How to eat an elephant

Nick verron 3“I could have got the Eye of Horus, but that’s the School… this seemed more appropriate.” The little pewter charm of Anubis lay in my hand…. The Opener of the Ways… a perfect symbol. I was going to need a tissue and a hug…

I may have been a little on edge this week…things have been going on behind the scenes… desperately important things…Take every emotional ‘first’ a mother feels… the first time you hold your child, the first day at school, the first night away from home… the first time they leave home…  then multiply that by ten to the power of some ridiculous number…. And that’s pretty much where I’ve been… and why I stood with my son outside his home with tears streaming in the dark.

Some things are not yet for the sharing… much as I would wish to. They are not mine to share yet. Suffice it to say I am hugely proud of both my sons at the best of times… they truly are exceptional young men, and I do not say that through the rose tinted spectacles of motherhood. They have been through so much and come out the other end together as beacons of love and light…and this week has been one of those times that has thrown that pride in the pair of them into sharp relief.

Nick verron 5Part of this weeks’ journey I can share, however… and it was just that. A journey. And an incredible one.

If you don’t know my eldest son’s story… click the link. It puts things in perspective a little. It will explain, perhaps, why a photograph of a meal in a fast food place landing in my inbox reduced me to a sobbing, smiling mess. Nothing to do with despair at the nutritional value of the meal… and everything to do with that old saying…

“How do you eat an elephant?”

“In small bits.”

And this time he’d taken a huge bite. He’d gone to the place he lived when the screwdriver was rammed through his brain, leaving him dying in an alley. And he’d gone alone. On public transport.

For four years, since the attack, he has had to have someone behind him every time he has gone out, pushing the wheelchair. He can’t self propel… his co-ordination is too poor. But the investment of a huge sum in an electric wheelchair is giving him something he never thought to have. Freedom.

Nick verron 4But that freedom is about more than wheels… the chair itself is only a vehicle for courage.

Once upon a time he saw the idea of an electric wheelchair as giving in… accepting disability as his only option. He had to go through that stage in order to work his mind and body to a point where they were of some use to him again. Now he sees it as a tool for possibility, and is using it to tackle his problems head on, and  free himself from an invisible prison.

Maybe a trip to the coast doesn’t sound like a big deal? People in wheelchairs do amazing things every day…. His co-ordination is badly damaged… he cannot walk… cannot stand for long… cannot use his right hand very well…has little ability to balance…his speech still not perfect…

But think about the detail people don’t see here.

Nick Verron 2Seeing is a big part of it… Nick can’t. His vision is very limited… and what he has is double… and bounces ceaselessly. No-one sees that. He can’t, for example, read the number on a bus…. A bit of a problem when you are using them. Can’t in fact, read very well at all… unless he can magnify the text hugely… and then not for long.

Which all means even signing his name is a major effort…but he manages to write for short periods on a keyboard. His chapters of our book are being dictated.

His memory is affected… so negotiating a journey is a big thing… he has no confidence in his short term memory at all. His thought processes have slowed and he knows and feels it…especially as he feels the delayed reaction time in his responses… even though to the casual observer he seems as quick as ever.

The screwdriver went through the organising, executive functions… yet he planned the trip, organised it. I just did the donkey work he can’t… and drove away terrified as he prepared to set off.

Nick verron 6He had to face so many hurdles. Not only the purely practical ones which he has never shied away from, but the inner challenges of facing the world alone for the first time… meeting new people who see only an electric chair and judge unconsciously on that image alone, eating in public with reduced coordination… a whole host of things that would make anyone excruciatingly self-conscious and which have been huge barriers for him over the past four years.

He has had to navigate a town where he was whole and healthy and where he was stabbed. And he did it… at night too.

He achieved the ‘impossible’… again. It is a big, big deal. It opens the doors to Life again.

Nick is a challenge to many people’s preconceptions… including his own. Unless we have disabled people close in our lives most of us… he and I included in the past… have little idea how to handle meeting someone whose abilities are unknown. We cannot judge by our usual criteria … so many disabilities are invisible… we are out of our depth and panic… many avoid… most of us feel uncomfortable.

Nick has encountered many who, judging on appearance alone, treat him as if he has no mind or intellect. One woman at a business told him to call back when he was sober…assuming the then very slurred speech was due to drink. I’m not sure she enjoyed the follow up call … I was a tad annoyed at the time… yet really it is just another manifestation of how many of us feel under the surface.

Nick Verron 1However, Nick found that while many people panic, once they realise who and what is behind damage, human contact goes deep. In a wheelchair he is no physical threat… unless he runs over your toes…. Yet he threatens people’s perception of themselves, holding up a mirror to the flaws and fallibilities of our own image…. then, hopefully, changing those perceptions and showing we can be more than we appear… more than we may think we are.

He no longer feels the need to explain why he is in the wheelchair, why his body doesn’t function as it did.

“You know what? I’m me.”

And being an emotional kind of hobbit, I’m in tears again even writing that.

All the photographs in this post are by my son. He is beginning to find that what his eyes cannot physically see the camera lens can capture for him to see at home on the big screen. They are images of a freedom of spirit I admire with my whole heart… they are not just pretty pictures… they are condensed emotion… they are memories he might otherwise lose… they are the impossible made visible… they are a testament to what can be achieved by any one of us.

They are evidence that we can eat elephants.

Nick verron 7

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in Books, England, Landscape, Life, Love and Laughter, Photography, Surviving brain injury, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to How to eat an elephant

  1. Pete Hulme says:

    Thank you for sharing this inspirational post. Nick is in my thoughts and prayers.


  2. Pete Hulme says:

    That kind of bravery lifts all our spirits, Sue. You also have much to be proud of. Because I want everyone I know to have a chance to connect with this I have shared a link to your post on my blog and on FB and LinkedIn.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Thank you Pete. I too think Nick’s story is one that should be known. It has already helped so many people… even something this terrible can hold so much good.. and he has made that happen.


  3. alienorajt says:

    Moved me to tears, Sue. Love to you and Nick. xxx


  4. I was delighted and deeply impressed by the photographs wondering where you found such a gifted a photographer to accompany you. So much emotion in them, such colour, such a sense of longing. Then of course it made perfect sense to read that Nick made them. Please pass on my delight to him, Sue.


  5. you’ve left me in tears


  6. As I read the post I noticed how lovely the images were and wondered…who took these? Great job Nick! And beautiful post Sue!


  7. Here’s to self-knowledge and the power of the spirit!


  8. The photos are beautiful and Nick is incredibly brave and strong…thank you for sharing this inspirational post, of hope and endurance 🙂


  9. Lizzy says:

    The courage of both of you is just mind-boggling. Awesome! xxx


  10. Ann Sowards says:

    I stand in awe. Bless your hearts!


  11. I love the title of this post and Nick’s can-do attitude. He did it. He ate the elephant. Blessings to him as he continues on his journey.


  12. ksbeth says:

    they are lovely photos and you are a lovely family )


  13. Beautiful. I csn tell where he gets the bravery AND the photographer talent from xx


  14. El says:

    Waves of Ethereal Love, Infinite Light and Boundless Bliss to your BeLoved Sun x0x


  15. theINFP says:

    An awe-inspiring moment, thank you Sue. Rx


  16. Libby says:

    Such an emotional read. It must have been so hard to write. Thank you for sharing. Thinking of you and your brave son.


  17. Barney says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Sue. I agree with all those who have found the story deeply moving and inspiring. I have shared it with my Facebook friends.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Thank you Barney. As I have said, I think my son’s story needs to be known… it just shows what we, and the human spirit, are capable of achieving. There are many such stories… but this one I know from the inside.


  18. trevrichy says:

    Found this to be a deeply moving, it touched my heart because it shows how at any moment someones life and the lives of those around them can be tragically changed forever. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and may they by the Grace of God continue to find the strength to inspire others to realize that some how though all the pain and sorrow, life must and should go on.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Life must and should… and with joy too. It sounds trite, but not simply in spite of, but because of the tragic events, much that is good and beautiful has come into our lives.
      Thank you.


  19. SirenaTales says:

    TRIUMPHANT! Yahoo–for your son, you and us all, Sue. Thank you for your beautiful and honest and human writing, as well as for the lump in my throat accompanied by tears of joy, inspiration and redemption. Bon voyage, baby. xoxo


  20. Jenny says:

    The photos are vibrant and energising. How lovely that your son can find expression in photography, and share something beautiful with the world. A very courageous man – and his mother too. Thank you Sue for sharing this experience.


  21. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    My God, what a story. What force it must take to ram a screwdriver into someone’s head. This is horror. This is a beautiful story though, Sue. Wonderful mother.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      The sheer vitriol of the attack took some coming to terms with, I admit. I’m not sure i will ever understand what makes someone do that.

      But I have a pretty awesome son. 🙂


  22. A beautiful post, Sue. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal experience, to help us all. Love to Nick. Love to you. XX WG


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