Grief and camellias.

Yesterday I turned down my street and was greeted by a perfect pink camellia lying upright in the middle of the road. It looked almost as if someone had carefully placed it there, floating in a circle of green leaves on the black road glossy with the recent rain.

“Hi Dad.” I whispered aloud to myself in the car. “What are you doing here?”
See, I take random camellias as a sign. My dad loved them and in turn I grew up in a home surrounded by forests full of them. They adorned my father’s coffin in 1999 and I carried a bunch of them as my wedding bouquet in 2004.
Camellias are special to our family. Despite my non-religious sensibilities, I do occasionally see them as a little message from what I don’t know for sure does or does not exist.
I had not experienced a sign for a long time until yesterday. It was 11:30am in Melbourne. What I certainly could not know was that on the other side of the world my nephew Ian was spending his last two hours or so on this earth.

As word of my nephew’s sudden death finally reached me at midnight, I could only react with shock and sadness. I lay awake for a while fixated on the worry that he was alone at the time of his accident. I had forgotten about the camellia until this morning and I can only hope that my dad dropped it on his way to meet Ian. That Ian was not alone in the end in a way that is not for us to understand yet.

I know these next images are from a childhood long ago lived up, but we adults are simply people grown around the children we were.


You always called me aunt Rachel like it was a very special title that deserved respect, not just because I was born the sister of your dad. Even when you towered over me as a grown man, you still called me aunt Rachel. I never once doubted that you loved your aunt Rachel and kid, aunt Rachel loved you.

You were really one of a kind and while I am pretty sure you did not find life easy, with every struggle you always had a smile. An absolutely glorious smile. That smile got you out of a lot of trouble. Probably more often that I would want to know. Eternally cheeky, you were a challenge to babysit… Truly one of those spirited children they write books about how to raise. But you were you. Even when people wanted you to be someone else, even when you were trying to figure out who you were meant to be… you were you. I was pretty sure that you grew that characteristic into a strength perfected over your short twenty four years. Shit, it is almost your birthday. You did not even make a quarter of a century. That is so unfair.

I see a little bit of you in my own son…the final grandchild. I was excited for my kids to have so many cousins to look up to even if they were far away. I will make sure my kids never forget you. They fell in love with “cousin Ian” last year in the brief amount of time they had with you. We all did. No matter how long that time was, it was too short and we all loved you. You gave so much. You lived like you knew.


This is such a strange way to say goodbye, but it is all I have. I never thought about how I would write this, it just came pouring out. These are certainly not the most lovely and ordered words that I have written, but I expected you to outlive me, not to leave us all behind. There is no time for rewrites; I already regret the things I did not say. We will miss you forever. Our family set is broken. The grandchildren eleven is now just ten. Even someday when time mends this gaping hole in our hearts, it will be sore and scarred. The phantom pain stinging sadly of something big and important that is gone.

I hope there is another side to this life and that you were not alone. And I hope that if there is another side, when it comes my time to cross through, you will be there with that gorgeous smile. I really want to believe that I will see it again.

16 comments
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  • Nancy - tears streaming down my face, such beautiful heartfelt words. sending hugs dear rachel xxJune 9, 2017 – 3:39 pmReplyCancel

  • Amelia - Sending my love to you and your family, Rachel. You may think what you’ve written is not perfect, but they are honest and true and that is even better than perfect. My heart aches for your sudden loss, and thank you for sharing.June 9, 2017 – 4:34 pmReplyCancel

  • Christine - Oh, Rachel. What beautiful love and a tragic loss. My heart goes out to all of you. Wishing you comfort & grace in the time ahead.June 9, 2017 – 4:55 pmReplyCancel

  • Karan - There’s no doubt Ian loved his aunt Rachel. And, that aunt Rachel and the family loved Ian with the whole of their hearts. I hope that this love will give you all strength as you navigate the sadness ahead. Much love.xJune 9, 2017 – 8:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Angela - I am sorry for your pain. It certainly does not seem right or fair to lose someone so loved and so young. I am sure your dad was waiting for him as one day they will wait for you.June 9, 2017 – 8:42 pmReplyCancel

  • Lucy - Oh Rachel – I can’t even express how incredibly sorry I feel for you and your family. Your nephew sounds like such an amazing person – taken far, far too soon. Sending all my love to you. XxxxJune 9, 2017 – 8:42 pmReplyCancel

  • Sharlene - Oh, Rachel. I’m so sorry for your loss. This hit so close to home, as your nephew would be so close in age to my youngest sister – 25 this month. I just can’t even imagine.
    When my grandpa was sick in hospital with cancer, in what we knew were possibly his last few days with us, my Aunty asked him whether he was looking forward to seeing his brothers who had passed before him, to which he replied “Oh, I’ve already seen them.” I am certain that your nephew wasn’t alone. Even though it doesn’t dull the pain of your loss, I’m glad you can take some small comfort from that sign from your dad 💙June 9, 2017 – 9:23 pmReplyCancel

  • David - Thank you for those beautiful thoughts, Aunt Rachel. I am devastated, but I have tried to find comfort thinking of him with his grandaddies. I will live every last day in honor of Ian.June 9, 2017 – 9:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Robin Devine - Rachel, thank you. I love this. I love you and I love and miss Ian. We are in shock.June 9, 2017 – 10:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Whitney Dixon - I shared this for some of my friends that are hurting. David is my friend….Traci and I have been best friends since high school….Ian’s passing has been heart wrenching…they live down the street and we see them a lot…. I wish I had known Ian better and I hope to meet you one day….Your words were perfectly beautiful. I cried my eyes out as I read it. Thank you for sharing such a personal thing with us🙏💔👏❤️👍June 9, 2017 – 11:44 pmReplyCancel

  • Lindsey Applegate - He sounds like an amazing young man. Such a horrible and sudden loss for your family. Your words were beautiful. My love and prayers to you and your family during this tragic time.June 10, 2017 – 12:54 amReplyCancel

  • Keating Hurd - With tears streaming down my face, I pray for you all. Words cannot express the sadness. I had a crush on him just threw pictures because he looked just like the young man I had a crush on so many years ago. Please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers.June 10, 2017 – 1:37 amReplyCancel

  • Barbara Stafford - As I read this the tears started flowing as they are now. He was a very special man with a heart of gold. Loved life children and adventures. He is now an angel looking above us, and wouldn’t want us crying he would want us to stay strong be positive we will see him again. And celebrate his life not be depressed. My love thoughts and prayers are with you, Mr David Devine, Mrs. Robin Devin’s, kellam Devin’s, your entire family and All his friends. He was and still is a very very loved soul💗💗💗💗💗💗June 10, 2017 – 3:13 amReplyCancel

  • Bree - I’m so so sorry for your loss and my thoughts are with you and your family. I do believe your dad was there to greet your nephew who sounds like he was a wonderful young man in your beautiful, honest, heart-wrenching tribute. I was moved to tears.June 10, 2017 – 4:08 pmReplyCancel

  • Robin - I’m so very sorry. That just sucks.June 11, 2017 – 3:37 amReplyCancel

  • Tess - Rachel- how could you find words at all? I can’t find words to say how beautiful this was to read …but the pain you and your family feel… words can’t express that grief. My son isn’t much older than Ian and the heartbreak must be unfathomable. My heart goes out to you and the kids and your brother and family. What an absolutely gorgeous young man- his soul really does shine through in those smiles. All my love. XoJune 12, 2017 – 8:30 pmReplyCancel

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