Dear Sean


I can’t sleep. I am sixteen hundred miles from home (Alabama), and my grandmother isn’t doing well. I’m not mentally prepared for her to leave this earth. I’m having a hard time…

She and I are very close. If you could give me some comforting words, I would really appreciate it.

Thank you,


I wish I had words, but I don’t. Because nothing I could say would make things any better.

Sure, I could say, “You’re stronger than you think,” or something. But why should you believe a guy like me? I’m just an average Joe with crummy car insurance.


I DO have something special. And before I tell you what it is, you have to promise you won’t laugh.


No. I mean really promise.

All right.

I have a magic lamp.

Now, hold on. Before you shut off your phone, I’m serious. I bought a brass lamp at a flea market in New Orleans. When I saw it, I had to have it. It cost thirty-nine bucks—you can’t put a price tag on genies.

Though, I haven’t used it yet. In fact, until just now I’d forgotten all about it. The thing has been in my garage.

Tonight, I’m going make a wish.

I know exactly what I’ll wish. I’m going to wish for everything go back to normal for you.

If you ask me—which you didn’t—there is nothing better than normalcy. Life has a way of screwing up normal, and it leaving everything abnormal and funky.

So if this magic lamp is the real deal, you and your granny are going to get plenty of normalcy back.

Also, I’m going to wish for the University of Alabama to win the Orange Bowl on my birthday, but whatever.

Growing up, my life was anything but normal. I had a terse childhood. The details don’t matter. Our days were dark, money was tough to come by. Every day featured a new crisis around every corner. Everything was sad.

And to make things worse, the University of Alabama was being coached by Bill Curry, followed by Gene Stallings. These were trying times.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that all I wanted was a normal day. Just one.

My perfect normal day might’ve gone like this:

Breakfast—three eggs over medium, grits with enough butter to short circuit U.S. congress, toast. A good book.

Lunch—turkey sandwich, extra mayo, add pickles and tomatoes. A few phone calls from friends. More reading. A little bit of activity outside, but not too much—we don’t want to break a sweat. Midday nap.

A burger for supper—extra cheese. Then, watching the tube, sitting beside a dog I love. And that’s a wrap. Bedtime for Buddy Boy.


God, if only I could’ve had one of those days as a kid I’d be a well-adjusted human. Instead, I grew up to be the kind of guy who goes into flea markets and pays obscene prices for things like past issues of MAD Magazine.

The thing is, normal days don’t seem to exist in reality. In fact, I don’t think life ever “does” anything ordinary.

So I know life is anything but normal for you right now. I know it’s painful. And sad. And indifferent. And just when things seem to be going okay, life kicks you in the ribs and bills your insurance for the damage.

Therefore, I wish for things to go back to how they were. Even if only for a few days.

I wish for you to remember good memories of your grandmother. To relive each moment on her porch, shelling peas, or riding shotgun with her. And the times when she helped you understand things about friends, love, or romance. The times you fell asleep beside her.

Speaking of sleep, I’m wishing for you to sleep. I hope you wake up feeling normal, and that your heart will beat in a normal rhythm. And I’m wishing this with all my heart.

I am sorry I couldn’t write something better for you. God knows, you deserve more profound words.

But, right now I am going into my garage. I don’t know if this lamp business will actually work, but I’m going to try just the same. I’m going to close my eyes and wish the best for you.

If for some reason it doesn’t help, maybe this will:

You are stronger than you think.


  1. Keith - December 28, 2018 9:28 am


  2. Jean - December 28, 2018 11:48 am

    I love for things to be normal. It is what holds us together at times. I am not sure any of us had a normal life. I had a good childhood with lots of memories of my Grandfather’s store…and other things. I surely miss those times. I will be hoping that lamp can win for the Tide!!! I think they just might do it….it’s been a normally good year….maybe even spectacular! Roll Tide Roll!

  3. Sherry - December 28, 2018 12:18 pm

    Loss is never part of normal…but somehow we adjust and learn to accept the reality of it. If we all had a “magic lamp”, we could wish the pain of loss would go away, but as “they” say, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. So, let’s wish for the strength to survive the losses that are sure to come…and pray for each other to have faith and hold on.

    • Geoff - December 28, 2018 2:25 pm

      Amen! Perfectly said!

  4. Sheila - December 28, 2018 1:04 pm

    I live for normal. I don’t do well with abnormal. If I had a magic lamp I’d make a wish for healing for grandma too but Instead I’ll say a prayer

  5. Peggy Savage - December 28, 2018 1:25 pm

    So interesting. childhood was nothing but normal. So normal it was boring. I remember thinking one day why was life so normal. But that all ended when I became a young adult. Everything became abnormal. Marriage, divorce, money problems, single parenthood, topsy-turvy all the time. But I’m in the elderly range (70) now, and I can see the value of both states of being. Normalcy steadies you for the abnormal times. The abnormal times teach you who you are and what you can accomplish. Abnormal times aren’t fun but they are boring either. So just relish each day, and remember life was meant to be experienced fully….. normal or abnormal. …it is all part of the whole.

  6. Karen - December 28, 2018 1:31 pm

    We all want “normal”. The truth is, life happens, and interrupts normal. My father always told me that death is part of the normal cycle of life.
    Children who grow up in dysfunctional families have to guess at what “normal” is, because they usually live in chaos. I think most all of us have lived with some form of dysfunction in our lives.
    Thank you for your writing each day.

  7. Elizabeth Edens - December 28, 2018 1:48 pm

    Wow! Great job!

  8. William Hubbard - December 28, 2018 2:23 pm

    Looking back from my 81 year old perch, I realize that I have returned to “normal” days. With a couple of exceptions. In mid day, I rarely try to get outside, and avoid breaking a sweat at any time of the day. And, whenever I sit down to do anything it always includes a good book – and an old Orange tomcat that took up with me somewhere along my journey.

  9. Gloria Knight - December 28, 2018 2:50 pm

    Ahh, Grandmothers… one of God’s best gifts. Mine lived to 102. She outlived her friends, husband, two sons and two daughters-in-law. I broke speed limits from ATL to South GA to see her before she passed. She knew me that morning and I was blessed to hold her hand when she drew her final breath.To those who still have a grandmother on this earth: Go see her, tell her you love her, run errands for her. You’ll miss her forever when she’s gone.

  10. Edna B. - December 28, 2018 3:19 pm

    I’m a great grandmother. Every hug and I love you is a treasure! Someone up there already rubbed that magic lamp for me. You have a wonderful day Sean. Hugs, Edna B.

  11. Jack Darnell - December 28, 2018 3:21 pm

    A memory: GITMO ’72. MARS Message: Your dad is dying come home! The USN helped me get on a military hop. Then a phone call in NORVA, he is hanging on hurry. Another plane, commercial. Unable to land, bad weather diverted to airport 150 miles away. Rent a car……. Wish I had had a brass lamp. He passed away while the plane was circling above the hospital in Charlotte, NC. But life is what it is. I hope the lamp worked, my life did. And dad understood. (I didn’t at the time)

  12. Pat - December 28, 2018 4:07 pm

    We don’t know how to appreciate normal days because they become the “rut”…but a few days of abnormal really makes you appreciate the “rut”!

  13. SarahAlle - December 28, 2018 6:38 pm

    This one is so enlightening..Thank you for sharing. So so true.

  14. Vaudy Holley - December 28, 2018 7:24 pm

    When something like this happens, things as we know them are never the same. The loss is always there in the back of your mind. It’s God’s reminder that the things in this life are so temporary. We must live in the moment, and is easily said than done.

  15. John Brewster - December 29, 2018 12:56 am

    I love your work, Sean, but this one challenged you! Seeking “normal” is an interesting concept, but this person was seeking “comforting words” and you came up short. To your credit, you admitted it. Speaking as one who lost two family members this year (2018), and as a Christian, I would advise her that we need to celebrate loved ones while we have them. That means at the outset that they MUST know how important they are to us and others. That alone may encourage them to rally! Secondly, if they are believers, let them know that you pray for them constantly. When we pray for healing, we know that may happen in this life, or in the next, but it is healing nonetheless. Knowing that intercessory prayers are heard by God is comforting to a believer. Thirdly, remind those who are worried about the fate of loved ones that God knows about the future but we don’t, and He created us and loves us. This is the most difficult one for many to accept but it is the most true. God is in charge. I lost my little brother at 56 this year. It crushed me. How did I deal with my grief? I trusted in my certain knowledge that God knew Andrew’s future and accepted the fact that his death, while premature to me, was best for him. Even though I miss my brother constantly, I love God that much and know Him that well.

    I will pray for your pen pall and her grandmother tonight.

  16. Melanie - December 29, 2018 1:58 am

    Hope the back issues of MAD are from the 70’s. ❤️

  17. Lisa Thigpen - December 29, 2018 2:03 pm

    Happy, happy birthday Sean! I gave several of your books as Christmas gifts because we enjoy reading your column so much! You don’t look like Sasquatch! And we think you are more than nice. I hope you will speak in Florence soon!
    Roll Tide!
    Lisa Thigpen

  18. Ray - December 29, 2018 5:54 pm

    Happy Birthday! Normal? What’s normal? When you lose a loved one that’s what others what you to do- get back to “normal” so they can get back to their lives and stop being bothered with you. My first change from normal happened when my dad died 50 years ago at age 41. My second change from normal happened when my wife of 26 years died at age 46. What I can tell you is that life will get better and don’t worry you’ll never forget them.
    As an Auburn fan I can tell you I enjoyed the Curry years. However, I feel differently about Coach Stallings. I had the opportunity to play in 2 golf tournaments with him; a finer man I’ve yet to meet. His love, care, and concern for his son Johnny really touched me. He cared for his players, also. That’s what life is really about not how many wins or loses you have. Coach Stallings knew that loving folks is what should be normal in our lives.
    Sean I do enjoy you wit and humour. I look forward to reading your post everyday. And by the way you are a great writer.

  19. Gaynell Lumsden - January 12, 2019 8:47 pm

    I love you Sean! Reading your posts always lifts my spirits. BTW – you are 100 times better than “Dear Abbey”- and she is pretty good!


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