The deaths of Noel Spence and his two sons, Graham and Nevin, go beyond the words we usually reach for to respond to tragedy. Tragedy it most certainly is. But there is something in the blow sustained by the Spence family which affects us all in a most profound way. We could all feel it on Sunday when the news became clearer.
Whole generations were wiped out in a matter of minutes, by that combination of events which led three members of the family to their deaths in a slurry tank and the narrow escape of Emma, a daughter and sister. One can only imagine the devastation wrought by the losses on the remaining family members and be grateful indeed for the safety of our own loved ones. Farming shares with old trades like seafaring, mining and the emergency services an intimate connection with the psyche of our people. Lives lost as a result of the circumstances of everyday responsibilities strike deep with the whole of society here.
But even in those terms, what happened to the three Spences is particularly dreadful.
The response of neighbours in rallying to the needs of the farm, the solidarity shown by the churches and the local community, have been heartening. The immediate condolences extended across the sporting world as word of Nevin's death emerged are also signs of the potent and enduring impact of the losses.
Right now, it is time to reflect with the Spence family and their community, help as much as we can with the extremely difficult days and months ahead, and remember them in our prayers.
There will be an opportunity soon to think of the safety implications for farming generally of the weekend's terrible events, and that will be much needed.