The Final Voyage

Oh my son my son! If only I could have died in your place.

I literally read these words in the Bible just over a week ago as David wept for his son Absalom (and the kid was a complete jerk). I remember feeling his anguish even then. Today I feel his pain a thousand times over, for a son who was everything a dad could hope for. Sam died free-diving off Mandurah. We think maybe he stayed down too long and blacked out. He was unable to be revived and Sunday around 2.30 pm we got the news that he wasn’t coming home.

I am the guy who ‘writes things’ and is able to put words around ideas so they make sense, but today my words just feel so paltry and inadequate as I have struggled to put language around such a deep inner heartache and loss – a terrible tragedy and one I can’t make sense of in any way. It has taken me 6 days now to form some kind of response.

My world has changed forever and I still don’t even know quite how. I just know that I wake up, begin pondering what the day holds and then the grief truck mows me down and takes all the wind out of my sails all over again. It leaves me stuck on repeat, remembering moments with my son, but knowing I will never have those experiences again. 

Each day there is a realisation of a new ‘what will not be’, because Sam is gone. Ellie is left without her dearly loved brother and our small family loses its brightest spark. Sam was the one who brought the joy, the passion and the rage. Sam rarely left you guessing as to what he was feeling and for that I admired him. He laughed loud and cried hard. He loved life and brought so much energy to our home. 

Heading out on the final voyage

Sam had a deep and sometimes troubled mind. He was an ‘over thinker’ – a second guesser and so often his questions were about his own worthiness – his own intrinsic goodness – which no one else ever doubted. There were few men in this world as ‘good’ as Sam – as kind and loving  as brave — he was the kind of guy you hoped your daughter would marry. In my journal as I pray for my kids each morning, I write words that I am praying for them. For Sam the word was ‘peace’ – that his brain would settle and allow him some rest. The words alongside Ellie’s name are: fun, substance, adventurous, courageous, Godly, kind – except these aren’t words I am praying for her – but its a description of the man who I hope will one day win her heart. And yeah – I did notice that I could overlay that description on Sam and it would fit him like a glove. So I pray for his type of man to one day come along and sweep my own daughter off her feet. 

His beautiful partner, Cosi, who found him, dragged him onto their kayak and tried to resuscitate him, now has to live without him – her final memories so traumatic. She is one courageous and strong woman, but her heart is shattered and healing will take time. I am grateful every day for her efforts to save him and bring him back. We love her deeply and share some of her pain – but who can feel the pain of a love lost like that?

In these days after Sam’s death we swim in a sea of both murky darkness as we contemplate the loss, but also beautiful light, as we are surrounded and cared for by so many people who love us and who want to support us. So much of our lives have been spent caring for others and being those people who help in times of tragedy. It never crossed my mind that one day we would be the ones bereft and mourning. ‘Those poor people’… are us…

On my previous blog I tried to describe as concisely as I could my deepest convictions about life and faith. First and foremost was that God is good. Just in case you’re wondering, I do not doubt that in the slightest. I also said that my hope is in the cross and the resurrection. Again I am reminded of the beautiful truth that there will be a final resurrection and we will be once again share in life together. I know some speak ‘hopefully’ of a good God and perhaps a heaven… if we are lucky… I feel a depth of confidence from deep in my being that I am unable to explain – except that my life experience over 60 years has always led me to a place of trust and confidence in that same good God. 

I know Sam shared that confidence and hope, but I am devastated that his life ended too soon. Initially I was angry with him, until i reflected on my own early 20’s where I pushed limits in every way I could. It’s what young men do… Only most of us get away with it.

So, my son, Sam is dead.

That is such a brutal thing to say or write, but that is the reality we are facing now. And it’s as cold and harsh and terrible as that word on the page. 


We sometimes describe it as passing away or even sleeping, perhaps as a way of cushioning the blow. But when all the dust has settled the result is still same. Tragic, devastating and utterly unfixable. The ocean I taught my kids to love was a place where Sam was genuinely free and able to be himself most fully. But it was the ocean that claimed his young life. Just 21… so strong, so full of life and potential. 

Gone in a heartbeat – or a lack of one.

And so we weep for the life that was lost and the future that will not come to be. For a world that is poorer for the loss of a vibrant and deeply compassionate human being who loved people and loved adventure. 

Yesterday afternoon as we sifted thru the stuff in his room, I found this poem in Sam’s journal. The opening line states ‘I belong to the ocean…’ It feels gut wrenching to read those words today, but it was actually written a few years back. It is him trying to express deep love for this most marvellous part of creation that ultimately was his undoing.

Thank you to the incredible number of people who have supported and loved us this week. Our family, close friends, our church communities, the local Yanchep crew, our surfer friends and more. We have been overwhelmed with love and for that we are so grateful. Tomorrow is ‘resurrection Sunday’, a day that will take on even greater significance from this year onwards a we wait for the day when we will meet again

26 thoughts on “The Final Voyage

  1. Thank you for this offering of yourself and your brokenness to us, your readers and friends. I know ultimately your writing is firstly for you, your own processing and then for us as you ‘let us in’ to your inner world. This post more than any other (and there are many!) is a great, wonderful and heavy gift to us, for that I’m deeply grateful. Again you led us/me toward a God of love and a life of mystery and wonder. Thank you.
    Standing with you and your family from afar at this time.
    Scott and Chris

  2. Beautifully written as always Hamo. Thank your for continuing to share your take on things with the world through your ups and downs, with honesty and transparency. Our hearts are so broken for your family, and you are never far from our thoughts and prayers.

  3. Great writing .. totally relate as we lost a daughter last year. It’s a whole new life experience which shakes us to the core…and then some. It’s so raw for so long.
    We ride the wave of grief… and it is totally individual in its twists and turns.
    Every blessing
    Barry A

  4. Hamo, such a brave and necessary thing to find words for all the unutterable feelings. We didn’t know Sam but we do know you, one of the most authentic, humble of people anyone could experience. Sam’s legacy lives on in you. Sam has touched all our lives through your brave sharing here. He is a gift for everyone who reads. It takes away none of the pain, I know, but it is a godly expression of that which ‘never happens to us’ – until it does. Even writing a comment like this seems so pathetically inadequate, but loves reaches out, and your words have always reached out (for 20+ years) in that vein.
    Love ya mate.

  5. So gut wrenching a response. Having lost a son ( 13 years ago) I can identify with you in every word of the above. The pain never leaves you ( nor the tears). Our thoughts and prayers are with you especially in’ the firsts’ ( Easter birthday s Christmas etc) because that’s when the realities of loss strike the hardest. Heaps of love to you all.

  6. Beautiful raw words mate, I agree with Scott, I always enjoy your thoughts and words Hamo, but thank you for sharing this one, it’s a privilege to read them. Morning and night you guys are in my prayers

  7. Oh Hamo, you felt your words were falling short but they embraced your heart, your precious Sam, the heartbreak and the joy of him in your life and the journey, this side, cut short. I grieve for you, Danelle, Ellie and Cozi, plus all who loved and knew Sam. Yes our God is still good even in the hard, the pain, the loss. I really don’t know how others journey those dark days without Him. Praying His comfort, peace and presence over you all and extended families and friends.
    Love Jodie

  8. Sam, you were so authentic and real, 100% yourself, and you didn’t let anyone get in the way of that. I have a lot of respect and admiration for that. Never a dull moment around you Sam, I’ve been reflecting on the last time we hung out properly, bunking together whilst volunteering at the Margaret River Pro a few years back. So many laughs (you had a very loud laugh), surfing our brains out when we were meant to be cleaning portaloo’s! To hear that you’d often overthink your ‘goodness’ baffles me. I guess that shows just how much caring for others meant to you. Gone way too soon. Until the day we hang again Sam, when all is made right, rest easy mate.

  9. Oh Andrew.

    The pain you are all dealing with is unbearable. To soak in these words or Good Friday is overwhelming.

    I did not know Sam but I have been following your journey for years. I have loved watching you all live life to the fullest and I have been challenged over and over by your musings. The way you share your life with us is truly a gift.

    The love you have for the Lord is evident and the way you wrestle with it is inspiring.

    I personally have been challenged by your writings as I continue to seek God on my own journey. The way you share His word with us and your “out of the box” views have inspired me to dig deep in His word.

    You have so much empathy and grit and you love the lost.

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Even when it’s too hard to do so.

    I am praying for you , Dani and Ellie. Praying for comfort and peace during this deep time of sorrow and pain.

    You will alway be ‘“my favourite teacher of all time.”

    Much love to you all. x

  10. Oh Andrew. Danelle. Ellie. How we feel for you all so deeply. Thanks so much for this reflection. Please be assured of our prayers and any other support you need.

  11. Dear Hamo, so brave, real and godly in your expression of a loss like no other. Power to you mate and by the way; as Sam’s teacher and mentor for 5 years l can honestly say that l’ve never in my 40 years of teaching experienced such an all rounder in and out of school. No surprise l reckon l kinda took him on as a son. I shared my vision of him, it’s real. Hey, l too am waking at night crying. It’s gonna take me a while. I’m gonna tell him off one day up there for putting me through this too ha.

  12. Andrew, Donelle and Ellie, our hearts are broken for you. So brave in writing these words but in them is healing. Love to you all from Rob and Robyn

  13. Dear Andrew, Danelle and Ellie,
    Please accept our deepest sympathies.
    Thank you for sharing your heart with us.
    Our prayers of peace and comfort to you.
    Dushan and Jey

  14. Hi Andrew,
    We only heard about Sam last night and our hearts break for you, Danelle, Ellie and Cozi. We are praying for you all.
    Louis & Ingrid

  15. I’ve read your blog for many years: the quality of the writing & the humility makes me feel that I ‘know’ you, even though we’ve never met. Yours is one of the few evangelical voices that I still read & gain from.

    ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ seems such a facile & trite thing to say, but I am. I don’t know what else to say although I believe & your writings often talk about a God who is there in the sh*t with us. I pray this to be so.

    (Btw: I don’t know how you’ve written so well & so movingly in the midst of this).

    • Thanks for those words Graham – Sam was a real gem. I hope I can put words around his life to celebrate it and remember it. But all I try to write at the moment doesn’t want to go anywhere!

  16. I’m so shattered. I wake up everyday thinking of Sam, and the pain that you, Danelle and Ellie are going through. I wish I could do anything to relief that pain.
    I’m praying for you guys and Sam. I know in my heart is in a good place.

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