Never Say Never, and Never, Ever Give Up

Readers of Tattoosday first encountered my friend Brooke's tattoos here (in 2007) and here (in 2008).

I work with Brooke, as well, and we often chat about tattoos. A year or two ago, she had told me she was done getting inked. But, you know what they say, never say never.

So I was not terribly surprised a few months back when she and I talked about new work she was thinking about.

Then, out of nowhere it seemed, Brooke returned from a trip to San Francisco with a fresh tattoo, She provided me with this photo, which added kanji vertically on her back:

I sat down with Brooke last week and asked her to tell me how this new ink came to fruition. Here's the story, in her words:
"My grandfather and I decided about six-plus years ago that we were both going to get tattoos. And he doesn’t have any tattoos. So, we thought it would be cool - one quote that he’s always said to me over and over again was Winston Churchill's 'Never, never never give up.' So, we thought, all right,  it would be really cool  to get this tattooed on us, but let’s do it in Japanese, or Chinese, or something, so we both started doing some research and trying to find someone we trusted ... neither one of us could really come up with anything that we felt comfortable with. So, we just never did it and then he got sick … he’s been in and out of hospitals for five years now. He ended up in the hospital in the beginning of December, so I went and saw him at the beginning of January - they weren’t sure if he was going to make it or not.
I wanted to try and get the tattoo before I went out there, so I scrambled - you know, something to kind of cheer him up and make him happy and I couldn’t really pull it together, so I just didn’t do it.
One night [in San Francisco] when I left the hospital, I went looking for something to eat and found myself in Haight-Ashbury and decided to pull over and just go walking around and I walked past a tattoo shop [Soul Patch Tattoo] and I just went in to browse - I didn’t go in thinking I was going to do anything. I just started looking through the artists’ work and the guy asked me if I needed help and I said, 'Naw, I’m okay,'  then like, 'You know what, you have anyone who can do Japanese kanji?' He’s like, 'Yeah,' and points to the girl next to me and he said, 'she can'."
Fortunately for Brooke, she had found Wakako, a Tokyo-born tattooist whose specialty is Japanese art. If you're going to have someone give you a kanji tattoo, and you want to feel 100% comfortable that what you're getting is proper and correct, she certainly fits the bill. Brooke continued:
"I told her the story that I was doing this for my grandpa and the hope was one day he’d get better and he’d get one, as well. So I asked her how long it would take her to draw it up and she said, 'ten seconds' ... She had her coat and she was getting ready to go out the door ... so we started talking about, 'all right, I’m in town for a few more days, when can you do it?' [and] when [I was] available and the next thing you know she [said] 'well, what about we just do this now?'
So the next thing you know she goes in the back and draws it up and I’m grtting a tattoo. I mean, it happened so quickly and so I was really happy … the next day I was able to go back and show my grandpa in the hospital ... he was really happy with it and loved it. The cool part is that I got it done, I got it done by someone I trusted and he was able to see it and he loved it."
And how does Churchill's famous speech translate into Japanese? Brooke told me it had to be simplified, "It’s just never give up," which was the essence of "his favorite quote that he used to say to me all the time.”

Unfortunately, Brooke's grandfather, Bill Rhodes, passed away a few weeks ago on February 8, just weeks after seeing his granddaughter's tattoo, which had made him so happy to see. You can read his obituary here. His spirit lives on in the lives of many, one manifestation being the line of kanji running down Brooke's back.

Brooke summed it up best: 'it kind of was kismet, it worked out perfectly that I was there. He got to see it right then and there, fresh.”

Thanks again to Brooke for sharing her tattoo and the wonderful story behind it here on Tattoosday! And thanks to Bill Rhodes, for helping inspire this tattoo.

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