Portrait of a Man


This photograph is one of the last photos I took of my father-in-law and after his recent passing, has become the most important image I’ve ever taken. When I featured it in this post a while back, I never thought I’d be needing this image as much as I have over the last two months. To balance what was, at times, really confronting to see my husbands hero… a man I love as my own father… so vulnerable as his health declined whilst trying to recover from a bone-marrow transplant, I’d often leave the hospital and look at this image on my phone to remind myself of the man I’ve known for the last eleven years. The man he wanted us to remember. Right up until his final breath he maintained his integrity, his pride, and his want to look after his family.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
— Khalil Gibran

In the moments after the life left his body… I don’t know what came over me… maybe a desperate attempt to fix the situation… maybe an act of defiance in the face of the despair in that moment, I unlocked my phone, opened up this image and laid it on his chest. I wasn’t sure what moved me but I think I just wanted to honour him… I wanted to remind his sons, daughter, wife, son-in-law… me… all crying over his bed… of the man we were deeply sad to see go. The guy you see in this photo with that easy smile, who loved his time alone in his tractor, (probably sneaking a cigar and listening to Pavarotti) tending to his hundred acre patch of dirt and walked with an ease in his stride and an openness in his heart. He was in his happy place in this image and I like to think he has returned there. I think my defiance helped… it lifted us all out of the trauma of seeing Robert reduced to just body… and able to remember the joy he brought us and the warmth of his presence.

I miss him deeply, life will never be the same.


I dedicate In Venus Veritas to Robert, a man who treated the women he loved like Queens, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his wife, his equal, and elevated us to believe we are capable of anything. A gentleman and a feminist… despite what he thought.

Heleana is a force of nature. The founder of In Venus Veritas and The Petrolette, and a co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop. Heleana shares her love of vintage cars, riding motorcycles, and (not-so-secretly) dreams of flying planes and piloting a riva aquariva (a la Sophia Loren) very fast through the canals of Venice. Supportive and connected, community is her lifeblood, and she is as real as they come.