The Third Something

137 / Magic Is A Choice

And you don’t have to justify it to anyone!

A watercolour painting of a vibrant night sky with silhouetted trees in the foreground, by Adam Westbrook

2023 began with a call from my father on New Years Day. My grandmother had passed away in the night.

Wrecked by Alzheimer’s disease, her passing was expected and she’d been declining for several weeks. What was unexpected, however, was the timing of her death.

She died exactly three years after my grandfather — to the day.

(I’d later view his death, on January 1st 2020, as a portentous curtain-raiser to that awful year: almost as if to say, as the clocks struck midnight, “so it begins”.)


After the call from my father, I took a long walk through the cold empty streets of London, and held two possibilities in my mind.

Of course it was a coincidence, and a lovely one at that. The Alzheimer’s was so severe that in the end my grandmother couldn’t recognise my grandfather’s face let alone be cognisant of what the date was.

That’s the first possibility.

And the second: that she died on that day on purpose. That behind the crippling disease, her soul lived on as bright and aware as it ever was. Perhaps the spirits of the deceased float above us in annual orbits and she was waiting for her husband to pass overhead; or maybe she did it for all of us, a witty parting gift.

The first possibility is more likely (and at least backed by Occam’s Razor). But the second possibility opens up space for magic. It invites the unknown and the unknowable into my life and gives me permission to consider there is something greater at work in the universe.

I made a choice that day, one year ago, to believe in magic.

The choice at once comforted me in my grief, and expanded my sense of what is possible in this life; it taught me that some things cannot be explained — and that’s the point.

After all, to be an artist is to engage with unknown forces. You don’t need to be religious to be an artist, but making art is a spiritual practice I think: it is a sacred ritual that involves surrendering to precocious mystery, in the absence of all evidence.


So as you head into a brand new year, with all its problems and possibilities, I’d like to tell you this: magic is a choice and you can choose it just because — you don’t have to justify it to anyone.

Thank you for reading my newsletter in 2023. The Third Something continues to be a quiet well of strength and inspiration for me, five years after I wrote to you for the first time.

I’m wishing all of you the very best for the eventful year ahead!

Until another Sunday soon,

Adam's signature