Seconds.

What’s the most important measure of time? Days, years, decades maybe; perhaps hours or minutes? I think its smaller still, I think its seconds.

 I could get anal here and go into hundredths or thousandths of a second, the world of grand prix drivers etc, but let’s stick with something familiar to us all and just as easily overlooked in its importance.

Seconds, sometimes the difference between life and death, what could be more important than that?

We were on our way home, Elaine and I, from one of our regular jaunts up to Kempton Park antiques fair on the outskirts of London. It’s only a few minutes off the end of the M3 motorway and our total journey there and back was about 180 miles.

Almost all motorway and dual carriageway we would complete it as fast as was possible at the time.

Nearing home the dual road becomes four lanes as two blend left for Bournemouth and two head straight on; our route. A slip road joins from the left, a roundabout slows the traffic a mile or so ahead.

We were bowling along at about 60 mph in our pick-up truck, an articulated lorry moved into our lane in the distance, I noticed a row of cars had been in front of him and assumed he was overtaking.

Elaine spoke and I turned to her in reply, at that second the lorry must have braked HARD, our radio drowning out the sound of his actions; I had no way of knowing that all in front of him had stopped. Glancing back up I saw his brake lights and he was stationary dead in front of us.

I thought my foot must surely snap the brake pedal as I slammed down hard directly onto it; there was nothing else to do, a barrier on our right, cars now to our left.

I still have that pick-up truck it’s now twenty three years old, Elaine loved it. It was battered and bruised by the time she died but driving it for her was giving the finger to the whole world of shiny new vehicles designed for off-road or commerce, that never see an angry puddle or a bale of hay or two in the back.

To this day I don’t understand how we stopped. We were doing at least 60mph when I braked; the truck is bog standard, no ABS to assist. We came to a halt a flies’ dick width from the lorry trailer in a cloud of smoking brakes and tyres, the screeching ringing in our ears.

The seatbelts held us, even so Elaine narrowly missed the dash. I was so shocked I could not even swear; Elaine calm as ever remarked,” Good brakes then, on this truck”.

“Guess-so” was about all I could mumble between numb lips.

Those few seconds of inattention on my part could have changed the course of our lives, we may not have died but could so easily have been injured, what would our future have been like then?

In the hospice Elaine died as I held her hand; but which second was the difference between life and death at that moment? She was in there two weeks prior to that happening, but what or even who, determined the second of her passing from this life that we know and understand?

 Would a few seconds more for her have mattered that much?

The whole concept of time has been bothering me for some-time now (no pun intended)! How could we possibly live our lives without it?

Think it over for a minute, or a second; how would we exist without time?

The measure of time regulates our lives twenty four hours a day, every day until we die, but is it anywhere else other than here? If Elaine now exists in some other world is there any such thing as time there?

She was sure we had lived together before in the past and would do so again in the future. But what happens if I live another twenty or thirty years here without her, will she still be waiting or have ‘moved-on’ to start another life and I’m left behind?

This meandering on about time may seem a bit weird to some of you but when you lose someone that you love so much all this stuff becomes bloody important in your mind.

Welcome to my world of fretting and worrying about time; the truth is that since she died I am feeling every second that I live; I can only liken it to being aware of every breath that you take. Time is dragging for me, eight months feels like eight years; though I’m busy working and trying to look after the house, garden, cats, vintage barn and myself, not necessarily in that order, I am feeling every second that passes through my life.

And yet too there seems so little time to do things in, I suppose that’s because I’m now the only one left to do it all. The more I think of it though the more I’m becoming convinced that if there are other worlds or dimensions if you like, after death then time as we know it has no place there at all.

It might be that for Elaine we are only apart for seconds whereas for me it could be years or more. It’s a thought that keeps coming back to me, just hope that I’m right – I think!

The grief is still very much with me alive and kicking out at regular intervals and trying to catch me off guard (often succeeding); though I am learning to absorb the blows a bit better.

Recently I have been working via email, with friend and author Anna Blake in the USA to get Elaine’s book in order and ready for publication. Elaine had requested that in the event of her death Anna should have a copy of all her writings including those done for her book; this was so that Anna could finish the book for her if she died before completing it.

As it happens, Elaine did complete it (unbeknown to me) but it was not written in chronological order so there has been a lot of sorting out and editing to do for Anna, myself and others (mostly them!). It is now completed so the book, titled after her blog, A Horse, A Husband and Cancer, will hopefully be available soon.

Anna told me out of the blue, awhile back, that it had been decided to include the first thirteen blogs that I wrote after Elaine’s death as a means of completing the book, so it is now a sort of joint effort between my wife and myself (mostly her of course). Needless to say that I am deeply and genuinely touched at this unexpected decision and as I also have gotten to write the introduction I feel very honoured indeed.

I did however make one BIG mistake.

When I received the first draft copy, I read it through over a series of evenings noting corrections etc to be made as I went along; then when I finished Elaine’s writing and got to mine I took a break for a shower and freshen-up meaning to read a little more that night and complete it later.

Sitting down with a drink I thought I’d read on slightly further but ended up reading right through to the end, all thirteen blogs worth in one go.

Oh God I had not considered their combined impact, I was taken completely by surprise, and I’m the one who wrote it! Always before I had worked on and read them through one at a time, read together they were like a massive punch to the guts; a BIG punch. 

In seconds I was back there in time; that last awful night at home together, the hospice, last Christmas, our anniversary, her gradual decline- and then her death. I was back there re-living it all. It was like watching a film with myself in it and being the director also; I was in floods of tears and torment long before I finished but I could not stop reading.

I went to bed that night crying and I was crying when I woke up the next morning-TRUE!

Time stopped for me that evening; just seconds was all it took and I was back there re-living it all again, the months between totally erased.

Time may well be a great healer, but it’s an easily missed path in the darkness.

There is also the concept of ‘moving-on’ in my own good time, so to speak. People seem to like to voice their opinions on this matter but everyone has a different idea on just when this should be.

More than one thought it should occur fairly soon after Elaine’s funeral, others think in months; some years.

Just of late I have been lucky that kind friends of the present, and from the past, have invited me out for meals, drinks, days out and to see bands etc; but this all takes a bit of getting used to as it seems so weird my being out without Elaine there too.

It feels almost disrespectful or adulterous even in some way; like more time should go by before new adventures happen.

I try to think what Elaine would say to me though to be honest I reckon that I already know the answer:-

 “Get out and enjoy, every second counts you won’t get them again; don’t use me or our love as a reason to die slowly alone. The guilt is of your own making Mark, not mine. I’m just as dead to your world now as I was that Tuesday morning. Remember my words ‘I’ll leave you to carry on living for me – make sure it’s good”.

I know this is what I’ve really got to do, but it’s a bit like snakes n’ ladders.

There’s that big green snake on ‘99’ and just when I think I’m doing ok and going to hit ‘100’ something happens and I land on the bastard again and go tumbling down once more, (though maybe not so far each time).

So perhaps after all it is just a matter of time moving at its own pace and I have to go with the flow and find my own level, make my own rules.

The seconds that make up our lives, our ‘time’, maybe they only exist in our minds so we can cope with the living. Possibly that split second between life and death spells not just the end of our time but of time itself.

I’ll be back!

7 thoughts on “Seconds.

  1. It was so nice to wake up and see your post. I will certainly buy the book. Like the reflections on time…. It certainly is a weird thing.

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  2. So good to hear from you again, Mark, and wonderful to know that we can anticipate the book from you and Elaine. It’s sort of funny you mention the concept of time, as it has been surfacing in my thoughts and experiences much more lately. Just the other day, as a friend and I were “trying” to “get” some horses to move along, on our schedule, she was struck by what she called “the language of time”. She noticed that, if she shifted her perspective, there was a flow to what the horses were doing, and that they all were going to end up exactly where we wanted them to be, without us really having to “try” at all. It requires releasing expectations and fully inhabiting the present moment, no easy task, but actually simple once you understand it. Thank you for speaking the language of time and sharing it with us.

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  3. Good to find your words again here, Mark. I look forward to Elaine’s and your book. And if you ask me about grief, I’ll tell you it never ends. We may regain some enjoyment in being alive but those moments of anguish and loss simply become part of the everchanging flow.

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  4. Seeing your post in my email box made me happy, even though I knew you would surely still be deeply grieving. I am glad Anna wanted to include your blogs to make Elaine’s memoir more complete. I am eagerly anticipating the publication of the book.

    My good friend lost her daughter and she talks about the “high tide” and the “low tide” of grief. Your words reminded me of that.

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  5. Mark, it was lovely to hear from you again and I look forward to the publication of Elaine’s and your book.
    I think about my 1st cousin Elaine a lot and know how proud she is of you and your so poignant blogs.
    I hope that you have found some semblance of peace somewhere within your memories that helps you to cope more with your grief!
    Much love,
    Sharon

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