Monday, December 30, 2013

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. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Getting Involved

This is a multi-year project and I'm open to more participants.
The final product will include guys, gals, young and old.

If you have one or more tattoos with a special story behind them and you want to share this with the world, let me know. Perhaps it is a personal milestone like beating cancer, remembering someone dear and you want to let everyone know how special they were and why, in some cases it is to commemorate a special event or turning point in your life...

What I'm looking for is a very special tattoo from either an artistic merit perceptive or tattoos with a unique story behind them. An introductory video to the project can be found here (opens in a new tab)


If you might be interested in participating, I'd need a quick summary of the "story" and a way to see the tattoo(s) involved; (a clear cell phone pic or link to exiting online images is fine). If accepted, I'd provide a free photo-shoot. The shoot is 2-3 hours you get about 50 med-resolution proofs to keep and use plus your choice of 3 high-res unsigned digital images which you can use for an unlimited number of quality enlargements.

While we'll shoot the tattoo(s) of course,
I'll also include some general portrait images for your personal or professional use. In exchange for the free photo-shoot, I am seeking an interview on the tattoo stories and the right to publish the images and underlying story in the blog and perhaps a future book.

You can keep the initial story short as the details come later if accepted into the project.