a moment of clarity.  I woke up telling myself I want to understand and change who I am.  

That is why the words ‘’EFFORT’’ and ‘’COMFORT’ are tattooed on my forearms.  I wanted to take the necessary and difficult steps to bring comfort into my life.

Life always gives us challenges to work through, it teaches us to control our demons and understand who we are, that is why I have a demon trapped within my flesh tattooed on my chest, to never forget to keep the demons inside me under control and never let them out.

Today, I am a strong and independent woman who has more control over her life. Never again will I let anyone or anything take that control away from me. I am a strong willed woman with a tender heart. That is why I have several cutesy pigtailed skulls and the word ‘’DANGER’’ tattooed on my lower belly.

I never want to forget why I became the strong woman I am today and that is why I will get tattoos throughout all of my life. Tattoos are, for me, a way to express myself just like a painter and his canvas. It is also a way to externalize the pain of each hardship.

I have learned that my actions and my past do not define me. I can change.  When I imprint tattoos on my body, I ultimately imprint them within myself, shaping who I am, and what I shall become.   
We should all focus forward and n
ever forget - why we are, who we are.

“Your strength doesn't come from winning. It comes from struggles and hardship. Everything that you go through prepares you for the next level.”         Germany Kent

“The most painful moments and memories eventually lead to the greatest strengths and growth in life.”
Kemi Sogunle