Dear Sean


I sent you a letter a few weeks ago about my dad’s funeral and I was really hoping you’d write me back because I’m a wreck. Did you receive it?



I did get your letter. And I was sorry to hear about your father’s death. I actually wished I could’ve attended the funeral, but we’ve never met in person before so that would have been pretty weird. Besides, this is a pandemic going on. So I’ll just say this:

Your dad loved you.

No, I never knew your father, but after your letter, I feel like we’re friends. And I think it’s important to keep hearing that he loved you because death should only be about love. So should life.

Society gets death all wrong. We make it into something it’s not. Sometimes we make life’s final ceremony into sadness, organ music, and black dresses. But death is more than that.

Nobody tells you that death can be perhaps the most beautiful life event there is. Certainly, it’s tragic. Yes, it’s a sad thing. I’m sure as heck not saying we should all break out the party hats.

What I mean to say is that death is not hideous, or shameful, or ugly, or dark. It is remembering something beautiful.

It is the Grand Canyon, slowly being chipped away by the Colorado River. It is a supernova, exploding in the far-off like a million balls of lightning.

A man’s life can seem so ordinary here on earth. But after he dies his entire existence becomes amplified beneath a huge magnifying glass, and everyone suddenly realizes that this man was not ordinary.

That can’t be all bad.

My father’s death was the most profound moment in my early life. And when the crashing breakers of grief died down, I realized something: I’d never really looked at my father’s life in its entirety.

I’d only heard his stories. I’d experienced only bits and pieces of him. I’d never grasped the big picture of the man.

So I immediately raided a large cardboard box of antique photographs in the closet. I scattered them on the floor like confetti. I hadn’t looked at these pictures in a thousand years. Each photo messed up my face pretty bad.

I started with his early days. A black-and-white photograph of a boy standing beside a barn. He’s chubby. There is a chicken wandering nearby. You can tell it’s him. It’s all in the eyes.

The boy, I mean, not the chicken.

The next several shots were of a teenager, doing teenage things. He wore Chuck Taylors, had a buzz cut, and built model airplanes. Learned to drive a Ford. Learned to smoke cigarettes. Then he fell in love.

The pictures of him in love are his best. There is his wedding, at a gazebo, in a park, on a spring day. He had lambchop sideburns like Joe Namath. She had flowers in her hair.

They bought a little house. Had a devilishly handsome son. They ate a lot of meatloaf.

And oh, the Little League pictures. He was growing thicker, like he’d been putting in some time around the onion dip. He was surrounded by little boys in oversized baseball uniforms with extra-large ball caps and saggy pants.

Of course there are also the stereotypical family photos taken with the Ford station wagon.

Do you remember when families would take pictures in front of their cars? It used to be all the rage to pose everyone before the family pile for Kodak moments.

Today you’d look ridiculous snapping the family’s picture in front of your Nissan Sentra.

But there he stands, beside his car, proudly holding a toddler boy in his arms. Young. Handsome. The same guy he always was.

There were the photos from his surprise birthday party. Just before he died. He saw a living room full of people who shouted “Surprise!” He pretended to be shocked.

In those birthday photos you can see me in the background, eating my third slice of cake. I’m the chubby kid.

But the final photograph was the one that stung the most. I must have stared at it for an hour.

He was thirty-eight. He stood in a field. Shirtless. Wearing trousers. He was smiling. His hair was wet. His young redheaded son was beside him, also drenched. Nobody remembers why they were wet. They had their arms around each other. They were so happy it makes my stomach hurt.

Dylan, the glory of a man’s life can be seen in his face. If you look hard enough you can see everything he’s been through and everything he ever thought. And none of his mistakes.

Concentrate on the lines around his eyes. You will sense his strengths, his weaknesses, and how the two are sometimes the same.

Everything a man ever was can be remembered if you try hard enough. His bravery and his fear; his sadness and his laughter; his pain and elation; his under-confidence and his foolhardy pride; his moments of valor and his embarrassments.

When someone dies, you see no ugly, and all beauty. You see his life. Your life. Everything. For a brief moment, the whole mystery of the world lights up like Independence Day. I know it seems like I’m reaching for melodrama here, but I’m being honest.

At a funeral, for a quick moment you understand life better than you did before. And you realize that within this world of suffering and unpredictability, of ordinary people, common men, and uncommon beauty, there is only one thing that matters. Only one thing has ever mattered:

Your dad loved you.

And so do the rest of us.


  1. Suzanne - August 17, 2020 7:42 am

    Wow! When I decided to comment, the only word that came to mind was WOW! You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. Just one other thing…the love never goes away. Thank you Sean.

  2. Sue Rhodus - August 17, 2020 9:41 am

    Irony..this day is the day my book club meets to discuss your memoir. We will talk about you, your life, your lessons learned, and death, and lessons learned . We will think about Dylan. This is a beautiful piece. Thank you. Remember, if your ears burn a bit today and your heart flutters a little, it is just my book club sending our love.

  3. KAT 6:10 am - August 17, 2020 10:10 am


  4. Juanita Cordle - August 17, 2020 10:37 am

    I’m saving this one. It’s beautiful.

  5. Grace - August 17, 2020 11:36 am


  6. Naomi - August 17, 2020 12:02 pm

    My father died of a heart attack on New Year’s Eve, two weeks after his 65th birthday. I was married with two young children and I was living in another state. I regret that I couldn’t be there with him when he was in the hospital. That was a million years ago. The pain and the grief is not as bad now, but there are still days when my tears flow when I think about him. I was a daddy’s girl and I went everywhere with him. I wish that my children could have known him. They were only 5 and 2 years old when he died and they don’t remember him.

  7. Lisa Williams - August 17, 2020 12:22 pm

    You did it. He’s right Dylan. We all a love you too and so did your father. Nothing will change that truth.

  8. Pat Morgan - August 17, 2020 12:46 pm

    Dear Sean, the simple eloquence of your writing never fails to impress and move me. Thank you.

  9. Margaret Cade - August 17, 2020 12:46 pm

    Well, that is absolutely beautiful, and so true describing how we feel when someone we love leaves this life and us with broken hearts. We remember the love.

  10. Deborah (Debbie) Gillespie - August 17, 2020 12:57 pm

    Profound. This one post contained so many “quotable quotes” that I’ll be sharing them for days to come. I actually have a file titled : Sean Dietrich Quotes 🙂

  11. esl2462gmailcom - August 17, 2020 12:58 pm

    Thank you, Sean. I am Hospice Chaplain, Ed. You have given such a beautiful perspective of one of the most challenging times of our lives. Thank you.

  12. Linda Broyles - August 17, 2020 1:01 pm

    My exact thought from previous comment: I’m saving this. Unbelievably beautiful and comforting. Thank you so much.

  13. Amy Brown - August 17, 2020 1:17 pm

    Will you ever realize how many people needed to hear that today? I rather doubt it.

  14. Krista Gathman - August 17, 2020 1:21 pm

    Whoa! What a beautiful tribute to your father… my dad died when I was 18,, he was just 58…. after a long fight with cancer.
    It is all about the love, isn’t it?
    God bless us all.

  15. Donna - August 17, 2020 1:22 pm

    WELL stated Sean. Society’s general view on death is askew. Hospice Angels helped me shift & understand.

  16. Barbara Hood - August 17, 2020 1:22 pm

    Thank you for putting into words “life”. I can almost tell “the rest of the story” sometimes because it’s where I’ve lived. I enjoy reading you articles every day.

  17. Martha Black - August 17, 2020 1:27 pm

    They loved you & you loved them! That’s what you end up with and that’s how it should be. Nothing else matters. We’re all human and have human failures & successes but the greatest & most important of it all is the love. That’s what holds you, comforts, consoles, lifts & makes life bearable and wonderful. You loved & were loved back. That never goes away & will sustain for all your days. All the other ins & outs of our days will fade & ebb back in from time to time, but love always remains……..

  18. Sonya Tuttle - August 17, 2020 1:29 pm

    Poignant and powerful. Your words are heaven sent!

  19. Teresa Tindle - August 17, 2020 1:49 pm

    My goodness. I haven’t cried in a long while. But ….your words are so very true. Thinking of my mama, daddy and my brother I know how much I loved them. And you are right, when someone dies it’s sad. But after awhile the love and the good memories come back. Often at the most unexpected times. And all my precious memories ran down my cheeks.

  20. Ann - August 17, 2020 1:49 pm

    Deep .. profound…beautiful thoughts…something we can all remember and should❤️

  21. Connie - August 17, 2020 3:02 pm

    Beautiful thoughts. Thank you for sharing them. Love and hugs.

  22. Jayne Holland - August 17, 2020 3:38 pm

    Ok…. you just made me cry , and now I cant stop

  23. Maxine - August 17, 2020 3:41 pm

    Beautiful, Sean.

  24. Char Stidd - August 17, 2020 4:56 pm

    So beautifully written and so moving. I have also spread out the photos of my Dad; I cried and I laughed and remembered the wonderful man he was to his family. I still miss him after 26 years…
    Thank you for responding to Dylan in such a moving -and truthful- way, actually to all of us who have loss a loved one. Blessings. Char Stidd

  25. AlaRedClayGirl - August 17, 2020 5:19 pm


  26. Linda Moon - August 17, 2020 6:07 pm

    When I read your posts, Sean, I don’t get as misty-eyed as many of your regular readers do. Today, the mist fogged both of them. Someone in my dad’s bloodline may be leaving us very soon. Those words of yours that fogged me up today will ring true for him when death comes. And they rang true a long time ago for his Uncle who was my Daddy. I love you,Cuz. You probably can’t read or hear any of our words right now, but we do. Love you, that is. And I love you, Daddy, who left so long ago. I love you, Sean, for bringing me on a Sunday afternoon to my Daddy’s resting place, where so many of my kin are buried in that hard-to-locate cemetery near the Historic Ritz Theatre. R.I.P., family, and welcome the new one in when he gets there. Love to Dylan, too, from one of the rest of us.

  27. Robert M Brenner - August 17, 2020 6:16 pm

    What a great way to end your article, I have to admit I got a little pteary-eyed! You knocked it out of the park today but that’s not unusual ⚾️

  28. MAM - August 17, 2020 7:20 pm

    And sometimes, when they die, they are leaving a life of pain to go to a much better place where pain is gone, but love remains. I still have dreams of my mom and my dad, who died respectively, 15 years ago and 49 years ago. And I still miss them, but I know they are well in God’s hands.

  29. Linda Moon - August 17, 2020 10:31 pm

    Postscript: My cousin who I posted about earlier today has entered The Grandest Canyon of them all.

  30. Nita - August 17, 2020 10:36 pm

    Your article really hit home today…as it does so often! Next to my husbands favorite activities of baseball and fishing was convertible riding. When he passed on, I had a ‘dream’ of him. We had taken a ride up to a beautiful mountain top area and sat there an talked for awhile. Then he said “guess we better move on”. We got down the mountain and he saw a convertible – sort of in camoflage colors – white, orange and brown, and rather excitedly, said he just had to have a ride in it. I wouldn’t join him because there was no one to ask if he could take it. So he jumped in and took off. Came back in a couple minutes and asked if I had changed my mind. I told him I hadn’t so he said, “OK – see you” with a big smile on his face, and took off down the road. I started walking down the road and when I got tired just lay down beside the road. I woke up in my own bed so I know it was a dream but it surely was a vivid one! He seemed so happy. We had been married just a month shy of 68 years.

  31. Steve Winfield [Lifer] - August 18, 2020 4:17 am

    Amen Brother Sean. Amen.

  32. Chasity Davis Ritter....Freddie’s daughter - August 18, 2020 5:50 pm

    I share a lot of your blogs to my Facebook but I’m gonna save this one till September 7… it’s coming up pretty quickly. My Dads 2 year angelversary. During the last two years I’ve commented a lot on your posts and a lot of times it’s been about Dad. This one was awesome as always. Thank God for the pictures I have both the paper ones and the ones just in my heart. Thank God for you too Sean and your words and helping us to remember we are loved and we are never alone….

  33. Jill - August 20, 2020 3:00 am

    Losing a parent is one of the hardest things in life. I love your description of looking at his whole life. It really gives you an appreciation of who they were before they became a parent. You don’t know how much sacrifice your parent gives you until your grown because often they don’t want you to know. Death truly is a celebration of a life, hopefully one well lived.


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