Normal People

Listen, I’m not a particularly smart man, friend. But then, you don’t have to be smart to know what I know. Life evaporates. It rises toward heaven so quick that you’re lucky if you catch a glimpse.

DEAR SEAN:

My dad died last year and I just don’t really know what to do with myself anymore. I know your dad died when you were my age, I think, so how do I be, like, normal again?

Really hope you write back,
FOURTEEN-IN-VIRGINIA

DEAR FOURTEEN:

I’m the wrong guy to ask about normalcy. I haven’t been normal since the third grade when I peed my pants onstage at a school assembly.

Even our school nurse remarked, “That child’s one rung short of a step ladder.”

She was right. But then, I don’t believe in “normal.” It’s a made-up word. And not that it matters, but I don’t believe in magic beanstalks, pop-stars, Florida Powerball, high cholesterol, or daylight saving time, either.

Years ago, while driving through South Alabama, I saw something. It was an overcast day and the world was colorless. My wife and I had just left a funeral. There was a sadness over our vehicle.

We rode through miles of farmland. My wife yelled, “LOOK!”

I glanced out the window. It was spectacular. I pulled into a cow pasture. We stepped out. We ran through acres of cow pies and green grass.

A rainbow.

And so help me, the colors were touching the ground. The tail was diving into the dirt like a spotlight. I’d never seen anything like it.

The cows watched us with big eyes while we behaved like six-year-olds. We took turns swatting the colors. I don’t know exactly why we did this, but I would’ve regretted not doing it.

Here’s where it gets somewhat magical.

The colors disappeared when I got too close. They reappeared when I took several steps back.

Closeup; gone. Far away; voila. The colors were there, but not always visible.

Eventually, the sun came out and the rainbow vanished completely.

We hiked back to the truck. I took in a breath of morning air and I felt like I’d seen a miracle. It’s not every day you see colors from heaven, touching dirt.

My wife cried. I cried. It wasn’t a sad cry. It was the kind you do after a baseball game, or at a surprise birthday party, or when you find a lost dog.

I was thinking of my father. He loved rainbows. And I cried because even though I couldn’t see him up close, I believe he is out there.

Listen, I’m not a particularly smart man, friend. But then, you don’t have to be smart to know what I know. Life evaporates. It rises toward heaven so quick that you’re lucky if you catch a glimpse.

It reaches the top of the world, then it disappears and all we’re left with are gray clouds and rain.

But, if you are fortunate enough to have known a soul who lit up the sky, you can bet you were lucky. And so was I.

And we can thank heaven that we saw the tails of a rainbow—even if only for a moment. A miracle. We can remember their colors, even though we can’t see them.

I guess what I’m saying is: don’t forget your daddy. Cry for him until you can’t. Talk about him too much. Tell his stories. Pull over in cattle pastures to chase rainbows.

And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t let this world make you normal.

You’re too beautiful for that.

Write me anytime, brother.

30 comments

  1. Valerie Carn Hardwick - January 21, 2018 10:31 am

    Thank you.Encouraging daily.Again thanks.

    Reply
  2. Sandra - January 21, 2018 11:07 am

    Thank you Sean, so beautiful for a person like me that has never been normal and the sketch of the calf is beautiful

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  3. Joan Raines - January 21, 2018 12:59 pm

    To touch a rainbow., another great story, Stay abnormal please.

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  4. Patricia - January 21, 2018 2:02 pm

    tears falling into my strong morning coffee, thank you Sean

    Reply
  5. Janet Mary Lee - January 21, 2018 2:16 pm

    You have hit profound this time, Sean! Thank you…

    Reply
  6. janiesjottings - January 21, 2018 2:26 pm

    Once again we are so touched by what you’ve shared with us today. Love it!!!

    Reply
  7. Jackie Darnell - January 21, 2018 3:17 pm

    You said it, and said it well.

    Reply
  8. Martha - January 21, 2018 5:01 pm

    This is lovely. My Dad always says, “normal is a setting on a dryer.” You are wrong about one thing. You are a smart man.

    Reply
  9. Frannie Keller - January 21, 2018 5:13 pm

    That was your Daddy doing the rainbow thing, Sean! Blessings!🌈

    Reply
  10. Jack Quanstrum - January 21, 2018 5:43 pm

    Uncommon wisdom about life and death!

    Reply
  11. Howard Humphreys - January 21, 2018 6:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing this great story

    Reply
  12. Roxanne - January 21, 2018 7:02 pm

    Beauty for ashes. So many beautiful moments we are given. I’m glad you touched that rainbow!

    Reply
  13. paula jones - January 21, 2018 8:07 pm

    Thank you for reminding me of the rainbow I all-too-briefly had in my life. Luckily, the short time we had together still shines through storms. The light was real.

    Reply
  14. Paulette DiMaggio Seales - January 21, 2018 8:27 pm

    Dear Sean, I had a rainbow incident. I had just left my best friend/aunts/mentors house. I had just reached my interstate exit. Oh! I needed to cry but it would not come. I looked back to my left and there was a rainbow, then one large drop hit my windshield, then another. They were I huge. I began to cry at last. The rainbow followed me home. When I reached home, out in the field across the road there was the rainbow from one end to another. As I opened the door, my uncle was on the phone. My aunt had died 20 minutes ago..it took me 20 minutes to get home from the interstate. The minute, I hung up with my uncle, the phone rang again. It was a good friend inviting me to her house for supper and a drink..I did not want to go but she said I did not need to be alone. I walked back out of the frontier door which faces the pasture, there was the. Rainbow waiting on me. I jumped in my car, heading to Montevallo, about 5 miles away. Rainbow at my left side. When I pulled into the driveway, my friend was waiting on me and I introduced her to my aunt and the rainbow. It was also reflecting its image on my rear window. I will never, never stop praising God for releasing my tears and for sending the rainbow for reassurance that it was all well I. Heaven realm.

    Reply
  15. elainenkarrh - January 21, 2018 9:01 pm

    Thank you,thank you,thank you…

    Reply
  16. Dianne Correll - January 21, 2018 10:32 pm

    The rainbow is a promise from GOD, the perfect artist!

    Reply
  17. Gloria - January 21, 2018 11:00 pm

    So true. Sean, you’re a wise young man. God has bless you by giving you the ability to express deeply felt emotions in words which in turn blesses us. Thank you.

    Reply
  18. Virginia Hamlin - January 22, 2018 1:00 am

    Hmmm, no pot of gold?

    Reply
  19. Carolyn - January 22, 2018 2:08 am

    Words of wisdom Sean. To Fourteen in Virginia – believe this man…he knows of what he speaks.

    Reply
  20. kathi hill - January 22, 2018 4:41 pm

    I saw the end of a rainbow once, too. It looked like it was shooting up from the ground. ‘Bout wrecked my car!

    Reply
  21. Phyllis Hamiton - January 22, 2018 5:32 pm

    Thank you! I have never been normal either. People have told me I’m not normal and I’ve often wondered why not.

    Reply
  22. Susan Hammett Poole - January 23, 2018 8:49 am

    Beautiful message to the 14 years old boy and beautifully stated for us to think upon and take to heart. Thank you, Sean, for directing our minds toward the extraordinary!

    Reply
  23. Lorry Lorraine - January 23, 2018 2:41 pm

    I need one of those rainbows. My kid is in jail and I had to give up my job to stay home and watch her two beautiful daughters. I’m lost. The baby won’t sleep. I still have bills to pay. When it rains, it pours around here. I’m going to keep looking up, tho… Thank you for the comfort of your words.

    Reply
  24. Dan Hugghins - January 24, 2018 12:40 am

    Dear Fourteen,
    Normal is different now. I lost my best friend (Daddy, I called him) at 11. Your normal is now hugging your mama every darn chance you get. Normal is acting like you’re 10 years older than you really are. Look a man in the eye when you shake his hand, open the door for every woman you’ll ever see walking into a building.
    When Daddy (or whatever you called him) looks down, make sure he’s grinning ear-to-ear. Nothing makes a Dad prouder.
    You’ll be fine. Life will go on, however badly it hurts. He knows it’s tough, but He also knows you can do this.
    I’ve never met you, and probably never will, but know there is another hurting young man on your side and praying for you.
    God Bless
    By the way, I’m 48 and turned out just fine.

    Reply
  25. Linda Chipman - January 24, 2018 7:17 pm

    This reminded me of the day of my Mother’s funeral. My brother and I were driving home from the cemetery and saw the most beautiful rainbow. My brother said – Maybe that’s Mama letting us know she is OK. If there was ever a soul that lit up the sky – it was my Mother.

    Reply
  26. Lucretia - January 27, 2018 9:00 am

    Not being normal is a joy, and sharing our Dad every day gives us joy, so take the baton, FOURTEEN in VIRGINIA, and have joy in your journey

    Reply
  27. Nearing Virginia - February 6, 2018 2:58 am

    I hope you are planning to put these in a book to sell! I will pay whatever it takes! I look forward to seeing you at Nanny’s!

    Reply
  28. Kat aka The Geekess (@katthegeekess) - April 14, 2018 12:04 pm

    Your story in my FaceBook feed today is my penny from Heaven. Thank you.

    Reply
  29. Laura Lynn - April 15, 2018 3:10 am

    Beautiful advice but my favorite part…’Write me anytime, brother’. So genuine. Thank you for your simple wisdom and generosity.

    Reply
  30. Naomi Storey - April 15, 2018 7:41 pm

    I was married and living in Illinois when my father was hospitalized in Birmingham, AL, after suffering a heart attack. Since I had two small children, I couldn’t go see him. I tried calling him long distance several times but could not reach him in his room. After several attempts, he finally answered the phone. When I asked him why he was never in his room, he told me that he was sitting with other patients on his floor who never had visitors. I told him that I loved him. He died a few weeks later on New Year’s Eve, 1968, two weeks after his 65th birthday. All these years later, I still miss my daddy.

    Reply

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