That is one way to describe how a multitude of people have been feeling since the tragic news emerged that Nevin Spence had died along with with his father, Noel and brother Graham, in a dreadful farm accident on Saturday evening.
First and foremost, on behalf of the News Letter sports team, I would extend our deepest sympathy to the Spence family circle at what is an unimaginable time for them.
My thoughts and prayers are with Mrs Spence, who has lost a husband and two sons, her daughters Laura and Emma – who is still recovering in hospital having been involved in the tragic accident herself – on the loss of a father and two brothers.
Also to Graham’s wife and her young family – it is just such a terrible, terrible tragedy.
One cannot even try to imagine what they are going through nor what they have to come to terms with, not just in the days ahead, but for a long time to come.
It is hard to find the words to comprehend the dreadful events which have happened.
As news of the triple tragedy emerged on Saturday evening, it was obviously natural for the main focus of attention to fall on the Spence family’s sporting icon – Nevin –but the fact is an ordinary farming family has been torn apart.
Northern Ireland is a small place and the Spence’s are a highly-respected family in a close-knit community, where 22-year-old Nevin was a local hero.
Rugby plays a huge part in community life where the Spence family lived, and from Saturday evening the local club, Ballynahinch, where Nevin was a member, were already rallying around the family, organising help for the things that the previous day had been taken for granted, such as the milking of the cows on the huge dairy farm at Drumlough. His brother Graham was also a member of the club, having come through the youth system and playing periodically for the club’s seconds and thirds.
However, the demands of a busy dairy farm restricted his further interest in the game.
While the Co Down club was reaching out to help the grieving family members in their darkest hour, Ulster Rugby were also planning a different week from the usual by offering its support to the family and to the players within the group who had lost not just a team mate, but to many a best friend.
Personal floral and various other tributes were being placed outside and inside the Ravenhill grounds yesterday when a hastily-arranged news conference was being held.
The last time there was such a massive press gathering was back in May when Ulster were looking ahead to the Heineken Cup final against Leinster at Twickenham.
The atmosphere was different, just as it had less than 48 hours hours previously.
On Friday night, Ravenhill was rocking with over 10,300 supporters enjoying a high octane Irish Provincial derby clash between Ulster and Munster in the RaboDirect PRO12. It was a dramatic occasion, with Ulster clinging on to win 20-19. It was a game of pure theatre, unlike life itself. While places in a rugby team can be replaced and changed, a husband and sons cannot.
Yesterday, Ravenhill was a place of reflection and remembrance, as fans paid their own tributes leaving flowers, scarves, flags and messages in memory of Nevin.
The gates of the ground will be open daily this week for more fans to join in the tributes and make their own special homage to a young, gifted player – and a book of condolence will be opened this morning from 10am, and every day this week.
Sunday’s press conference was led by Ulster Rugby chief executive officer, Shane Logan, accompanied by Director or Professional Rugby at Ravenhill, David Humphreys.
They paid their own personal tributes to Nevin – Humphreys visibly shaken by the devastating news he had received along with the rest of the Ulster Rugby family the evening before.
In the afternoon, the management and players came together to remember their team mate, holding a short service with chaplain, Rev Andrew Thomspon.
Later in the afternoon a rainbow appeared over Ravenhill – nature paying its own tribute.
Prior to yesterday the sporting world was paying its tribute to the young rugby star and his family. Social media feed, Twitter was dominated by messages of sympathy, shock and sadness at the loss of such a promising young player.
Everyone has their own memories of the former Dromore and Wallace High School back, who had actually been an Under-17 Northern Ireland international at schools’ football.
For me, the main picture (right) will always be a stand-out when thinking back on Nevin’s short, but packed, career. It was the famous ‘somersault try’ he scored – his first – against Bath at The Recreation Ground as Ulster did the double over the English Premiership club and went on to contest the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup for the first time since 1999.
In club terms, Nevin had already played on the biggest stage there was – Europe.
It was also expected he would have been one of the wildcard players named by Declan Kidney on the Ireland World Cup panel for New Zealand 2011.
But an injury was to rob him off that opportunity.
Just in the same way that a huge future with the Irish international squad has also been taken away through the tragic events which unfolded on Saturday evening at the home farm in Hillsborough.
Nevin had been part of the Ireland senior training squad for last season’s Six Nations Championship, he was already on the radar with the Irish camp having added two ‘A caps with the Irish Wolfhounds to his 42 Ulster appearances.
Last Friday afternoon, as Nevin made his return from a shoulder injury, he turned out for the Ulster Ravens Inter-Pro derby with Munster ‘A’.
For those who were at Deramore Park little did they know it would be the last time they would see the talented player in an Ulster shirt.
It is a memory, like the many memories left by Nevin, that will be cherished.
Rugby will rightly take a backseat this week.
Yesterday, as the close-knit community in the townland of Drumlough and neighbouring districts, as well as the members of Ballynahinch Rugby Club, rallied behind the grieving Spence girls – as this week progresses the organisation that is Ulster Rugby will add to that support in every way they can to all the different people involved.
Nevin will be missed at Ravenhill by all his adoring fans and friends, but not as much as the Spence family, where there are three spaces at the table which can never be filled or replaced.
My thoughts remain with them