A few weeks had passed when the shock of suddenly losing our son caught up on my wife. We both thought he was growing as a normal healthy baby but unfortunately he passed away when my wife was at 33 weeks’ gestation due to rare chromosomal disorder.
While it was two years ago I can recall this particular day quite vividly as while we were walking my wife stopped walking. I could see how the grief had taken hold and she wept uncontrollably in the street.
I tried to cheer her up by telling her about a theory that the author of A Space Odyssey 2001 - Arthur C Clarke. Clarke held that for every person who has ever lived in this universe there shines a star. His logic is that since the dawn of time, about a hundred billion human beings have been on Earth. And by what he calls ‘a curious coincidence’ there are also approximately a hundred billion stars in our universe and some of these stars are often far more brilliant and glorious than the sun. I told my wife this could mean that our son is a star up in the sky. When she heard this she stopped crying for a moment and said, ‘he is so awesome, that he is all the stars.’
While our pain turned to joy when our daughter Sia came into this world 18 months later my wife was adamant that we shouldn’t let our son who we nicknamed Wombat be forgotten. An idea about honouring our boy’s memory came to mind after seeing paintings by prominent Indigenous artist Richie Allen. I was blown away by his dot paintings, especially those that featured native Australian animals. Quite simply, they were mesmerising.
I reached out to him to see if he could create a piece that would tell the story of our family’s journey. After I shared my family’s story with Richie I was delighted he agreed to create the artwork. But when he revealed that he and his partner had a son that was stillborn at 30 weeks after which he then also had a daughter soon after, I was stunned. While the connection we had was heartbreaking, the opportunity to share our journey through art and culture was very exciting.
“When your new Angel came along my heart was filled with warmth as I also connected to the story of joy as it reminded me of my new Angel that also blessed us too,” he told me. “I feel joy for you and your family and may you cherish every moment. I look forward to this journey and seeing the warmth it will bring your family."
Richie explained his idea for the painting would incorporate the stars and the earth and that it would be a dreamtime story. He told me that when Indigenous people look in the sky they don't see stars but constellations which are in the shapes of animals or humans that tell a story.
Richie explained his idea for the painting would incorporate the stars and the earth and that it would be a dreamtime story.
During the creation of the artwork Richie would send us early versions and told me how the spiritual healing of making the painting wouldn’t let him stop working on it all day. Since my daughter had been born I hadn’t connected with the grief of losing my son, but his painting helped me do that and more. It literally floored me. I told Richie how his painting had a profound effect on me and even though it wasn’t even finished, it brought me closer to my son.
Richie replied: “Mate I know exactly how you feel. When we lost our Angel it took a couple of years for me to accept it and go back to the cemetery where we placed our boy. I feel honoured and blessed to give this to you and the wife as a healing painting and can't wait to see the resting place in your house. It's such a spiritual connection that you reached out to me. I feel so privileged to paint that for your family. I hope that you always connect and look at it knowing that the Angel is hovering above you all. From my family to yours mate.”
When Richie unveiled his completed artwork it brought me to tears not just because of its connection to my family but because of how visually stunning the work was. The intricate fine detail of the coloured dots that represent the sky, the striking yellow that represents the earth blew me away.
My wife, my daughter and I are the three circles (earths). Sia is represented by a native Australian flower, a grevilia and she is the earth.
You can’t tell but if you look at the top right hand side of the piece you can see how Richie represented our son with stars in the shape of a Wombat. My wife, my daughter and I are the three circles (earths). My daughter Sia is represented by a native Australian flower, a grevilia and she is the earth. All those lines you see throughout all lead to our son. They sometimes vibrate and glow at night and even though he’s not here, they remind me we are all connected no matter where we go. This reflects how we talk to our son each night.
My wife and I feel even closer to Wombat due to this artwork and it has helped us continue to heal. I am not only honoured that Richie made this artwork for my family but that this experience has enhanced my understanding of Indigenous culture. Every morning I hold my daughter and she just stares at the painting, it’s so wonderful that through Indigenous art and culture my daughter, wife and I have found a way to create an everlasting bond with our Angel Wombat.
Con Stamocostas is a freelance writer. You can follow Con on Twitter @constama10.