Matt Richell

On 2nd July 2014 my world changed forever when my husband, Matt Richell, was killed in a surfing accident at Bronte beach. Matt was a brilliant light in our lives – a wonderful father, a son, a brother and my best friend and husband. The days following his death have been dark and difficult. The children and I are navigating a whole new terrain of grief and sadness. We miss him desperately.

The support and love that has been shown to us by family, friends, colleagues and strangers has been astonishing. It is comforting to know how many lives my husband touched, and what an impact he had in his lifetime. Thank you to those who have reached out to us at this terrible time. I also want to express my gratitude to those who were with Matt on the day he died and who tried to assist him. Many people went to heroic lengths to help him – several putting their own lives at risk.

Engaged! 2005

Engaged! Western Australia, 2005

Others far more eloquent than me have written beautiful tributes to Matt. If you search for his name online, you will find them. I could have written pages and pages for him … I wish I could write more. No words I write will ever do justice to the impact he had on my life, but the ones printed below are the words my grief-stricken brain could conjure for the memorial service held in Sydney and London on Friday 11 July. They will never be enough. Rest in peace, Matt. We love you. xx

work shot

“The irony is not lost on me that I stand here before you, a supposed writer and wordsmith, now struggling to find any words adequate enough to sum up the beauty and brilliance of Matt Richell – the man I love. But I shall do my best. Forgive me if I stumble. I first met Matt in 2001, on a sunny autumn day in London’s Kings Cross. He breezed into the offices of Pan Macmillan to take-up a Marketing Manager’s job that I secretly coveted. He was tanned and relaxed from a year of backpacking and wore turned-up jeans, Raybans and Birkenstocks. I took one look at him and thought he looked pretty up himself. It was mere days before I fell headlong in love with him. His creativity, his innate sense of style, his loyalty to his friends and family, his dry sense of humour, his lovely green eyes and that huge smile … they were all utterly irresistible. I was lost in him. Our London years were golden. We were in our twenties and full of the giddy freedom that comes with being young, in love and working in jobs we adored. I shared my days with a man who lived for books and words, good coffee and bacon, pints with friends and clubbing until the sun came up. In the words of his favourite Saint Etienne song, we sat in Mario’s Café in Kentish Town ‘dreaming of all we had to live for’. It quickly became clear that he was a man full of integrity. He had a strong moral compass instilled in him by his wonderful parents. He loved his family and missed his mum, cruelly taken from him too soon. The week he took me up to the Isle of Skye to stay in his father’s house was the week that convinced me that here was a man to build a life with. Our passion for travel brought us to Australia in 2005. We spent three months camping across WA where he surprised me on Christmas day up at Ningaloo reef with his marriage proposal, a plastic ring off a dusty tarpaulin in place of a diamond. Cheapskate. And then came Jude – named after Matt’s mum – and Gracie. Our children were his proudest achievements by far. His devotion to them was boundless. He cuddled them every morning and, without fail, checked on them sleeping each night. He was proud of their every achievement, full of love for their gentle spirits. Whether it was belting out ‘Let it Go’ with Gracie in the car or sharing his favourite children’s book, Danny Champion of the World, with Jude, he was a father who was present and real with his emotions. Matt was, at heart, a nurturer. Without his tender encouragement, I never would have begun my writing career. Even while juggling the pressures of an enormous job and a young family, he encouraged – and often insisted – that I took the time to make space for my writing. He was the shoulder I needed to lean on and the ear I needed to bend, the cook in the kitchen and the neatest freak I’ve ever met. Some things you may not know about Matt: he played the guitar, badly. He loved country music and … Taylor Swift. He hated reality TV, bad manners, and cushions on the bed. He was a lifelong Spurs fan and had a sneaky tattoo on his left arm. He was fantastic to go shopping with. He championed the underdog and was generous to a fault. He rarely took the good things that came his way for granted. He was the most present and caring man I ever met. Before I slip into hyperbole, Matt wasn’t perfect. He would have been the first to admit it. He could be impatient and fiery – particularly when hungry – and sometimes he wore a certain look on his face that earned him the nickname ‘Shark Eyes’ with one group of friends. Matt was an introvert, pretending to be an extrovert. He had a big job, with big responsibilities and bearing all the pressures and internal conflicts that can bring. Within this room today, I see many of the friends who propped him up and kept him strong, even if you didn’t know it at the time. Most mornings, he woke early, slipped on his running shoes and hit the streets, rain or shine. Just this May he ran a personal best in the Sydney Half Marathon, raising money for the Sydney Story Factory. And, of course, there was the surfing too, a bug he caught quickly and fiercely. Many Fridays he would rise in darkness, drive up to Freshie and sit on his board watching the sunrise … and he’d still make it into the office on time. He spoke frequently to me of the lure of the ocean. I think it was the place he felt most happy and free. It was the place that helped him to forget himself, and it never failed to put that beaming smile on his face. You couldn’t have kept him from the ocean even if you’d tried. So while this is the very worst thing that could have happened, I take comfort from the fact he really did go out on a high. At the peak of a brilliant career, on a beautiful Sydney day, doing something he absolutely loved. In his last few days he shared sweet and poignant moments with the three of us – a walk through the park with Gracie – a soccer game with Jude – and on his very last morning, at his suggestion, he and I enjoyed a rare early morning coffee at our favourite cafe. It was just the two of us but while we sat there, he delved unprompted into a glimpse of a possible future – perhaps a downsizing of our lives after a few years, when we would retreat to the coast, where I could write and he could walk the kids to school and potter about the house and surf. He mentioned a favourite book he read to the children – Magic Beach – and a particular scene of an entire family snuggled up in bed together. He reminded me of our own family moment we’d shared like that, that very morning. Then as we left, we kissed goodbye in the sunshine. He turned and threw a last joke and a smile at me and we went our separate ways. For a goodbye you never want to come, it was pretty perfect. Matt, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Your plan was to grow old, become a bearded man, living on the coast with a favourite seat in a pub, a collie dog warming your feet, a pint, a book and a battered surfboard at the ready. I think this is how I shall imagine your future anyway and perhaps I shall live it for you instead – a wrinkly old lady living your dream by the ocean somewhere, although hopefully without the beard. I know the children and I will find you again – in the ocean you loved, the books you read, the sunrises we shall wake to and in the hearts of all those whose lives you touched. To everyone here today, his family, his friends, his colleagues: thank you for your amazing outpouring of love and support. Thank you to the many friends who have gone to such extraordinary lengths to help us navigate these dark, dark days. Matt and I always thought Hachette felt more like a family than a company and I want to thank Tim, Richard, Malcolm, Louise, Justin, David, Auriol and all at Hachette both here and in the UK for being so extraordinarily generous with their support and assistance. My heart goes out to the team at Hachette Australia – whom he loved and felt so immensely proud of – and to his father Peter and brother Martin – and to our two beautiful children Jude and Gracie. The person I most want to thank though is Matt – for giving me the most amazing 12 years of my life, and more importantly, the two beautiful little people who carry his heart and his smile within them. I am so comforted by the fact that what he and I shared really was the truest of loves. Not perfect but so, so real. Matt, I shall never forget you.”

How I shall remember you: happy, in your pjs, watching a beautiful NZ sunrise.

How I shall remember you: happy, in your pjs, watching a beautiful NZ sunrise.

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116 comments

  1. Hannah, such beautiful and brave words. I think of you and your family many, many times every day and I know there are countless people doing the same over here. Love to you xxx

  2. Hannah, You are in my prayers. I cannot imagine a more perfect goodbye, but I’m sad that you had to have one. I will slip on my running shoes in a few minutes, and as a wife, mother, blogger friend…I will run one for him. We never know which day is our last. Thank you for this piece and tribute to your husband. May you see God’s glimmers of grace as you walk the next phase of the journey. Jenn, FL

  3. So beautifully written Hannah. I can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling but your words have told me so much about Matt and what an amazing man, husband and father he was. Thank you for sharing this at such a difficult time.

  4. Hannah, nothing I say can make it better, but do know you are in my thoughts, and the thoughts of so many others in the publishing world. Kim

  5. Hannah, I have not been able to stop thinking of you and your family since I heard the news about your husband. I know it means very little in the face of your grief but I wanted to wish you and your beautiful children all the very best. What a beautiful tribute you’ve written here.

  6. Those of us who surf know the thrill of going out into big powerful waves. We follow the fear knowing the exhilaration that comes after. I’m sorry that you and the kids are left with indescribable grief. Julian Barnes wrote about it but was still left gasping

  7. Hannah, we don’t know each other, but I just wanted to wish you well. Matt was clearly an amazing man and your tribute is beautiful.

  8. I met Matt briefly in 2010 at a publishing function. We had a brief conversation about our sons. Mine a late teenager, his still very little. We shared a laugh and I could see he was so in love with his boy, so proud and relishing fatherhood. Some years later, when I heard he was moving into the CEO position at Hachette, I remembered this conversation and nodded to myself, a good choice, they got it right, I thought. And they did. I wish he’d had the chance to fulfill his promise and to raise his children. Please accept my deepest sympathy and best wishes for your future.

  9. You are strong for writing this. Sometimes writing helps release the pressure that can build up in the mind. Stay strong and keep moving forward.

  10. Its strange but I just rambled on about death in my blog and how we remember every little detail of our loved ones once they are gone. And the next post I end up reading is yours. I hope God blesses his soul and gives you and your children the courage to bear this tragic loss. I think you wrote the perfect words describing the perfect relation.

  11. Hannah, I am a wife, now without my husband also. The pain, I know is unbearable, our stories are different, and the grief immeasurable beyond words…… I’m 7 months along. I’ll watch you and support you. For me, knowing Im surrounded by people who care gives me strength..to write my blog also, for me a blessing and my sanctuary.

  12. I’m so sorry to hear about your husband.You guys must feel his loss so, so deeply. This is such a lovely tribute to him, and I felt after reading it, that I knew him.

  13. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your beautiful and heart-wrenching tribute to your husband kept blurring as I read it through tears. I hope that your 12 years of wonderful memories will always comfort you, and that your children will grow up with their own memories of their father constantly reinforced by your stories about him. Take care. I pray that you will be surrounded by the love of others at this time and always.

  14. I am so sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine how you must feel. I would like to say though that you write beautifully and (not having known either of you) I think your Matt was right to support you in your writing. I wish you peace and lots of luck as you work through this difficult time and go on to do great things in your life.

  15. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my husband and best friend 3 months ago. Life has been completely turned upside down, sideways..any way that is not normal. The pain is often unbearable, but we must go forward…because that is what they would have wanted for us. Again, I pray you can find moments of peace in your new journey.

  16. i’m just a stranger passing by but feel so grieved for your loss. sounds like you had a beautiful life with your beloved husband, memories to relive and share over again with your precious children. Your tribute to your husband clearly expressed your love and adoration for him. I most sincerely hope you and your children continue to find comfort during this most difficult time.

  17. “Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. For those who love with heart and soul, there is no separation!” Rumi

    A beautiful post in such a hart time – sorry for your loss!

  18. I am very sorry for you and your family’s loss. A loss such as yours if difficult and will continue to pain you throughout moments of your life. However as you say, there is comfort of knowing all the wonderful things he accomplished in his short years, how he touched your heart, changed your life for the better and left you a part of him that will continue to shine through your children.
    Sending you love, understanding and positivity for healing.

  19. My heart hurts reading about your loss. Your post is so full of love. Wishing you and your family much strength on the difficult journey ahead.

  20. Hannah, I chanced upon your blog. You, Jude, and Gracie are in my prayers. Matt is such a beautiful man, and I’m sure his life has touched and inspired many. May his life becomes a legacy that continues to shines through your family.

  21. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I send my strength to you are your girls, Matt is an amazing man father and husband from what you have written. I wish there were words that could help the pain as you and yourfamily grieve.

  22. Lovely, heartwarming words. Stay positive and keep smiling. He sounds like a fantastic man . I’m very sorry to hear about your loss , many condolences xx

  23. I am saddened for you, your children, and for Matt and what he will miss. Thanks for telling me about him. He really sounds like someone I would have loved to know. Blessing to you on this new journey you are now on.

  24. So very sorry for your heart-breaking loss. Matt sounds amazing and your tribute of him is beautiful. Thinking of you. x

  25. Sorry for your loss. May your memories give you peace and comfort.
    I didn’t like the page, but i do like your braveness and strangeness during this difficult time .
    RIP Matt.

  26. I’m so sorry for your loss. Remember the good times. Look up and smile, let him know you’ll be okay, hes worried about you. He’ll always be watching over you. Sending so many hugs. ♡♡

  27. Hanna, I’m so very sorry you, your children and family have suffered this horrific loss. You doubt your writing but I can tell you it was beautiful. I too have suffered loss of a husband but in a very different way. Mine was killing himself in slow motion with alcoholism and drugs to the point of our lives also at risk. We had to get out 4 years ago. There is not a moment that goes by that I don’t miss the guy I fell in love with. But our DeafBlind son put him over the edge. I hope your days will be filled with peace and plenty of sunshine. Hold on to your precious babies. Your words are beautiful as your love.

  28. I can’t imagine all the pain you are going through right now Mrs. Richell. It must be terribly sad. However, God has promised precious gold for you, more than the gold you already have with your beautiful family, daughters and your lovely husband who is waiting for you at the end of the road with his arms wide open willing to start a new adventure somewhere else in Jesus grace.

    With all due respect.
    Kristopher Philipps
    Lima, Peru

  29. I’m so sorry for your loss. This piece made me cry. I don’t know you, but one thing, human to human, be blessed and take care of yourself and your beautiful children. May you get all the strength in the world.
    Love.

  30. There are no words that could magically heal you in this very moment. There is no healing, but there is time. Loving vibes for you are being wired out to the universe.

  31. Hannah, such a beautiful tribute for the man you love so much..the words rinsed my eyes a couple of times..my heart feels for you..god bless you and judge and gracie…

  32. I am so sorry for your loss. Reading your words so beautifully written and allowing family, friends and strangers alike to share a glimpse of your life together with your Husband and two children has left a mark on me that I won’t forget. The years you had together, though far more brief than you planned, are years nothing can take away. May you find strength and love in your children, who are similar in age to my own, and may one day your pain ease but the memories never fade.

  33. Dear Hannah, I’ve been thinking so so much about you and the kids in the last few weeks. This piece is incredibly beautiful and so moving. I can’t comprehend what you must be going through, but am thinking of you heaps. I really got to know Matt much better when I was working at Orion in the UK, when he was over, his eyes would light up when he spoke of you and Jude (2009-2010). I am so sorry, and am thinking of you in this difficult time. xxxx

  34. My confidences
    to you. The first year is so hard, there is just nothing that can ever prepare you for it. You have brought so much joy and energy to your description of Matt that I feel as though I knew him. I wish you the best through this dil cult time

  35. Hannah, I was deeply moved by your story as I share a similar story! It has been 14 years, and the pain doesn’t ease but you just learn to leave with it, people is right when they say you will always have a “piece” of your love ones that will go with you. Cherish that. All the best wishes and a heartfelt ‘virtual’ hug through these difficult times.

  36. Hello Hannah. I am so sorry for your loss. I can feel your grief as I read your words. It’s a bit cliched but as long as Matt lives on in your heart and mind, he is never really gone. I know your grief must be indescribable. In those moments of pain you talk about, reach into your heart and mind and you will find Matt there, willing you on. But allow yourself to feel your grief, because it is how you feel, and it’s ok to feel that way. Talk about your grief with your friends and family. Lean on them. Write your thoughts in your blog. Whatever you need to do. Just take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. My heart goes out to you and your children. Cuddle each other often and talk about Matt. You will see him as they grow, in their mannerisms and the ways they do things. Sending you a virtual hug!

  37. I am so sorry for your loss, for the loss of a future you and Matt and your lovely children should have had together.

  38. Sorry for your loss. I just stumbled onto your blog and while reading i somehow felt that i knew him and tears just started to fall. I wish your family happiness and peace in this time of tragedy. May Matt rest in peace.

  39. Hi Hannah, my son Angus was in prep with Jude last year (before we moved) . I stumbled upon your story on another website. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband. Wishing you, Jude and Gracie much love and support during this difficult time. x

  40. I am so sorry for your loss.
    What a beautiful tribute, and a reminder to love and live fully each day. You’ve made us each feel as if we knew him (and you) a bit. A gift.

  41. I am so sorry for your loss. Your memories of your final morning together with Matt are beautiful. I hope you can hang on to those and all the other lovely memories you so obviously have, as you and your family walk your grief journey.

  42. We are so terribly sorry for the loss of your beloved husband. Your tribute was so beautiful that we read it twice through. Keep those 12 years of memories close to the surface to help you through the days ahead and in the future, may your joys be as deep as the ocean and your sorrows as light as its foam.

    Matt will live on in your children who was a wonderful father to them and they each will have their own special memories of him. We pray that God will give you the strength and courage to go through these next few months.

    From a family in Ontario, Canada who cares. Take very good care of yourself, our deepest of sympathies to you and your beautiful children.

  43. Hannah, I haven’t a connection to you or your family other than having read and loved your novel and now this beautiful tribute to your husband. There are no words to encompass a loss so great but please know my thoughts and prayers are with you, your children, and your family.

  44. I feel as though I know Matt thanks to your words and can offer nothing in return except a virtual hug and a promise to make sure I appreciate every moment I have with those I love. I am so sorry for your loss.

  45. I heard of your loss reading Marybeth Whalen’s blog~I am so very sorry you lost your best friend and husband. I will be praying for you and each time I say my Australian Kelpie rescue dog’s name (Sydney) I believe God will put you and your sweet children on my heart. Wishing you love and comfort.

  46. I have tried many times to articulate loss. I send my love and prayers for your family as I know the process continues heart wrenchingly. A friend told me once that death does not get easier, you just find different ways of coping with it. As I come to terms with grief in my life, I am incredibly thankful for your words and your tribute. It helps me understand loss in a different way through your words. A different way of finding peace. Thank you.

  47. Hannah, I don’t think we’ve ever met, but went to Roundwood with Matt. He was one of the good guys, growing up he never engaged in the pettiness of kids our age. He was calm and decent and the sort of guy you wanted good things for. I last saw him on New Year’s Eve in 2000 / 2001 when I bumped into him in Home Bar in London. He was the same as ever, great company. I am sorry for your loss – the world needs more people like Matt.

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