The life that Reeve and Michele built and the love that they share is one that many aspire to have their entire lifetime. They found each other as teenagers and made a commitment to always be the best versions of themselves so they could be the best they could be together. Their love was unconditional. A place to come home to. And after sharing an extraordinary 17 years together, Michele recently passed away after a courageous battle with depression.
Here, Reeve shares his love story with Michele, explains the inspiration behind his bespoke signet ring and reminds us all that in the face of extremely challenging times, love will always live on.
At NMJ, we believe jewellery has the ability to hold memories, evoke feelings and commemorate moments in time - and we feel so honoured to have been commissioned to create this signet for you. Can you share the inspiration behind your ring?
The original inspiration was to design an engagement ring of sorts - to celebrate our love for one another, to honour our incredible journey and to symbolise the future we would create. Michele and I were both big on sentimentality and I always loved the idea of having my own ‘engagement’ ring. I had an ‘M’ tattooed on my wedding finger years ago so I imagined wearing this on a different finger or even the opposite hand.
It was something we had been planning together - sharing different ideas, designs and stones. We wanted to use our initials and have it designed in a way that would become something of a family crest. Our family crest. We imagined that the ring would be something I would wear every day and would serve as a keepsake to be passed down in the family we create.
After Michele’s passing, the significance of bringing this ring to life meant even more to me. I leant towards an overlapping M and R to represent our deep connection and eternal bond.
What a beautiful reminder of your forever love. Tell us, how did you meet Michele?
We both grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. I still vividly remember the first time I saw her, we were just teenagers and we walked past one another on the street. I was blown away by her beauty and she did not leave my mind from that point on.
I did a little digging and found out who she was and what school she went to and started to go out of my way each morning just to catch a glimpse of her before school. Before long, she was doing the same and we had no idea the journey that lay ahead of us. We made it official when we were 17 years old.
We graduated university together; moved to Queensland; travelled, set up a home and life in Sydney; got our Bobbie Bones...
She wasn’t just enough for me, Michele was everything.
How did you propose to her?
We were heading to California, New York and Mexico for the Christmas holidays in 2016. Michele’s birthday is December 23rd and she always found it tough that it was so close to Christmas, so I wanted to make it extra special for her.
I booked lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel and my plan was that we’d hang out by the pool, walk around the gardens then I’d find a private area where I would pop the question, just the two of us. I imagined that it would be an idyllic sunny LA day. I was winging it a bit and hadn’t actually checked that any of this was possible, but I’m the kind of person who trusts that it will all work out.
What actually happened was far from my plan. It was wet, cold and miserable - not at all like LA!!! To make the most of the day, we still ate lunch by the pool and turned out, we were the only ones as everyone else was inside hiding from the weather!
I was so nervous and unable to relax as I had no back up plan - it definitely wasn’t the vibe I was going for. We had lunch then just headed back to our hotel. I’d shared my plan with close friends in Australia so when we got to the room, we were greeted with a congratulations card and bottle of champagne. They’d assumed we would be an engaged couple by the time we got back to the hotel...except, we weren’t.
Michele picked up the card and had a look of total confusion on her face. Knowing I needed to act quickly, I literally just dropped to one knee and asked her to marry me. I was so nervous and it was so instinctual, the TV was on in the background and nothing was as I planned, but it ended up being perfect. Just us, in our room, together. We drank the champagne and called our family and friends and it was beautiful.
Your love story is truly one of a kind - you have grown together, loved and lost by each other's side since you were teenagers. In what ways do you think Michele shaped you into the man you are today?
Michele was so ambitious, so determined, she dreamt bigger than anyone I know and she was continually working towards being the best version of herself, which in turn, inspired me to do the same.
From influencing the way I dressed to encouraging me to go to university right through to helping me to be softer, kinder, more empathetic and open minded. Michele helped to shape everything about the man I am today.
Michele seemed like the type of woman who loved bringing everyone together. In what ways will you, and her nearest and dearest, continue to honour and celebrate her life?
Michele and I were very much thinking and living life as one, so she is a part of me now in every way. I feel like naturally everything I do honours the woman I loved so very much. How I think, the choices I make, the future I create will not only celebrate and honour Michele, but what we had planned to build together.
She was definitely the kind of woman who brought people together – and even in death, she continues to do this. There have been many special gatherings since her passing and there are many more planned with our closest family and friends. We’ve been reminded that life is short and any opportunity we have to spend time with the ones we love, we should make happen.
We speak about her often - sharing our stories and experiences of her - and we include her in all we do. Whether it’s a place setting, having her favourite music or flowers, or having her photo at special events or get-togethers, she’s with us always.
And obviously for me specifically, having this bespoke signet - that ultimately we designed together - is a physical memento of her and of us. Superglued together forever.
At NMJ, we have a deep and personal belief that everything and everyone is connected by love, whether it is in this life or beyond. What did Michele teach you about love?
She showed me the power of love. We've been through every high and low in our relationship but we always found a way to be there for each other, to show up for one another, and to continue to work on our relationship. It grew stronger with every day that went by.
Michele loved wholeheartedly, not just me, but friends and family - and witnessing that really opened my heart to how beautiful she was as a human being and showed me just how important love is. The friendships she had, the bonds she made and the lives she touched is all testament to this.
I’m so grateful she chose me as her person to love. I’m grateful I’ve been able to experience a love some people spend their whole lives searching for.
“I find the single most remarkable thing about love is the way it is doomed to pain and loss from its onset.
Whether it is the spouse that outlives their lover, or loses them to another, there is no escaping this most solemn of inevitabilities.
That two people would commit themselves to all of this hurt and heartache in spite of this, all in the name of experiencing genuine connection for even a moment, is all the proof I need that madness exists, and it is awfully beautiful”.
- Beau Taplin // Awfully Beautiful
Even if I knew this would have been the outcome, I wouldn’t change anything. She has shown me the true depths of love - that even in death love never dies. In the absence of a wedding ring, this signet essentially encapsulates all of this for me.