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! 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
“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.