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Ceremony to Celebrate the Life of Ella Whatman

On the eve of Ellanor's second heavenly birthday, we felt it was time to mark her memorial service eternally (as eternal as the internet is). This service was held in a location where Steve and I felt we could fittingly say a formal farewell to our girl. Many people turned up that day, a lot of people we didn't even know but who had come to pay respects and support us and our family.

Bob's Park is a gorgeous bush setting, perched on the side of a steeply sloping grassy treed hill, a still body of water at its base. The bush dips to meet the water and some eucalypts have even grown into beautiful majestic trees from its depths.

We knew it when we saw it. It is such a quiet place. So peaceful. Such a wonderful place for us to be able to return whenever we wanted or needed, to silently stand and look at the sky and trees reflected in a continuous mirror on the water.

The ceremony was very kindly conducted by Barry, a friend of my father's, who flew from Adelaide especially to be with us for this time. We are especially grateful to him, a virtual stranger before this day, and the time and care he took with us over those few days. A better pace for the service could not have been set.

I recall now, as I read it again, that I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Could hardly believe I was there. Steve held me up and Dad stood at my side. Steve's parents were close behind us. I managed somehow to speak up and read out the Thank You To Ella which I had written privately, really, just from me to her, a few days after her death. I hadn't wanted to share it at all at first. And I meant for it never to be made public again. But on the anniversary of her first birthday, I brought it out again, and I do so now permanently, so that she may be remembered as a living, breathing, fascinating soul. So that you too can feel as if you may have met her yourself.

At the end of the service, Steve's parents had arranged candles and bulbs of all different and unknown varieties for people to take home. It was a beautiful thing to have emails and phone calls in the months following, hearing from people who told us what their potted and tended bulb had revealed to them.



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Bob’s Park, Victoria.

Introduction - Ceremony conducted by Barry.

In preparing mentally and emotionally for this ceremony I kept returning to the words of Ecclesiastes: 

“To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

To everything there is a season.

This coolish day protests the summer and calls to the coming autumn.

So too, we come in protest at Ella’s unseasonable death, hoping that in these sacred moments of remembering, we may come closer to accepting the unacceptable and closer to finding meaning where it is hard to find.

The warmth of the summer we’ve had is also matched by the warmth of people’s response to Ella, and by their love and support to Steve and Kirrily, and to the extended family, to Ella’s grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. It extends into the northern hemisphere to Kirrily’s brother Andrew, and Kyoko and Mia.


Good morning friends, welcome into this place, this chosen place away from the lights, noise and machines of the hospital.

It is a special place because both Kirrily and Steve felt guided to it by Ella.

Special because it is a place where family and friends, including the children, will return.

It is also a place made special in this season of loss, by the spirit of love and friendship you all bring.


We gather to give testimony to the power of the brief life that Ella physically had with us.

We gather to mourn Ella’s death, to say goodbye to her in one sense, but hello in a new sense……. a new way of knowing and experiencing her presence.

Just as it is both goodbye and hello, many other things are neither wholly one nor the other.

Kirrily and Steve, when asked, will say “ïts okay”. But they know it's not okay. It's not okay in that it hurts like hell, and will for a long time. But in another sense it is okay. Ultimately it will be……. ultimately it is okay.

And also today we gather to let go… and… to hold on. And this is something we will continue to do in future. Keeping photos, for example, will be holding on to Ella, keeping something of her, something symbolic. But at the same time, this same act is also a letting go. We are keeping the photo because we know she is no longer physically with us. We are letting her go. It is not so much one or the other, we oscillate between the two, we do them simultaneously.


We have come together because we have known and loved Ella, either personally or through others.

We come believing all human life is valuable. We come knowing that Ella’s life is both valuable and unique.

It is natural that we grieve her loss. We have every right to feel sad, to experience the heartbreak, because Ella is loved.  To love is to risk loss. The grief we experience honours the love.

We have other emotions too, that are just as valid…. We can be proud as we recall her courage and determination. We honour the spark she had.  Steve and Kirrily are thankful for what she’s taught them in such a short time.

So we’ve gathered together today with all sorts of emotions.

In this special place

we mourn Ella’s physical parting from us,
we honour those from the hospital who kept her alive with such loving care
and who built up such an intimate knowledge and awareness of her.
We give thanks for Ella’s life,
we honour her death,
and we support and comfort her family and each other .

At the end of our ceremony Steve and Kirrily and their immediate family will remain here for a brief time.  We invite everyone else to make their way back to the table where there are lots of candles and bulbs. Kirrily and Steve and family will join us there shortly.

Back at the table you are further invited to take a candle and bulb.

The candle to take with you and to light whenever you choose, and this may be at a time to remember Ella or someone else special. The bulbs to plant in Autumn and when it blooms in Spring, to think of Ella.

The bulbs from Margaret and Ken’s garden, are a bit of a mystery dip, and we’ll all wait to see how Ella appears to us in Spring-time. We’ll wait to see the shape, the form, the colour, and wait for the images she conjures up… what she speaks to us.


We are about to hear some thoughts from some of the family, concluding with Kirrily and Steve. There will be a reflective or prayerful pause between each.

After that, and without further invitation, you are invited to express your own reflections, your feelings for Ella and her family.


  • Tim.  For Andrew and Kyoko.

We were so looking forward to the day when we could meet Ella. Unfortunately, we only came as close as shouting through Kirrily's tummy last November when we were back there. Thanks, though, to the wonderful thing known as email, we got great pictures of the beautiful girl herself and her nervous-looking, but pleased as can be, mum and dad. Like all of you, we too were touched by the spirit of her, and by the courage of her mum and dad. If Ray Martin had done a story on Ella, he would have called her a 'true Aussie battler', That she was.

In Japan, traditional Buddhists say that newborns who pass on go to the underworld first for penance for making their parents sad - a somewhat disturbing belief, I know! They are, however, saved from this fate by the benevolent Jizo Boddhisatva, an incarnation of Buddha, who takes them to paradise. Well, I don't believe that would be true with someone like Ella - she would have a pass straight to paradise because from what I have heard, she did nothing but bring joy and a smile to the faces of all that met her. She certainly made us smile when we saw her in photos kindly sent by Kirril and Steve.

In closing, we share in your grief and offer our deepest sympathy. Love to you both, Steve and Kirril.

Andrew, Kyoko and Ella's cousin Mia


  • Kris.  

Hello, I’m Ellanor Ruby.

So sorry I couldn’t stay long.

It would have been nice to meet you all,

But I have had to move on.

You see, my soul just couldn’t stay

In a body that was so weak.

My spirit was much too feisty

For my heart to miss a beat.

To friends and loved ones, thank you,

Your thoughts are not in vain.

And to my extended family,

Please, do not feel pain.

And lastly, to Mummy & Daddy,

How can I thank you for your love?

Your strength and courage enhanced me,

You cloaked me in your love.

I promise you Mummy and Daddy,

I’ll never be far away,

I have known the love from both of you,

How could I stay away?

But now it’s time for me to rest,

Release me for I must depart,

I am journeying to a quiet and beautiful place,

Deep inside Mummy & Daddy’s hearts.

And there they will hold me forever,

Wrapped safely in their loving arms,

So any time you think of me,

You’ll know I’ve not gone far.



  • Barry.  For Margaret and Ken.

Thank you Steve and Kirrily for bringing Ella into our lives.

Our little granddaughter Ella was only here for a short time, but will always be in our hearts forever.

Our love as always,

Margaret and Ken.



  • Kirrily.

Thank You To Ella

Thank you for coming.
Thank you for arranging this meeting.
Thank you for your chubby cheeks and all that hair!
Thank you for responding to us differently to show us you really do know
who we both are – for relaxing your face and sucking on your tongue when
mummy held you and for actively listening, feeling your mouth and
sucking your fingers when daddy talked to you.

For settling when mummy sang you your familiar songs or gave you a bath.

Thank you for letting us stroke your soft baby skin, for gripping our fingers
and for so definitely pushing our hands away when you’d had enough!

Thank you for asserting yourself so quickly in life, to give us a glimpse into
how determined and gutsy and real you are.

Thank you for your uniqueness, which makes you so special.

Thank you for making your caregivers at the hospital laugh. Some of them were a bit surprised
at your “feistiness” and we love that you “asserted” yourself with them!

Thank you for your magnetic attraction – many people have expressed
how interested they were in you after meeting you only once.

Thank you for your eye contact with us – truly the windows to your soul.
We were amazed, awed and completely entranced by the power
in your eyes when we locked gazes.

Thank you for showing us how soft and deep you are – in the way you shared
special private understanding when we were alone with you
and in the way you caressed and explored us with your tiny fingertips.

Thank you for reaching 2kilos!
Your chubby little fingers and toes.
Your double chin.
Your cheeks finally hitting the bed with their beautiful pudginess.

Thank you for giving us hope, for making us parents after such a long struggle
and for being the best and most memorable firstborn we could ever have dared dream possible.

Thank you for joining our family and becoming a big sister-in-waiting.

You would have shared special secrets with each one of your aunts and uncles,
got up to mischief with your cousins, been showered with love by nanna and granny
and melted the hearts of your grandpa and pa.

Perhaps you’ve already achieved all that and we know you will continue to do so.

And most of all, little sweetpea, thank you so much for loving us since your passing.

We know you, we feel you, we love you and we wish you safe travels
and a place to call home whenever you need it.




Friends, that concludes our ceremony. Steve and Kirrily and their family will join us shortly back with the candles and bulbs.



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