The “WHOMP!” Factor

Stripes of Light And what do I mean by the “WHOMP!” factor?

Well, for Downton Abbey watchers, it was the episode just before last in Season 3, when Lady Sybil, in the throes of childbirth, suddenly began to exhibit symptoms of eclampsia and was dead within the quarter hour. (For anyone not swimming in the pool with the rest of us, D.A. is the highest of high-class BBC soap operas, an “aristosoap” in the Upstairs, Downstairs lineage, about the travails of Lord Grantham and Lady Cora (an American) and their three daughters, of whom Lady Sybil was the youngest and far and away the nicest; as well as the even more melodramatic travails of an assorted lot of servants, from Carson, the exalted butler, to Daisy, the kitchen maid.)

Imagine: here’s Lady Sybil, who had defied convention and her father (often the same thing) in Season 2 to marry the chauffeur, a fiery Irish revolutionary. They had overcome these major hurdles and were back at Downton Abbey (where Branson, the former chauffeur, was grudgingly seated at the dinner table) so that Sybil could have her baby in peace and luxury. She is beautiful, kind, democratic, and heavily pregnant, and all is going well when WHOMP! Sybil is dead. (An aside, with a warning of semi-spoiler: If you think that was bad, wait till the last episode of the season.)

Anyway, it made quite an impact on me, so that it’s been on my mind since. And it occurs to me that there’s a WHOMP! factor in our everyday lives. Or what we think is everyday about our lives. On the lowest level, this morning I had a long list of chores and errands, and by a purposefully calm and serene attitude was keeping my head above water until 1 -2 -3, the phone rang with an additional set of c. and e’s.  Whomp!

Not to mention illnesses, and even deaths. We’ve had a bunch of these around here, and if there’s time to absorb and process them, the head stays above water. But if, as has happened, there’s another stone tossed in the water, then another — the waves can swamp even a sturdy vessel. So I don’t like things, like stones, that rock the boat. An airplane ride is tolerable to me as long as there’s no turbulence. I don’t like WHOMP! one little bit.

And yet —

Here’s the thing I just thought of. Certainly when it comes to movies and television and novels and operas — without some “WHOMP!” factor there’s no drama, no suspense. No story. Just riding along calmly, nothing happening — what keeps you reading? Watching? Listening? What gets you involved? What makes your heart beat faster? So what’s a peace-loving, happy beginning-middle-and-ending yearning girl to do?

A dilemma. Then suddenly I remembered something that happened to me many years ago, something I misplace from time to time but never fully forget. And that’s what I want to share with you, in case you too are a peace-loving person, or at least in a peace-loving mood, and find yourself disturbed at being disturbed.

I was apprenticing in hospital chaplaincy on Long Island, and was doing a task that felt like doing nothing: I was sitting in the room of a patient who was hooked up to several monitors. I was just sitting with her for a while as she slept. Her breathing was erratic, which showed on the monitor: not a strong regular even rhythm, but more a series of lurches, sometimes resulting in beeps.  And I was thinking how I wished that erratic detours and lurches and sudden crises didn’t exist, that things always ran smoothly.

A nurse came in, in response to another set of beepings, and I shared my wish with her. She looked at me. She pointed to the monitor, and said, When nothing happens, when that line goes flat  — she paused — then you’re dead.


A WHOMP! moment itself, that was, but like a defibrillator, it shocked me back into life. I guess I need to be reminded of that from time to time, especially in difficult times. When nothing happens, when the line goes flat — you’re dead. What I need to do is to ride with the turbulence, balance with the waves, and be grateful for every breath, in every circumstance.

This entry was posted in Death, Enlightenment, Etcetera, Health, Life and Death, Personal Essay, Wisdom and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The “WHOMP!” Factor

  1. Chef Emil says:

    Great Post!………..aka Tin Man


  2. coastalcrone says:

    Excellent post! Thanks for the reminder that WHOMPS! are a part of life. As the British would say, “Stay calm and carry on!”I really enjoy Downton Abbey!


  3. tms says:

    Judith, I think I know the feeling you describe … it’s true.


  4. Madhu says:

    A bit of Whomp is good then. Too much would be like a heart attack on that monitor 🙂


  5. Great post! Love the storytelling. (And D.A. too. I have a feeling where the WHOMP! will come from at the season’s end, but I don’t want to know until I get there.


  6. I have often been SHOCKED to the core with those life WHOMPS! And then. And then comes the inspiration to: make change, be grateful, speak my truth, and similar “life is short, do it NOW” actions. I have a love/hate relationship with WHOMP…


  7. rebekah says:

    Had to google eclampsia after that episode. I knew what it was, but what I didn’t know, was that it’s still, to this day, almost always fatal. Like all the others, I really enjoy D.A.
    Nowadays that state seems to have turned into a verb … «he flatlined». I remember that terrible breathing from when my mother was dying… Cheyne Stokes respiration. It only took a couple of hours and she was gone. Whomp! Our lives certainly can change in the wink of an eye.


  8. pauline says:

    WHOMPS come in all shapes and sizes, I’m finding. They come with the onset of sudden pain, with the drama of a nor’easter, with birth as well as death. WHOMPS most often are surprises – not always, but often enough to make one cherish, as you say, the moment worth rejoicing about.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I’ll tell you though, Pauline — I could do without the WHOMP of a “potential historic winter storm.” Hope part of that is prognosticators’ hype —
      So much for Punxatawney Phil. What does a groundhog know about the weather anyway?????


  9. Came today to your post and – WHOMP! Looking at your image, WHOMP – first because I love it and – second I nearly thought “well that’s mine!” (please have a look at my recent post whenever you can spend a minute or two, and then you’ll know what I mean about “mine”).

    I surely love the WHOMP-moments, moments when I take a deep breath seeing something beautiful in nature like your forest image, moments seeing a piece of art or just simply the sun breaking through clouds in every sense. So, I only can say/feel WHOMP! in a positive way. Everything else makes me either quiet or indifferent or I’m shouting out loud to get it off my chest. Like when we’re cut off from electricity every so often here, because the company EDF is not able to make proper repairs, just to save shareholders money, just for example.
    Let’s keep our heads above the water, there are still a lot of possibilities/opportunities in life to have a happy and joyful WHOMP!
    And quite rightly – as long as we can have these moments, moments of deep breath, we’re certainly still alive.
    Oh, by the way, I must be the only person on this planet who’s not watching DA, so…..cannot comment.
    Take care, dear Judith, I’m thinking of you,
    warmest greetings from the Périgord and
    a bientôt, Karin


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I’ll tell you my most recent WHOMP! which was a positive and joyful one —
      Looking at your recent post, the one about nature and art and Beethoven and music and jewels and flowers —
      WHOMP! Karin, your post was so beautiful it made me want to weep, but only joyful tears — If you want to see a more beautiful world, everyone, just go to Karin’s post


  10. Beautifully put, Judith. Though in my opinion Julian Fellowes has gone a little overboard with the whomps in the last couple of seasons!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I agree with you. But whomps being the nature of melodrama and soap opera, what is a Fellowes to do?

      BTW, for a continuing education seminar here I’ve been reading Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. He’s a dab hand at soap opera himself, is our Anthony, and keeps me reading compulsively, muttering under my breath all the while.
      (Been trying to get at the difference between Dickens and Trollope, because I sense it strongly but can’t put my finger on it.)


  11. We were dealt a big, scary WHOMP 2 days back, and it’s been rough. This is a beautiful reminder not to take things for granted. Btw I love DA and Sybil too! 🙂


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I remember that you had some scary WHOMPS last year. Hope this one will settle down into something smoother and more manageable in one quick hurry!
      All thoughts, wishes, and prayers to you both.


  12. Patti Kuche says:

    I have to confess I am not watching Downton Abbey either so I see poor Sybil’s shock death as a dramatic and valuable plot point. We can turn the television off, put the book down, walk home from the cinema feeling sad, happy, whatever at the Whomps given artistic licence but the ones we deal with in our own real time, where’s a director to yell “cut” when you need one!
    Well done, Judith, and all best to you for riding with the turbulence and balancing those waves!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Brava to you, Patti, for unerringly putting your finger on what’s wrong with real life: no director to yell “Cut!”
      What if we tried doing it ourselves? Asking for another take? Like, we can all use a do-over sometimes, right?
      P.S. If you’re not watching, it isn’t a spoiler, I suppose, but tonight’s season finale has a WHOMP to end all WHOMPS.


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