Important Things

I’m glad my wife kept this hat. It’s become her trademark. She wears it often even though it looks ridiculous on her. She carries it in her beach bag. She wears it when she works outside. Or on long drives—like the long drive we took yesterday. We landed in a Birmingham hotel at ten at night.

My wife wears a green John Deere hat. It’s too big for her head, it’s ratty. It looks ridiculous. Long ago, she almost placed this cap inside her father’s casket. But at the very last minute, she saved it for herself.

I remember seeing her father wear the hat while riding his lawnmower. The cap sat slightly crooked on his head.

There’s something about the way old men wear ball caps crooked. It makes them look distinguished. Many times I have tried to wear my cap, slightly cockeyed. I look like the town wino.

I’m glad my wife kept this hat. It’s become her trademark. She wears it often even though it looks ridiculous on her.

She carries it in her beach bag. She wears it when she works outside. Or on long drives—like the long drive we took yesterday. We landed in a Birmingham hotel at ten at night.

And that’s is where I am now. I’m in a hotel room, still wearing my pajamas.

My wife just left me to meet a friend for lunch. I am writing. The television is playing a soap opera on mute.

And I’m looking at this dumb cap, thinking about things. Important things.

Like my friend, who just lost his thirty-five-year-old wife to cancer. Ten years they were married. He has two kids. He’s a wreck. He smiles when he’s in public, and it’s a phony one.

I also know a man who was diagnosed with a terminal illness in his brain. He is young. He has a good job, a magnificent family, and he’s been eating healthy for most of his natural life.

The doctor told him he needs to get his affairs in order.

There’s a man whose wife died nine days after her fiftieth birthday. Breast cancer. I stood in her funeral line and shook her husband’s hand. He cried so hard that he held up the line.

As old as I may get, I’ll never forget that day. Some things stick with you, I guess.

Like the time I sat in a UAB hospital waiting room, holding a stupid green cap. That sticks with me.

I wrung the hat in my hands. I prayed for God to remember his good old pal, Sean. I felt sick.

There were a few others waiting in the room. A television in the corner, blaring commercials about used-car lots.

I’ve never felt more alone than I did in that room.

When they wheeled my wife out, I placed the cap on her head. I kissed her and told her I loved her.

In the weeks that followed, I didn’t sleep. I laid in bed, wedged as close to her as I could get. She snored. I kept my nose pressed against her bare shoulder.

When the doctors told us it was benign, it was the greatest day of my existence—yet to be surpassed.

I don’t know what you call the most important thing in your life. And the truth is, I’m in no position to make remarks about what is and isn’t important—I have a hard enough time remembering to change my oil.

But I know what I have. And I know I’m grateful for it.

And I’m grateful for this stupid hat, too.

37 comments

  1. Kris - August 16, 2017 1:00 pm

    I lost my 39 yr old wife to cancer. 14 years we were married. I have two kids. I am a wreck. I smile when I’m in public but it’s a phony smile.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
    • Brenda - September 29, 2017 12:00 pm

      Lifting you up in prayer, Kris.

      Reply
    • LindaD - September 29, 2017 1:23 pm

      Kris, can I help you in some way? We both live in Auburn, I believe.

      Reply
    • Linda Robbins Akers - September 29, 2017 3:04 pm

      God bless you and your children. Life is hard.

      Reply
    • Lou - September 29, 2017 7:14 pm

      Keep smiling the phoney smile, and as much as it will always wreck you, one day it may be real again! Love and prayers!

      Reply
  2. Pat - August 16, 2017 1:07 pm

    My most important day was the day the Doctor called me to tell me they had all my cancer. I cried. It was the only time I cried during the whole thing from diagnosis to the end of radiation. I cried when I knew it was gone. Thank you for putting these things in perspective.

    Reply
  3. JANE L HUMPHREY - August 16, 2017 1:15 pm

    Love this!!!!!!

    Reply
  4. Sharon Schwalbach - August 16, 2017 1:18 pm

    Absolutely wonderful writing.

    Reply
  5. Trudy :) - August 16, 2017 1:37 pm

    I’m grateful to have people to love and the people who love me. I believe those are the important things. I have things of Mother’s and Daddy’s and Beloved’s which I look at each day and remember all our times together. I have the memories and love of all that is important to me. Yes, those are the important things.

    Reply
  6. Debbie, Beach - August 16, 2017 1:49 pm

    I loved this one Sean. I took care of my dad his last 6 years. My husband and I gave up our condo on the water to move back to Ozark, Al to care for him while living next door. My dad’s WWII hat was buried with him. He wore it everywhere. He told me to keep it and I wanted to. However, my two brothers would have disowned me ( which they did anyway) so I left it in his casket.
    I’m so sorry I did. I know how attached the green hat must be to your sweetheart wife.
    My hat is a memory now.

    Reply
  7. Amanda Reaves - August 16, 2017 1:59 pm

    Beautiful testament! Among other things I have a set of pillow cases from my mother’s bed. She died twenty-five years ago. I sleep with one of them on my bed every night. It’s just a small thing but I when I see it I think of her….every single day. It’s just a small thing but in life and memories there are no small things.

    Reply
  8. Jayne Holland - August 16, 2017 2:04 pm

    I signed up for your writings just this week. I LOVE your words. I feel like I can actually hear you reading them. I connect because I am from Alabama, I moved away 40+ years ago. I understand the hat. I gave my Dad’s old hat to my son.

    Reply
  9. Lisa Ware - August 16, 2017 2:24 pm

    I love your heart of gratitude. It infiltrates every word you write. ❤️

    Reply
  10. Jan - August 16, 2017 2:49 pm

    Amen! Once again, you brought us back to what is real and truly meaningful on this journey we call life.

    Reply
    • Pat - August 16, 2017 2:54 pm

      Well said!

      Reply
  11. Catherine - August 16, 2017 3:59 pm

    Reply
  12. Steve - August 16, 2017 5:31 pm

    My wife of 52 years had an uncle. He had a hat. He wore it all the time. Looked distinguished. He’s gone. My wife had Brest cancer. She’s still with me. I’m thankful for both!

    Reply
  13. Thressa - August 16, 2017 6:10 pm

    😇 You bless us with your mention, almost daily, of things for which we should be truly grateful!

    Reply
  14. Martha - August 16, 2017 7:32 pm

    You may have the hat crooked, but your head is screwed on straight!

    Reply
  15. Mary Anne - August 16, 2017 7:53 pm

    “When the doctors told us it was benign, it was the greatest day of my existence—yet to be surpassed.”

    Amen. Been there. Done that.

    Reply
  16. Mary Anne - August 16, 2017 8:00 pm

    …When the doctors told us it was benign, it was the greatest day of my existence—yet to be surpassed….

    Amen. Been there. Done that.

    Reply
  17. Shirley J Brown - August 16, 2017 8:40 pm

    Then you truly do know what’s important in life. It’s the small things that bring all of us down and sometimes God has to shake us up to make us realize the who’s are the important things. Not that first cup of coffee nor the lawn that should have been cut yesterday. Mom, Doris, Ruth and my Jerry were the important ones. I can live without coffee and even the smell of newly cut grass, but I can’t live without the beautiful memories left by the ones I truly loved and who loved me in return. A hat may mean a little to most but I still have Jerry’s UK ball cap from 30 years ago. I still smile every time I touch it. Now, that’s important.

    Reply
  18. Rick Richardson - August 16, 2017 9:30 pm

    You have done it again. You made a 69 year old man cry. My first wife died 10 years ago from breast cancer. We were high school sweethearts and married for 39 years. I knew my life was not worth the dirt in my boots. I hit rock bottom, drinking and other such soul destroying things. I finally ask God for help, a miracle. Instead, he sent me another angel. I have been grateful ever since.

    Reply
  19. Leah Lloyd - August 16, 2017 10:08 pm

    Love this

    Reply
  20. Jack Quanstrum - August 16, 2017 10:53 pm

    Excellent! Captivating! Thanks for answers on what’s important! Food for thought.

    Reply
  21. Michelle Jones - August 17, 2017 12:48 am

    Hits home. Thanks Sean.

    Reply
  22. Pamela McEachern - August 17, 2017 1:28 am

    God’s Speed for a quick recovery.

    Reply
  23. Wendy - August 17, 2017 6:25 am

    Beautiful, Sean!

    Reply
  24. Judy - August 17, 2017 3:46 pm

    Oh, man, now you got my tears falling. They may never stop. I’ve lost so much (& so many) in my life. But I am so very grateful for what (& who) I have left. You bless my heart good every time I read what you wrote. You inspire me to keep holding on, to try hard to do it with some grace. And to be grateful, not taking a single thing or person for granted. I thank you.

    Reply
  25. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - August 17, 2017 9:33 pm

    Love that story!! You know what I have?? I have 2 red aprons my dad wore in the grocery story. He died 17 years before my mamma and she kept them — washed and pressed. Once she passed away I found them in her box of important things. I cook — you see I have a food blog. I don’t cook without wearing one of those two aprons. I feel my mamma and papà around me helping as I make my Italian dishes. Some things are important.

    Reply
  26. Lucretia - August 18, 2017 6:15 am

    Thank you for the reminder of the important things.

    Reply
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  28. Doc - September 29, 2017 11:48 am

    My beautiful, Southern Grandma always wore lipstick. I have one of the tubes that was in her purse when she left this earth for heaven. I bought my first when I turned 30, and I’ve worn lipstick every day since. It reminds me of her…she was my prayer warrior, loved me unconditionally. She didn’t live long enough to see me marry; I hate that. I surely do miss her.

    Reply
  29. Catherine A. - September 29, 2017 12:31 pm

    I have my dads Pirates Cove hat. He wore it all the time. It is so much more than a hat! He has been gone almost 12 years and just like your post yesterday, I grieve often in many different ways. I have just started reading your stuff and I want you to know that I always enjoy! Thanks for sharing with all of us.

    Reply
  30. unkle - September 29, 2017 4:25 pm

    It’s moms hankie that i keep in my safe. It doesn’t seem like much but it has Super Powers. When you cried it dried. Put a little moma spit on it and it would remove anything. I take it with me along with dads flight glasses when going into a dicey situation. I can look through those sunglasses and consider all the days they were worn as daddy taught students to fly. Mom’s hankie will still dry a tear. I have never used a dab of my spit to see if it would remove gravy or grease stains. Common everyday items endowed with uncommon powers . I reckon we all have our keepsakes. uk

    Reply
    • Pamela McEachern - September 30, 2017 7:08 am

      Wow you understand, so many people don’t.
      God Bless

      Reply
  31. Kathy Warren Moss - September 30, 2017 2:04 pm

    The Love of my Life my children’s father passed from colon cancer after 23 years of marriage. I am remarried now and Blessed! I kept one of my husband’s shirts, unwashed in a plastic bag in my closet, when the grief would become overwhelming I would take out that shirt and hold it (it had his beautiful smell)until it passed! It was if he were there with me.

    Reply

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