Today, I just saw the place where his Thinking Bench still sits. It remains, after all these years. And it makes me happy.

I saw on the news this morning that Anthony Bourdain took his own life. After that, I read that someone named Kate Spade did the same thing. I never met Anthony or Kate, but I knew someone like them once.

We had a bench by our pond. A pine-log bench. It sat near the edge of the water. Daddy called it his Thinking Bench. This afternoon, after twenty-five years, I sat in that bench. I remember the day he built it—using only a sharp axe and cuss words.

It’s funny, how I can remember things like benches, but not what I had for supper last night.

Salmon, I had the salmon. No, it was chicken.

Anyway, weeds grew around his bench. He trimmed the grass using a jack knife sometimes. I don’t know why he did that. Cody, his Lab, would sit beside him when he used the bench.

One December morning, when the weather was unusually cold, I found him there. He’d been sitting all night. He wasn’t moving. Eyes open. There was a thin layer of frost on his back and shoulders. His red hair stiff from the cold.

Mama ran outside with a blanket. He didn’t want it.

“You coulda froze to death,” she said. “You need serious help, John.”

“Help doing what?” he’d say with vinegar in his voice.

Because Daddy didn’t trust shrinks. After all, who could trust a medical man who had baby soft hands and wore silk underpants? How could a man like that help a body?

Besides, nobody from my father’s world seemed to KNOW what professional help was, exactly. At least not back then. Fewer understood words like “depression.” Back then, those were just modern ideas invented by folks who ate snails at dinner parties and talked about things like cubism, yoga, and frozen yogurt.

Daddy was the kind who made log benches. The kind who liked to sit. The kind who didn’t need help.

Toward the end of his life, you could find him sitting in his workshop, shirtless. Lights off. No music. Staring. Or sitting on the hood of his truck, parked on fifty acres. Leaning against his windshield. Or sitting in the corner of the barn, on the floor, knees pulled to his chest. Eyes pink and wet.

“What’s wrong, Daddy?” I’d ask.

He’d wipe his face. “I don’t know, dammit.”

“Will he be okay?” I’d ask Mama.

“I don’t know,” she’d say, giving honest answers—she was through pretending at this point. “But your father needs help.”

The day of his funeral, people with forced grins lined up to shake my hand, saying things like, “Your daddy was sick, that’s all, just sick…”

I heard that a million and three times. So many times that it nearly offended me. These people hardly knew the man, but they were so sure of their words. And it offended me even more that they were right.

He was sick. He quit his life with his hunting rifle. Only someone sick could do that. Only someone sick could make the sorts of mistakes he made on purpose.

Anyway, I’m not sad—and I don’t mean to make you sad. In fact, I’m happy today. Happier than I’ve been in years.

Today, I just saw the place where his Thinking Bench still sits. It remains, after all these years. And it makes me happy.

You deserve to be happy, too. In fact, that’s why I’m writing this while only a few miles away from where he took himself out of this world. You deserve so much happiness it’s obscene. And I mean you.

So I don’t know whether you cry when nobody’s watching. I don’t know if you get so sad you can’t do anything but sit. Or if you have a young son who thinks your log benches are the best things since sliced tomatoes.

If you do, I want to tell you something: this world needs you. Your son needs you. Your daughter. Your friends. I need you. In fact, I’ve needed you all my life.

Don’t do it.

Get help.

58 comments

  1. Frank Shaffer - June 9, 2018 5:42 am

    tel:1-800-273-8255

    Reply
  2. theholtgirls - June 9, 2018 6:12 am

    You are helping people. And that makes me happy. This world needs you, and lots of people like you! Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  3. Barbara Jones - June 9, 2018 9:18 am

    Thanks Sean, I needed to hear this. God bless you and your family.

    Reply
  4. Glenda H - June 9, 2018 9:24 am

    Oh gosh dang it, we out here very much need you.

    Reply
  5. Mart Martin - June 9, 2018 9:50 am

    It wasn’t my father, but my mother. It wasn’t a rifle, but a bed sheet. Nobody called it depression. They weren’t sure what to call it. But that day when I was 18 messed me up for years, and it is only by the grace of God that I made it through to a better place, where I am OK talking about it publicly. I’m glad you are, too. Maybe it will help someone.

    Reply
  6. Camille - June 9, 2018 10:50 am

    Thank you Sean~

    Reply
  7. Marisa Franca - June 9, 2018 10:58 am

    We need you too, Sean. Your simple words and tons of love touches us. You make us laugh, you make us cry, but you make us believe in ourselves that we are special and that we give life meaning.

    Reply
  8. Mary - June 9, 2018 11:03 am

    We hear of so many famous people who commit suicide. And for every one of those there are many others whom we don’t know. Thank you for these words of encouragement. With your big audience, You just might make a difference in someone’s life. Keep writing.

    Reply
  9. Donna Johns - June 9, 2018 11:15 am

    You are such an inspiration!! I need you too!!

    Reply
  10. Penn Wells - June 9, 2018 11:22 am

    I think sometimes we just need to know the world outside the wife and the children loves us, or at least cares whether we live or die. Such a powerful message along with I Love You. A friend may have put it best today on FB: “Everyone you meet us fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

    Reply
  11. Bobbie - June 9, 2018 11:23 am

    Thank you, Sean, for caring. This world could use a couple million more just like you!

    Reply
  12. Connie Havard Ryland - June 9, 2018 11:31 am

    Amen. There is help available and there’s no weakness in accepting it. I’ve known men like your daddy my whole life. Men who work hard until they can’t. Men who found strength in a bottle or in violence. Who would view professional men as “less than” because of their soft hands. Those men would never ask for help because they couldn’t admit to a problem. Sending love and hugs to you.

    Reply
  13. Greg in Huntsville. - June 9, 2018 11:31 am

    I don’t comment much. Thank you for letting us feel your pain. As REM said: Everybody hurts…

    Reply
  14. Debbie - June 9, 2018 11:52 am

    The world certainly needs you, Sean. Thanks for sharing your story. So many people need to hear it and I hope it helps every one of them.

    Reply
  15. Marilyn - June 9, 2018 12:24 pm

    I look forward to your daily messages. Keep them coming, Sean. You are gifted – and a gift. God Bless

    Reply
  16. Barbara Nelle Ewell - June 9, 2018 12:30 pm

    Your daddy is proud of you.

    Reply
  17. Nix LaVerdi - June 9, 2018 12:34 pm

    Proactive message, Sean. Of course your writing is exquisite, and by exquisite, I mean REAL. It is NEVER too late to turn things around. I have seen that too. People turn things around and get the help they need to survive. Strong message. You are awesome. You truly help people.

    Love and light,
    Nix

    Reply
  18. janiesjottings - June 9, 2018 12:49 pm

    Thank you Sean, once more you have touched onto something I can relate to so well. I need you too. I need my daily dose of “ole Sean” as my husband calls you.

    Reply
  19. Rebekah - June 9, 2018 1:02 pm

    Thank you, Sean. The news has been so disappointing. Thank you for talking honestly.

    Reply
  20. Sue Cronkite - June 9, 2018 1:04 pm

    This needed to be written. I pray that persons who need it most will read it. And get help.

    Reply
  21. Steve Still - June 9, 2018 1:05 pm

    Good words

    Reply
  22. legaleus - June 9, 2018 1:42 pm

    Good stuff Sean. Good stuff.

    Reply
  23. Jeslen Morehead - June 9, 2018 1:56 pm

    Sean, I know your daddy is smiling from heaven while working on another bench. At least that’s the way I feel about my grandad “we called him Bull” who’s in heaven. I believe he’s doing what he loves and that’s fixing things and building things out of wood. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see you in Marianna, FL on June 22nd.

    Reply
  24. Molly - June 9, 2018 1:57 pm

    Wow/ Your imagery and knack for illuminating your feelings just punctured my heart. I’m sorry for how you had to grow as the son of a parent’s suicide. I’m sincerely sorry for all of those who remain after a suicide.

    Reply
  25. Mike (of the South) Clark - June 9, 2018 2:07 pm

    One man’s bottle of whiskey is another man’s hunting rifle. Takes longer. But the final result is the same. Leaving broken, screwed up people strewn about in the wake of his descent, like dead, fallen leaves wafting behind a truck going down a country lane.

    Reply
  26. Charlu Kent - June 9, 2018 2:30 pm

    We’re all needed 💙🐭❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  27. Gloria - June 9, 2018 2:31 pm

    Thank you, Sean. Your loving messages touch many hearts..hopefully someone today will begin looking at life with the realization that there is always hope and people who love you are there to help.

    Reply
  28. Janet Mary Lee - June 9, 2018 2:36 pm

    Thank you for writing the truth. We may be years ahead, but as we move ahead we are falling behind in our battle for mental illness. We need funding, not cuts but a true commitment to help: This on a society level, and on a personal level. I urge you all to write your Senators and Reps. to find this funding. As a nation the need has never been more dire. Thank you Sean for your memories and your awareness, and for having the gift to spread truth!!
    Love you!!

    Reply
  29. Amy Crews - June 9, 2018 3:17 pm

    We need you too Sean. I haven’t read the comments but I bet that’s what they say…even if it’s not in those exact words. Thanks a million times three for sharing your heart and your light. Hope to see y’all soon!

    Reply
  30. Phyllis Bergenholtz - June 9, 2018 3:35 pm

    Hugs.

    Reply
    • Patrick McCarthy, Sr. - June 10, 2018 2:04 am

      Everyone needs them!!

      Reply
  31. Barbara - June 9, 2018 3:40 pm

    Thank you Sean. Thank you Every Day for your posts and care!

    Reply
  32. Nicole Field - June 9, 2018 4:09 pm

    Dear Sean,

    Thank you for sharing this. I have a very vivid memory at age ten of going into my father’s room to see him and he was sitting on his bed just staring at the wall in front of him. He wouldn’t look at me or acknowledge my presence or answer any of my questions. I knew something was terribly wrong. Shortly after he was diagnosed as bipolar. He nearly took his life that week but was able to finally get the help he needed. Thank you for encouraging others to get help. There is hope for those suffering.

    Reply
  33. judemiller1 - June 9, 2018 5:20 pm

    It would have been embarrassing for your Daddy to seek mental help. Especially 20+ years ago. Men just didn’t do that sort of thing. I’ve been to “sit and think” spot in my life, more than a few times. The fear of God and going to hell kept me in line and then some little, tiny white pills seem to keep the major depression away. Still, I am very lonely and feel cut off from my kids–they never call, never drop in, so I wouldn’t intentionally take my life, but I wouldn’t mind if I just dropped dead, walking out to my mailbox, someday.

    Reply
  34. Jan - June 9, 2018 5:24 pm

    Amen, Sean. As always you speak the truth!

    Reply
  35. Edna B. - June 9, 2018 5:26 pm

    I agree with all the others. Sean, you are a gift. Your writing is from the heart and so inspirational. I just know that someone out there read this today and gave a little more thought to getting help. God bless you. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  36. Jane Vaught - June 9, 2018 6:11 pm

    My son took his life at age 31. No one understands what is in the mind of someone depressed. I miss him everyday and so does his son who was only 9 years old, 27 now. But we move forward with love and good memories. I understand your loss

    Reply
  37. Carolynn Bettis - June 9, 2018 7:38 pm

    Captivating, understanding and encouraging!

    Reply
  38. Marjorie - June 9, 2018 8:12 pm

    My brother Ronnie did it with a 22 rifle at the age of 25. He had depression. He had done a lot of bad things in life. I think it all got to him. My family didn’t really talk to each other. We were dysfunctional. It still hurts me by the way we were raised. I try not to think of it.

    Reply
  39. Charlotte Hollis - June 9, 2018 8:44 pm

    AMEN!!

    Reply
  40. Patrick McCarthy, Sr. - June 9, 2018 8:59 pm

    Hey Sean, I am a relatively new reader to your blog, but I enjoy finding your new entry each morning and appreciate your grass root writing. No subject could be more close to me then what you wrote about today – suicide. It has been just over 8 years since my youngest son William hung himself in a hotel room. Alone, he gave up on life in the darkness of a rented room.
    Since his suicide, I’ve had many sad days, maybe some with depression where I had little to hold on to, blaming myself for his action and responsible for his death. I have been able to crawl out of this hold by hard work, staying involved with my family & community, volunteering at the local blood bank, but the real thing that has helped me is building my “Comfort Benches”. Some folks eat comfort food, I build comfort benches. When I am feeling down, I will build a bench from memory and by the time I am done, I am feeling much better and I have a bench to sell or give away as wedding or friendship gift. It is a simple bench that measures 48”L x 16”W x 15”H made out of 1”x4” and 4”x4” wood, usually treated for a long outside life and it is built to last.
    If you are struggling with something in your life, get help now, find someone or something to get you through the crises you are dealing with. Don’t make any snapped decisions that you cannot reverse and remember, that someone out there cares and loves you. Life is worth living and you are never alone. – Mac

    Reply
  41. Ami - June 9, 2018 9:14 pm

    Amen and thank you, dear friend.

    Reply
  42. Pam - June 9, 2018 9:58 pm

    Privileged to be a subscriber of yours
    😊😊😊

    Reply
  43. Marilyn Mason - June 10, 2018 12:04 am

    This is an important topic and your missive was beautifully, head on and heart felt. Did I say inspirational. I’m sorry for your loss. I’m glad you’re sharing in such a caring way. It’s helpful and right on. There is hope and help though sometimes you have to keep looking to find the right fit. God is listening and knows our pain. We can’t handle some things without help and asking can be very hard for some. It is worth setting aside ones pride. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a chemical imbalance from hormone changes.
    Thanks Sean.

    Reply
  44. Pat - June 10, 2018 12:05 am

    Brilliant! Real! Thank you!!

    Reply
  45. paula jones - June 10, 2018 12:56 am

    God bless you. This kind of article really can change the world for a few people.

    Reply
  46. Steve Welch - June 10, 2018 3:07 am

    Great piece Sean. Way to use your pain to help others. I will be in Gulf Shores for a week starting next Friday for a family reunion of my LA (lower Alabama) first cousins. I plan on introducing them all to you by way of internet link. It will do them good. Thanks for sharing your insights, in spite of your pain. Keep inspiring us all my friend, and be good to your wife and Thelma Lou. You are a fortunate man my friend. You have a gift for writing, a great wife and a good dog. What else could any man ask for?

    Reply
  47. Peter Heyer - June 10, 2018 4:05 am

    Great Job Sean, Keep up your Ministry to Humanity!

    Reply
  48. Linda Chapman - June 10, 2018 5:51 am

    Thank you, Sean…..You are making a difference in this world……word by word. Keep writing…..

    Reply
  49. Paul J LeBlanc, RN - June 10, 2018 11:46 am

    Hi, Sean. Thank you for today’s column and thank you for being so open in sharing about your father’s suicide. Our country is becoming more aware of this tragic and growing problem. I have had a number of friends on social media discuss how suicide has personally touched their lives and many of their stories have been gut-wrenching. I have been touched both personally and professionally. I was a Deputy Sheriff and later a Deputy Coroner in Louisiana and dealt with the aftermath of a suicide more times than I can count. I have shared your column today on Facebook and on LinkedIn. I hope your message reaches someone who needs to see it today. Thanks again and my God Bless you and your family.

    Reply
  50. Peggy Branch - June 10, 2018 2:05 pm

    Sean, you have a gift from God. Your writing is amazing!

    Reply
  51. Jack Darnell - June 11, 2018 1:38 am

    Thanks dude. This is an important post. But then you know that much more than I! But thanks for trying to enlighten us that do not know!

    Reply
  52. April Oliverio - June 11, 2018 10:05 pm

    Having lost my husband to suicide it seems like it happens more and more after experiencing the most tragic day of my life. Truth is, it was happening all around me but wasn’t discussed or talked about because you never think it can happen to you…
    So thank you for sharing your story .. Hoping we can reach those who feel alone to know they are not alone and are very important people regardless of their condition or what’s happening in their lives.. Everyone needs to know they are loved and feel the love. So reach to those who show any signs of feeling alone because one of the toughest things for those folks to do is to reach out to you.

    Reply
  53. Peggy Bilbro - June 12, 2018 2:04 am

    Every morning, I sift through all the headlines and the screaming and the yelling till I find Sean. You settle me into my day, every day. Thank you for sharing the inside of your heart. You are a gift. Especially today’s post. Hugs and benches to you and everyone who is struggling.

    Reply
  54. Anne Robinson - June 12, 2018 10:00 pm

    A very uncomfortable subject and our health care system turns it ‘s back on this. I know I worked for 32 years in health care and it is quite tragic. Thank you for addressing this. You are so amazing and I am grateful each day my friend Myra told me to check out your blog. HUGS to you and yours Sean. God Bless You!

    Reply
  55. Anna Ehrhardt - June 13, 2018 1:03 pm

    Thank you. I wish I could share this message. I don’t know how we will reach people that really need help. I guess we can be there to listen – I mean really listen to them – just talk.

    Reply
  56. Steven - June 15, 2018 2:27 pm

    Several months back my sweet mother said “have you seen this guy’s stuff?” (she meant your articles). I hadn’t but started reading and managed to catch myself up. I can honestly say each post I’ve read has touched something within me. Sometimes my heart swells a little and a wistful memory will float across my mind. Other times my eyes water a little. Once in a while I could just go ahead and cry, but I don’t, at least not yet. What I think you bring to the front is the basic goodness of living a basic, good life. We’re from the same place. We know the same people. We’ve heard the same stories. We want that to continue. I’ve commented a few times on articles that particularly touch. I don’t know if you read all these comments. I hope that you do. I generally do.

    Today’s post hit a very raw nerve. My great grandfather killed himself. This was an eon ago. He left his wife with a large brood of younguns to raise. Much of that responsibility fell to my grandfather, the oldest of that crowd. He had his own young and growing family. Somehow they made it and nobody starved and everybody had their own shoes. But the impact of that mans action can still be felt today – how it affected his own children, then their children, and their children. And me and mine to an extent. The shadow lifts with every passing generation.

    My brother-in-law was a C-130 pilot, and special ops, and saw several tours of duty in the Gulf States, and Panama. God knows what he witnessed, or did. A few years ago he took his own life. He was alone. It took a few days before anyone really missed him. He had estranged himself from pretty much everyone. PTSD was the diagnosis, after the fact. Despite being repeatedly and genuinely told “we love you and are here for you” it wasn’t enough. He left my sister with three children. He now has two grandchildren and another on the way. They are beautiful and precious. I hope he knows.

    Thank you, Sean, for the service you do for us. As you repeatedly say, we love you and are here for you.

    Reply
  57. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - June 16, 2018 5:09 am

    My husband’s father and grandfather both committed suicide. My husband made a promise that he would not do to his son what they had done to him. He did get help when depression hit him. Cancer got him instead.

    Reply

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