A sign from above

A griev­ing mother pays trib­ute to her lost son through an in­spir­ing de­but chil­dren’s story

WHO - - Winter Reads - —Cyn­thia Wang

Rachel Noble lost her lit­tle boy Hamish af­ter an ac­ci­dent at home in 2012. “He passed away at 20½ months and we miss him ev­ery sin­gle day,” says Noble, 42, a for­mer ra­dio pro­ducer and voice-over artist based on the Sun­shine Coast. “My hus­band and I promised Hamish that we would honour him and love our chil­dren.”

Yet in the years that fol­lowed, Noble found that her kids were still at a loss to de­scribe the void left by Hamish. She at­tempted to write a book about grief sev­eral times but saw her ef­forts stall un­til one day, in 2014, she was struck by the idea of a float­ing feather sym­bol­is­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween broth­ers from be­yond. “I was over­come with emo­tion,” she wrote in a let­ter that ac­com­pa­nied her fi­nal work, Finn’s Feather, which was pub­lished in June. “And when we ar­rived home, there was a feather on the doorstep! It was a sign!”

Noble worked with Port­land, Ore­gon-based il­lus­tra­tor Zoey Ab­bott to bring life to her ode to Hamish. “She asked me about his favourite food and his favourite books and in­cluded them in sub­tle ways, “Noble says. “I’m for­ever in­debted to Zoey and as a re­sult of this project, we’ve be­come the firmest of friends.”

Also reach­ing out to Noble are grate­ful fam­i­lies. At a book sign­ing in Mis­sis­sippi, an 80-yearold woman who had lost her brother when she was small re­counted to Noble how she

once wan­dered through her child­hood home hop­ing it would trig­ger a me­mory. “Through tears, hers and mine, she said she’d wished her mother had read her a book like this and they could have spo­ken of him,” Noble re­calls. “She walked away with the book cra­dled in her arms and I think about her a lot.”

She adds, “Finn’s Feather can start heal­ing and open con­ver­sa­tions—it’s more than I could’ve hoped for.”

It’s also led to a new ca­reer for Noble, who has com­mit­ted to writ­ing chil­dren’s books. “To make a dif­fer­ence in a child’s life through lit­er­a­ture feels like my pur­pose,” she says. “I re­ally feel Hamish has led me here.”

And for her youngest son, 4-year-old Fin, Noble says they look at pho­tos of Hamish and he asks ques­tions about him. “I won’t lie, it’s hard some­times,” she says, “but it’s so im­por­tant to us that he knows and talks about his big brother.”

Finn’s Feather. Writ­ten by Rachel Noble and il­lus­trated by Zoey Ab­bott. Pub­lished by En­chanted Lion Books. RRP $16.99.

Noble’s fam­ily of read­ers: Fin, 4, Fraser, 8, Mali, 13, and Bella, 15.

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