Pulse – A Memoir On Life, Near Death, And A New Life, by Mickey Coleman and Damian Harvey
Reviewed by Ciarán Quinn
Biographies are my favourite genre of writing. Done well, they offer all the colour, light and shade of a life lived.
For full disclosure, I know Mickey Coleman. He is a dedicated supporter of Friends of Sinn Féin and Irish Unity. That is why it was with some trepidation that I picked up this book.
The aching questions in my head: “What if it was poorly written? What if it included some dark secret that I didn’t want to know.”
I quickly realised that I had nothing to worry about. Working with co-writer Damian Harvey, they have crafted an accessible and revealing reflection on a life.
Mickey has led an exceptional life with sporting, business, and musical success. Married to Erin with two young sons. In many ways he had everything. Until one day when it was almost ended by a heart attack with only a 6% recovery rate.
The book is not a straightforward chronological story. It unfolds in a way that is true to the quoted proverb from Confucius: “Every man has two lives, and the second starts when he realises, he has just one.”
The book opens with the brutal description of the heart attack. At a peak of fitness, having returned home from a run, then the sudden and violent realisation.
“I am slipping away. The dark is on the fringes of my sight, and it is inching closer to the centre. My hearing is failing. My strength ebbing. My chest is caving in, and I am fainting…”
The book jumps between episodes in his life before the attack and after his recovery. Its structure has the natural feel of someone trying to piece together a jigsaw. It works, as lives only make sense in retrospect.
Mickey draws on the wisdom of others. Reflecting on the experiences of his childhood in Ireland, team talks with Tyrone GAA, playing music, his life as an Irish emigrant in the US, business, and his love of family – all constants in the book.
It was the drive for his family that kept him fighting.
In his recovery, he draws lessons from his life that he had previously missed. These portions of the book are a journey of self-discovery, a reordering of a life, to identify and appreciate what is most important.
In many ways the book should be called Gratitude. A reminder to never take anything for granted. A beacon of hope that recovery is a struggle and an individual fight. It is a thank you to all those who knowingly or unknowingly teach us lessons.
This is an important book. For generations of Irish men, ill health was a sign of weakness. Going to a doctor would be an embarrassment. Mickey deals with his recovery and subsequent life changes in an open and honest fashion. In a world of steak and chips; he is now mostly plant based.
Nowhere in the book do these realisations become preachy. It is Mickey examining his life, discovering a spirituality and coming to a peace. He is clear about his story and his journey. And it is an inspiring story.
Long may Mickey’s journey continue and may we never take anything for granted, particularly our health. That thought is not to frighten but to liberate. A call to be thankful for what we have.
I’ll leave the last word to Mickey: “My advice is simple. Live in the present moment, because I almost left this world without playing my music. Play your music. Listen to me… Play your music. Because your life can change in a heartbeat. Mine did.”
Pulse can be purchased on Mickey’s website here: ,https://mickeycolemanmusic.com/product/pulse-signed/