This morning a bird is trapped in our screened porch. The poor thing flitters back and forth like a caged maniac, banging into walls and windows.

My wife rushes to open the screen door, saying, “Go on, little bird! Shoo!”

My wife, the animal rescuer, dog adopter, and feral feline vigilante. She is a woman who will halt five lanes of traffic to help a single turtle cross the highway. A woman who once tried to adopt two stray cats on our honeymoon.

She is also the same woman who has been spending each morning, afternoon, and evening with her dying mother. Occasionally I find my wife lying in her mother’s sickbed, curled beside her in the half fetal position.

Nobody ever tells you that dying can be beautiful. Over the past week, we have experienced a lot of beauty. Too much beauty, in fact.

Believe me, there are times when my wife doesn’t think she can stand any more beauty. She just wants the suffering to end.

But it’s beauty nonetheless. And I wish you could be in that little bedroom with us, amidst the humming medical appliances and the infantries of orange prescription bottles. The room feels like a place where time doesn’t exist. There is almost a feeling of weightlessness. I cannot explain it.

In that dark bedroom there is no calendar. No outside world. No societal demands. No anxieties. All the things in life that everyone thinks are so important—mortgages, careers, schedules, obligations—they aren’t real in this room.

Last night we sat around and sang to my mother-in-law while the patient smiled at us through dried and cracked lips.

We sang songs by Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Issac Watts, Fanny Crosby, Sam Cooke, and the Beach Boys. We belted out melodies until finally we asked the patient how she liked our singing.

She opened her eyes and mumbled, “You’re making me nauseous.”

We laughed until tears dripped from our chins. But we kept singing.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…”

“Wisemen say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you…”

“When the night has come, and the land is dark…”

And now this morning, I awake to find this bird trapped in our screened porch. Coincidence? Maybe. But I don’t believe in those.

“Go on, little bird!” says my wife.

She is trying to guide the confused creature toward the open door. And I can tell she doesn’t see the symbolism here.

“C’mon, girl, you can do it! Go on, girl!”

I am thinking about the moment I asked this woman to marry me. Only days before I popped the question, she proudly told me: “When my parents get old, I’m going to take care of them.”

It was an adult promise made by a girl. But it had power behind it. Real power. And I remember thinking what a remarkable woman this was.

When you’re young, you never think about what it means to caregive for a family member. You don’t think about old age, or illness, or someone dying in the downstairs bedroom.

Old age is a fairytale to the young. When you’re a kid you awake each morning and your days are infinite. You have thousands of tomorrows left, each one as limitless as today.

But the older you get the more you realize what a complete crock that is. Because the fact is, time moves so fast that it will snap your neck. A weekday barely lasts five minutes. Your twenties hardly last more than a few hours.

“Go on, bird! Shoo! Get outta here!” says my wife.

All my life, I’ve wondered what comes after death. And it has always scared me a little. But right now, watching this helpless bird, I’m getting the feeling that it doesn’t truly matter what comes next. All that matters is that there is a next.

Take this bird. This bird isn’t thinking about what will come after she escapes this porch. In fact, she isn’t thinking at all. All she knows is that “out there” is better than “in here.” And she wants to get there fast.

Well, eventually she gets her wish.

“Look!” says my wife, pointing. “There she goes!”

All of a sudden the bird finds the open door. It takes place so quickly that I nearly miss it. The bird whips through the opening like a brown missile and flutters upward into the blue.

My wife watches, hands on hips, gazing at the sky. She is unaware of what I’m thinking right now. And that’s a good thing because maybe I’m trying too hard to find deeper meanings in events which have no meaning.

Either way, I find meaning here. Today I am watching my wife exercise mercy on a sparrow.

I’m watching this tiny thing soar upward like a freed inmate, wings unfurled as she glides high above the treetops. Who knows where this beautiful creature is going, or when she’ll get there? It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she’s been released.

And some glad morning, you and I will be too.


  1. Christina - August 1, 2021 7:09 am

    This is beautiful, Sean, and you have the most beautiful wife!

  2. Liz Hoyt Eberle - August 1, 2021 7:49 am

    Dear, dear Sean, how dd you get so wise so young….and so loving… and so giving…… you and your beautiful wife are wrapped in my prayers. And yir precious and oh so very blessed Mother Mary….. 😔💕🙏🏻🎶. There are not enough words…so be wrapped in God’s strong arms.

  3. Susan H Poole - August 1, 2021 7:51 am

    Sean, what a gift you have. The depth of meaning and the beautiful symbolism in your message today take my breath away and bring tears.

  4. MermaidGrammy - August 1, 2021 8:18 am

    This is a stunningly beautiful description of what is happening to Mother Mary because of you and Jamie. I’m so sure there is no fear. First, of course, because she is in the hands of Jesus. Second, because she’s beginning her passage into the next step of her life. I believe death is just another form of birth. From this life to the next. Thank you so much for sharing this time with us. You and Jamie do ‘way more good than you can possibly know. For Mother Mary and for each person like me who wakes up every morning waiting for the next chapter. I will go back to sleep until a more reasonable hour and dream of your family. Peace, Love and Joy go with you

    • Sue Rhodus - August 1, 2021 12:29 pm

      Mermaid Grammy…perfect !

    • Gayle - August 1, 2021 2:08 pm

      How beautiful the belief that death is another form of birth

  5. Harriet - August 1, 2021 10:30 am

    I agree with MermaidGrammy

  6. Joan Moore - August 1, 2021 10:33 am

    Please know we are praying for Mary, Jamie and you.2 Corinthians 5 came to my mind,we have a house not made with hands… eternal in the heavens. Thank you for your simple eloquent glimpses of human experiences.

  7. Barbara - August 1, 2021 10:39 am

    You express words that reveal thoughts and observations which escape many of us but once spoken it makes perfect sense. Beautiful message today. As always. The lyrics to “I’ll Fly Away” approximately come to mind.

  8. Becky Moon - August 1, 2021 10:41 am

    Thank you for your words. I was with my mother and 10 years later with my husband as they left me behind for whatever wonder there is beyond here and it was one of life’s most beautiful moments. Grief came later. I too have a bird story after my mother’s death, and, after my husbands. How is it birds can come to teach us so much?

  9. Deb Warner - August 1, 2021 10:47 am

    When this life is o’er…oh glory.

  10. Janet W. - August 1, 2021 11:02 am

    SO beautiful!

  11. Carolyn Waldron - August 1, 2021 11:21 am

    Awesome analogy. Yes, we will. Thank you, Sean!!

  12. Bar - August 1, 2021 11:24 am

    Beautiful. Perfect. You’re a master with words, Sean, and your heart is filled with love. And aren’t we glad there is a ‘next’ …

  13. Doris W Drummond - August 1, 2021 11:26 am

    So beautiful. There is a similar poem that I had read at my own Mom’s funeral. Enjoy your stories every day.

  14. Sarah Filliter - August 1, 2021 11:29 am

    Wow. Your best writing ever. I’m weepy.

  15. Paula - August 1, 2021 11:30 am

    Beautiful as always Sean. Thank you!
    I’m glad you can see the beauty I believe it is a choice we get to make whether we see the beauty or something else. I also feel the sadness of what you and your wife are experiencing. God hover.

  16. Julie Patterson - August 1, 2021 11:44 am

    Sean, death has beautiful moments. In 2016 I married my husband knowing he had leukemia. In August 2020 he passed away in the hospital, and I was privileged to be with him, touching him in his final hours. He was on a ventilator and was unconscious, but I believe he knew I was there. As I was leaving the hospital, a young mother holding an infant daughter was being wheeled to her car. I thought, this is life. Death is merely a rebirth into the existence we were designed to have. If that baby girl had been given a choice, she wouldn’t have left the climate-controlled womb. But forces stronger than her will pushed her from a place of comfort into a bigger world, a beautiful place beyond her imagining. I stared at the baby girl and thought of Bill, wrapped in our Father’s protective embrace…and gave thanks through my tears.

  17. Marcie Emory - August 1, 2021 11:47 am

    I have loved reading about your caregiving experience,…just as I love reading all your columns. This hits home for me so much. Being the youngest of both my family and my late husband’s family (he was the youngest as well), and being a nurse, I have naturally accepted the role of caregiver for all my family members. I have had home hospice for 3 out of my 4 parents, and cared for the other parent until she passed on in the hospital. Caregiving is one of the most difficult things one human can do for another, but one of the most beautiful as well. It’s the perfect way to honor and love the person who has loved us so much and so well. Praying for strength for all of you, and for lovely Mother Mary to fly home.

  18. Kenneth Mitchell - August 1, 2021 11:48 am

    “to a home on God’s celestial shore…..” ken

  19. Ernie - August 1, 2021 12:01 pm

    It is pleasantly reassuring to read your words, and in the comments of others who read them, realize how many people still find comfort in those old hymns. Blessings to you and Jamie.

  20. Christine - August 1, 2021 12:01 pm

    So sorry for the loss of your precious Mother Mary. Fly high precious lady.

  21. Elizabeth LeDuc - August 1, 2021 12:14 pm

    This is lovely. I still remember whispering in my mom’s ear, “if you see Jesus walk on over.”

  22. Janie Gentry - August 1, 2021 12:16 pm

    Immediately I saw the symbolism. And the tears came.

  23. eliza - August 1, 2021 12:16 pm


  24. Dean - August 1, 2021 12:19 pm

    So glad you’ll got to be with her in her final days. Me and so many other didn’t have that privilege due to COVID and it has been so hard not to be with them.
    Great column as always

  25. Michelle Bethune - August 1, 2021 12:22 pm

    Sean, you are so right….there is beauty in death, and yes, no one hardly ever shares that. I’m so happy MM is in your loving arms and hearts right now.

  26. Marcia MacLean - August 1, 2021 12:25 pm

    “All that matters is there is a next.”. Powerful!
    Sean and Jamie, I hope you can feel all the prayers being said for you and Mother Mary. Thank you for sharing with us. I feel like I’m losing someone special.

  27. Amanda - August 1, 2021 12:29 pm

    Your best! I have no other words….

  28. Lauren D Ulrich - August 1, 2021 12:30 pm

    Some glad morning, when this life is o’er . . .

    • BJ - August 1, 2021 1:18 pm

      Some glad morning when this life is o’re, I’ll fly away…. My very thought. Have any of you read “Imagine Heaven”? You need to if you haven’t!

    • Nancy Ferguson - August 1, 2021 3:54 pm

      Bless your wife and you for the wonderful care you are giving mother Mary. With such constant attention, including entertainment, she may be finding it difficult to let go. My mother was like that. My sisters and I sat in constant vigil over her. It wasn’t until we all left the room for a couple of hours that she finally moved on. I felt like we had been interrupting her journey and finding her peace. Praying for all 🙏

  29. Lori - August 1, 2021 12:33 pm

    Thinking of you all daily – hope you feel the prayers.

  30. Gordon - August 1, 2021 12:47 pm

    Wonderful words for this Sunday morning, August 1st.
    Thank you for being so “real” in your writing. Thank you for reminding us of what matters in life. Thank you…

  31. Braxton - August 1, 2021 12:49 pm

    This was very good.

  32. Bill Harris - August 1, 2021 12:57 pm

    Thank you Sean. Your story has touched my heart.

  33. Bernadette Wyckoff - August 1, 2021 12:58 pm

    What a beautiful morning that will be….

  34. Trish Ezell - August 1, 2021 12:59 pm

    Some glad morning touched my heart with its meaning.

  35. Doug Clements - August 1, 2021 1:07 pm

    Oh but the here after does matter. I trust in the biblical promise of eternity through Jesus Christ my Lord.

  36. Debbie g - August 1, 2021 1:19 pm

    We all are with you and Jamie we love you

  37. Melanie - August 1, 2021 1:23 pm

    Yes we will. There is a next, Sean. And there are people who have been and come back and they will tell you how beautiful it is. [“time moves so fast that it will snap your neck” Can I borrow this one? I try to remind my young 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc cousins of this and this phrase is perfect]. (((Hugs))) to you, Jamie and everyone reading this today. And a tearful smile for that little bird 🙂 .

  38. Karen Snyder - August 1, 2021 1:29 pm

    Love is extending far beyond the walls of that downstairs bedroom, and your symbolism spoke out at the title. 🙏🧡

  39. David McClellan Jones - August 1, 2021 1:29 pm

    Just beautiful. Thank you.

  40. Molly - August 1, 2021 1:33 pm

    Some glad morning we will fly away… into the waiting arms of Jesus!! Just beautiful! Your words paint a beautiful picture of what’s waiting for us!! Y’all are in my prayers!!

  41. Marge - August 1, 2021 1:45 pm

    My tears are falling and my heart is so grateful to know Jesus is waiting; arms open and waiting…for Mother Mary and all of us who believe in Him. Your tender words and visual insight are always so helpful and welcome♥️

  42. Penn Wells - August 1, 2021 1:47 pm

    As long as there is a “Sean of the South”… and we are still allowed to read what he writes… our little republic might survive. 🙏

  43. Maggie Priestaf - August 1, 2021 1:58 pm

    Amen Sean..,

  44. beachdreamer1 - August 1, 2021 2:01 pm

    Beautiful is all I can say. And so many heartfelt comments. Love what Elizabeth said, ‘if you see Jesus walk on over,’ I so prayed I could be with my mother when she passed. She was in a nursing home…didn’t want her to leave with no one to say goodbye. But wasn’t meant to be. You are so fortunate to have MM at home with her loved ones. God bless you all. ❤️

  45. Loy Martin - August 1, 2021 2:05 pm

    So well said…

  46. Sybil Smith - August 1, 2021 2:09 pm

    You’ve written some wonderful about family love. Too little of that kind of love today.
    Please be assured tho, we know there is a God and Heaven and that is your mother
    In laws next stop. How faithful you two have been. Enjoy your daily columns. If
    You are ever in Dothan with free time, many of us here would love to meet you,
    Personally. Of course that depends on Biden’s foolish rules re virus. Whitehall Asst.
    Living, 2100 John D Odom Rd.

  47. Sue - August 1, 2021 2:23 pm

    Dino and Cheryl are playing, singing and talking about Heaven today. It’s live now but will be available for replay on Dino Fan Page. Mary (my neighbor years ago) might like hearing it.
    God bless all of you!

  48. Jan - August 1, 2021 2:42 pm

    I’ll fly away, Oh glory, I’ll fly away… What a powerful and precious event to witness. May God bless you and keep you Mother Mary!

  49. Dee Jordan - August 1, 2021 3:19 pm

    If only we could free our loved ones from pain and suffering in a slow death and shoo them out the door to peace and tranquility.

  50. Margaret Cade - August 1, 2021 3:20 pm

    How beautiful. ❤️🙏

  51. Leesa - August 1, 2021 3:34 pm

    As a young woman my mother loved to dance but as her disease overtook her body she was unable to even stand for a moment. I’d gone home to shower and change when Hospice called to tell me she’d slipped away from this life. On my way to her bedside I stopped at a red light. Two bright yellow butterflies paused right before my windshield where they spun and twirled and danced for many moments. I knew in my heart that my mother was dancing again. Hugs and prayers to each of you, Sean.

  52. Jacqueline Arrington - August 1, 2021 3:54 pm

    Thank you Sean for sharing your incredible words to the “next.” When my husband was passing and hospice was there, I was told “I had to tell him it was “Okay” for him to go.” The hospice lady told me he would not go until I told him. That was the hardest day of my life, but the most beautiful day of my life also. He opened up his eyes, which he had not done in days, as the stroke made him blind, but I know he saw me, and I was holding his hand, I said those words and how much I loved him and he squezzed my hand and closed his eyes and he was gone. It was so peaceful, but at the same time my heart broke into a million pieces. It has been 3 years now and I still think of that day. He was the love of my life and my best friend. But…………I believe in the sparrow your wife kept saying let her go……………….I have a Blue Humming Bird that comes to my window every morning since the passing of my husband. I always say good morning Jody(that was my husbands name). He stays for a few minutes than hes gone. So do we really know if that is my Jody? It gives me peace and I would like to think is him. Hummingbirds were his favorite.
    Thinking of you and your family during this time. Mary will fly when its time…………..

  53. Chris Carr - August 1, 2021 4:40 pm

    When my Mom was getting ready to leave this world, this Stephen Stills song kept running through my head. It was somehow comforting, so thought I’d share…

    Carry me, carry me
    Carry me above the world
    Carry me, carry me
    Carry me above the world.

    And then there was my mother:
    She was lying in white sheets there and she was waiting to die.
    She said, “If you’d just reach underneath this bed
    And untie these weights,
    I could surely fly.

    She’s still smiling but she’s tired,
    She’d like to hear that last bell ring.
    You know if she could she would
    Stand up, and she could sing, singing

    Carry me, carry me
    Carry me above the world
    Carry me, carry me.

  54. Sue - August 1, 2021 4:42 pm

    Thank you dear Sean, you will never know what you
    have gifted me with today❤️🙏🏻

  55. elliemac3 - August 1, 2021 5:03 pm

    absolutely beautiful. As always.

  56. Grant Burris - August 1, 2021 5:20 pm

    That was especially beautiful, Sean. Thank you for bringing those thoughts to us.

  57. baysmountainman - August 1, 2021 5:26 pm

    Beautiful. Thanks.

  58. Linda Moon - August 1, 2021 5:55 pm

    When I saw the title here in my inbox before opening it to read it, I heard the song “I’ll Fly Away” not with my ears, but with my heart. And I wondered if Mother Mary had flown. All that matters for Mother Mary right now is the Next. I love your symbolism. I’ve loved Mother Mary from your many stories, and especially now for bringing us into that little bedroom with her. “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away and be at rest.”

  59. Ann - August 1, 2021 6:03 pm

    My heart swells with the love in this column…from both Jamie and you for each other and mother Mary and your deep faith🙏🏻🙏🏻❤️

  60. Pat Rieley - August 1, 2021 6:28 pm

    Thought about you and your family in church this morning. Interesting that you had a bird in the house. Old southern tales/superstitions will tell you a bird trapped in a house is a sign of impending death. Maybe it is. I pray your sweet MIL will escape this world easily and peacefully. Next time you sing to her, don’t forget the song, “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.”

  61. Judy - August 1, 2021 6:56 pm

    Your stories and so many of the comments added are like a soothing balm. Mother Mary is experiencing a beautiful end to her earthly life. Thank you for sharing this very personal story with the rest of us.

  62. Suzi - August 1, 2021 6:58 pm

    Isn’t that what we all want-blessed release!

  63. MAM - August 1, 2021 7:06 pm

    May God bless all of you, and may Jesus grasp Mother Mary into his loving arms.

  64. Sandra Wolfe - August 1, 2021 8:14 pm

    Nice written Sean. Very nice.

  65. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 1, 2021 9:09 pm

  66. vjwinton - August 1, 2021 9:10 pm

    Helping a loved one pass is so honoring and respectful beyond words. Bless you and your family.

  67. Tracy D - August 1, 2021 10:55 pm

    So beautiful..I had a Mother Mary too that I was lucky enough to be with when she journeyed into the blue sky. Was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had.

    She waited for me to get there, squeeze her hand and she flew. I realized that she was the first person to hold my hand and I was the last person to hold hers.

    Couldn’t be more blessed 💞

  68. Jody - August 2, 2021 12:42 am

    Sean thank you for sharing the love and care that surrounds Mother Mary.

  69. Joy - August 2, 2021 1:45 am

    …I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away.

  70. Judy Broussard - August 2, 2021 2:41 am

    Continued prayers for Mrs Mary and all of you

  71. Brenda - August 2, 2021 3:00 am

    Hey Sean. You and Jamie are so dear and I really love you both. Wish I could spend time with you both. Such an inspiration to me. Please keep writing. You are the best. Don’t ever feel like you aren’t. We southerners understand every word you say and with a much deeper understanding. You are making my day with your daily updates on Jamie’s Mom. So real!!! Been there, done that. Praying diligently with both of you. ❤️❤️

  72. Joann Thompson - August 2, 2021 3:22 am

    I’ve always enjoyed your columns, but I believe you are doing your best writing now. My prayers are with you all.

  73. Kate - August 2, 2021 12:35 pm

    You always touch our hearts. Thank you

  74. Charlie Mathers - August 2, 2021 4:58 pm

    As I sat with my friend recently in her hospice place of beauty, I read her your columns every evening. She enjoyed the beauty in them and me sharing them with her. Thank you…

  75. Jeanne - August 3, 2021 12:55 am

    Stunningly beautiful…some glad morning….I’ll fly away….

  76. Anne M Robinson - August 3, 2021 6:35 pm

    Came here to comment and running the song I’ll Fly Away through my mind. My daddy sang that song to me when I was small. That song and all Jim Reeves songs. I know Alan Jackson had his version of it too. I want to someday fly upward with Jesus when the trumpets sound and He comes to gather his children. I hope He comes soon.

  77. Susan Granade - August 8, 2021 6:33 pm

    All your posts, Sean, are hard-hitting, wonderfully full of meaning. There is unadulterated humor in many of them while others, such as this one, perfectly convey the mixture of joy and sadness that is our common lot, that we well recognize when we encounter it. Goodness! Well done!


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