Dear Sean

I’ll call her Rebecca. She’s from Washington D.C. Her email started off like this:

“Dear Sean, I don’t know what to do, my mother just died of brain cancer… I am only 18 years old, and she was all I have left…

“She read your Facebook posts, and I am hurting… I know you can’t help me, but I don’t know who else to tell.”

Well, Rebecca, I took the liberty of contacting a few friends who have stories you might be interested in hearing.

First, meet John. He is 36 years young, he works in food service, and he drives a ‘03 Toyota. He has great insurance. He doesn’t have a lot of money, but he’s pretty happy.

He hasn’t always been happy, of course. His dad died when he was 21 years old. John has quite a tale.

His father was a single dad. They grew up together. They were poor. When his dad died, John went into catatonic shock. He quit leaving his apartment. He ate only frozen pizzas only and somehow—the lucky stiff—managed to lose weight.

But John’s life was not over. After a few years, John met Megan. Megan was six years older, and beautiful. But more than that, Megan was a caregiver for her ill mother, so she understood things. Big things.

Sometimes they would talk. She seemed to be the only human who “got” him.

They were soon married. And finally, John was introduced to the joys of being unable to use his own closet.

“I never thought I’d smile again,” John writes, “but I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”

Now meet Charry. She is 49. She and her mother were tight. They were so close that for Charry’s senior prom, long ago, she didn’t have a traditional date, she attended with her mother. Which, if you ask me, is bizarre. (“And now presenting the happy couple!”)

Her mother died from a heart attack. Then, Charry almost died, too, from a sudden auto-immune disease.

“My doctor said it’s not that uncommon to have illness show itself in times of stress,” says Charry. “He said when a loved one dies, the stress becomes so great, caregivers often suffer even worse than their patients.”

But do you know what? Charry got through it. She had a hard road ahead of her, yes, but she’s okay now. Her disease is, miraculously, gone.

She has been working out, eating better, and taking college classes to improve herself. She just took a course in wine tasting.

“By the end of each class, I have to call an Uber,” remarks Charry.

Meet Meredith. She was 5 when her mother died. Meredith went into foster care and bounced around the foster pinball machine until her teens. She was even abused.

Then someone adopted her. An old woman named Lora. Lora was a waitress who heard about Meredith from her church group, and she just decided to take the plunge and adopt.

In a few weeks, Meredith was living with Lora. After a week, they were sleeping in the same bed because Meredith had frequent night terrors. After a month, she was calling Lora “Mom.”

And on the day Lora died, adult Meredith was lying on the bed beside her adoptive mother, kissing Lora’s forehead, petting her hair. Calling her Mama.

And then there’s me. My dad died when I was 11. He shot himself in the garage. My dad’s brother accidentally ran over his body with the car. My family was blackballed. Our lives were over.

My mother cleaned condos and worked in fast food. I was a fat kid. I had no friends. I dropped out of school. I remember thinking I’d never see the sunrise again.

I lived in a perpetual depression for nearly 15 years. I wanted to die. I wished, for many years, that God would call me home in an ordinary car wreck, or at the very least, an international hot air balloon disaster.

But something happened to me.

People happened. I have come to believe that the meaning of life is not finding happiness or avoiding sorrow, Rebecca. I believe the meaning of life is people.

Remarkable people will find you, mark my words. They will ease your pain. They will help you through. They will change you, if you let them.

They will understand your anguish. They will bleed with you. They will never replace your mother, but they will make your life rich and full.

And in the not-so-distant future, I promise, you will be one of these people, too.


  1. julieannhall - March 10, 2023 1:33 pm

    Sean, YOU are one of those people. Thank you for finding a way to comfort this young woman, and the rest of us too. God bless you Sir.

  2. Fran - March 10, 2023 1:44 pm

    I just lost my husband of over 42 years to lung cancer that spread to his brain. I was with him longer than without. He would want me to learn to live without him. It’s hard. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other and tissues in hand. It was ‘Us’ for so long, finding ‘Me’ is difficult. But, I know I’m out there somewhere. I’ve just got to find her. Friends, family and good neighbors help. Hang in there!
    You’ll figure it out just like I will and we’ll be the stronger for it. The love never goes away. I’ll miss him till the die I die but I will live for the both of us. He would not want it any other way nor I if the roles were reversed. Warmest and best wishes, Fran.

  3. Cathy - March 10, 2023 2:26 pm

    God Bless you, Sean!! Only those of us who have lived through suffering and pain in our younger days, can understand and share our stories of how great our God has been in bringing people into our lives who have helped heal us! Pray you will continue your ministry of understanding and caring for all people in all walks of life!!

  4. Dee Thompson - March 10, 2023 3:52 pm

    Very wise words. I was 34 when my dad died but the pain of that will never leave me. Even though I was an adult, I felt bereft. This Chinese proverb brought me more comfort than anything: The cure for dirt is soap and water. The cure for death is life. I reminded myself of that in 2020 when I lost my mom. Get out and be with people. Forge new friendships and alliances. Listen to music. Make your own music. The best way to honor a parent is to live your best life.

  5. Bill Moore - March 25, 2023 1:43 am

    Would you just stop making me cry… Prayers for Rebecca, for all of us broken people, and for all the people who make us better. Lord have mercy.

  6. Kim Perry - April 20, 2023 12:08 am

    Best blog post hands down.


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