New York State Funeral Directors Association

It only takes a second.

One sixtieth of a minute, a fraction of an hour, about two blinks. You have tens of thousands of such moments each day and you don’t even notice them, really.

But then, there’s that one second that counts and, as in “Kadian Journal” by Thomas Harding, that’s all it takes to lose someone you love.

Fourteen-year-old Kadian Harding was leading the pack.

He’d been teasing his father all day, back and forth as fathers and sons sometimes do, and the banter flowed between laughter.

There were six of them on the footpath through the English countryside on that beautiful day when Kadian suddenly pulled ahead, down a hill, and onto a busy highway.

It only took a second.Author Thomas Harding, Kadian Journal © 2017 Picador

By the time Thomas Harding got to his son, he knew Kadian was gone: there was nothing in Kadian’s eyes as Harding’s funny, creative, compassionate son lay on the tarmac.

How would Harding ever tell his wife and daughter what had happened?

But he did, launching a universe of grief, being unable but forced to deal with policemen, coroners, neighbors, people who know exactly what to do, and people who don’t know exactly what to say.

He quotes Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, but rejects her teachings, believing that the last phase of grief – “acceptance” – might never come.

“I loved looking at him,” says Harding, of his son. “I still love him. But he can’t love me back, and this tears my soul.”

Harding “never wanted a child,” that’s the odd thing, but when he had them, life was perfect.

Kadian was introspective and loved taking things apart and rebuilding; he was astoundingly talented, and passionate about his dog, biking, and Apple products.

He was on the verge of being a man. He never would, because of something that happened in a second.

“Orphan,” says Harding, refers to someone who loses parents. “Widow” and “widower” indicate loss of spouse.

But there’s no English word for a parent who loses a child and so, “I am a kampu,” he says, referring to a Putijarra word for “bereaved parent.”

“It feels strange, foreign, but isn’t that exactly the point?”

I’ll warn you now, “Kadian Journal” isn’t an easy read.

Once the idyllic, then shocking, first pages are past (which happens so quick, you’ll be breathless), we’re off in a sea of rage and grief from which there is no net because author Thomas Harding doesn’t allow it.

There’s really no let-up on this feeling – it’s crushing, there’s no better word for it, and it follows readers as we get to know Kadian, which Harding makes sure that we do.

And yet, there are slivers of other in this book: tales of a regular kid and his cheeky humor, strength from Harding’s wife and daughter, sheepishly recounted tales of grief-driven tantrums.

Those things keep readers from the total darkness that this book could otherwise become, and they’ll keep “Kadian Journal” in your hands until the end.

And that is why you shouldn’t miss this book for a second.