Sunday, 1 July 2018


It’s that moment which comes when you’re 37, sitting at the breakfast table. It comes when you’re 17, talking on the phone. It comes while you’re at work, and it comes while you lie on the grass in the garden.

That moment which at first you imagine must be some kind of joke. 

It’s not real, not happening to you, not today. 

After all, today is a normal day. 
You have plans. 

Tonight you’re going out for a drink, or this afternoon your mummy has promised that she will at last teach you how to ride your bicycle, or you’re on the way to the hospital to see your father.

That moment is not fussy about who it visits or when. Young, old, male, female, it does not discriminate. Like the air we breathe, it exists among us always; invisible; by its very nature visiting when least expected.

As soon as you realise you cannot ignore that moment, that it’s really true and truly happening, it overwhelms you.

Adrenaline swamps your body.

Your heartbeat speeds.

Your breathing becomes short.

Muscles in your chest tighten.

Apparently independent of your volition, tears suddenly fall from the outside edges of your eyes, yet it is far too soon to weep properly.

That time will come, but now, as that moment makes its impact, you are propelled into shock, your body and mind erasing all the centuries and subtleties of evolution, returning to its prime survival state.

Regardless of how strong, weak, healthy or infirm we might be, in its first minutes that moment is stronger than each of us, delivering identical blows to our bodies, minds and souls.

If you are young or have led a lucky life, the next time that moment comes may be your first. If, like me, you are not young and have led a precarious life, then that moment arrives with a tiny sliver of familiarity.

Experience is usually a useful tool, but where that moment is concerned, it offers only the clich├ęd blessing and curse.

At first you appreciate the blessing that you have experienced that moment before; that you know you are in a state of emotional shock, and that is helpful, because you know for a short while your mind will feel strangely empty.

Any thoughts not wholly concerned with your immediate situation will be held back.

Your body is armed with adrenaline, highly oxygenated blood and engorged muscles, yet your mind is stifled by the stench of dread. 

You know that there are all of a sudden an unknown mass of things that demand to be dealt with, yet simultaneously, you also know that while you are in shock, you will not be able to deal with any of them.

Your ‘fight or flight’ mechanism is temporarily in complete control. 

Every cell in your body is now primed to aid your survival, and the choice of which course you follow depends on who you are.

In the coming days your experience of having encountered that moment before becomes a curse, as you’re able to recognise the utterly confused state in which you find yourself.

Each time that moment arrives it is different, so even though you understand some of the symptoms, this is an entirely new challenge.

As the initial shock gradually dissipates, the blinding life-stalling fog becomes merely a bewildering mental mist. That’s when you’ll discover that your concentration lies like a shattered stained glass window at the bottom of what was, a mere couple of days ago, your mind.

If like me you’ve experienced that moment before in your life, you will know that there comes now an unpredictable and immeasurable period of grieving. Be it a death, a divorce, a defeat, or any kind of life altering disruption, you know that you’ll have to go through the stages of grief.

There are lists on the internet and medical experts who insist that there are seven stages, and an order to them, but in my experience, that is tosh.

We are not machines. Each of us is excitingly and terrifyingly different. We harbour utterly unique life experiences, and it is facile to expect that each of us will deal with trauma in identical ways.

When my father died I experienced four of the stages: shock, anger, depression and acceptance, but there was no trace of the other three; no bargaining, denial or testing.

The stages that did afflict me came as they are coming now, not in order but here and gone, an hour of this and a day of that.

Then again, as I write this, I’m aware that moment came into my life only a few days ago, so I cannot know what lies ahead. The stages will do what they will to me, and I will accept them as they come, because the fact our brains find it essential to deliver them makes me believe they serve a purpose.

This time I’ll need neither bargaining nor denial, but beyond that all is a mystery. Right now my up is down, west east, but however drastic life can be, I can always give thanks.

I am an incredibly lucky man, with a fabulously supportive family and an extravagance of incredible friends.

Their love has been my fuel and I yearn for the day when my tank is replenished enough to be able to thank them sufficiently.

Ideally I’ll never have to support them in the same way, but that moment comes in its own way to us all, and when it does, I will be there for them.

All I do know right now is that when my distance from that moment is sufficient, I will find a new peace.

©Charlie Adley

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