A potluck. A small church. There is more food here than people. A cooler of iced tea. Casseroles out the front door. Coffee. Coke. Fried chicken.
I never met a potluck I didn’t like. Not even when I was in Kentucky last summer, and there was a casserole that allegedly had chunks of raccoon in it.
I love food, and people, and cholesterol. Combining all three makes miracles happen.
The fried chicken is nothing short of spiritual. My fingers are too greasy to type.
It’s euphoria on a short thigh. Lightly battered, golden brown, spiced with black pepper. I am crazy about fried chicken. In fact, you could say I consider myself a chicken enthusiast.
And this chicken is fit for company.
There is also a cream cheese dip made by an elderly woman named Miss Carolyn. It’s addictive. I’ve eaten three quarters of this dip, and am in serious need of Rolaids.
I ask Miss Carolyn what’s in this marvelous dish.
“It’s simple,” she says. “It’s called Cowboy Crack, my grandkids love it.”
This potluck is attended by people of all ages. A little girl plays piano. She is playing “Heart and Soul.” She’s been playing this melody for ninety minutes straight.
A church lady finally drags the girl away from the piano and assigns her to kitchen work, washing dishes. The girl is not happy about this.
Life isn’t always fair, kid.
The deacon at my table is an avid golfer. He is talking about golf even though I told him I don’t know the difference between a five-iron and a duck-hooked double bogey.
He keeps talking just the same. So, I’m smiling, nodding, and willing myself to spontaneously combust into flames. I have always thought spontaneous combustion would be a dramatic way to go.
I take my leave. I go for seconds on the buffet line. Namely, I need more chicken, and antacids.
I meet Linda. She’s washing cake pans with a brush.
Miss Linda can’t talk because she has had throat cancer. Her voice is sore, she is not using it. Sometimes she communicates with a notepad. Tonight, she communicates with hand signals.
She grins at me, her blue eyes twinkle. She rubs her tummy and points. This is universal Church Lady Sign Language for: “Did you get enough to eat?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I say. “I’ve eaten myself into an early retirement.”
She laughs. Then coughs into a handkerchief. It’s a bad cough.
Linda’s daughter tells me this has been a bad year. Her mother’s treatments have been worse than the disease itself. The only pleasure Miss Linda gets in life is from cooking.
“My mother wouldn’t know what to do if she couldn’t cook. It’s just who she is, makes her feel normal.”
Linda’s been tired a lot. She sleeps more hours than she is awake. Linda’s daughter has been the opposite. She worries so much that she hardly sleeps.
She’s been driving her mother to appointments. She stays in hotels while her mother stays in hospital rooms. Sometimes she brings her mother chocolate malts. Most days, she just sits beside her.
But tonight, you wouldn’t know anything has been wrong. Tonight, Miss Linda is herself, and she looks strong.
“I won’t lie,” says her daughter. “I’ll be the first to admit, I was never much of a praying person. I WANT to believe in a miracle for Mom, but we have to be realists here. Miracles don’t always happen.”
When the meal is over, Miss Linda and her daughter send me home with a plate of food that is heavy enough to sink the U.S.S. Indianapolis. And even though Miss Linda has been sick, she is worried about me eating enough.
Her daughter explains: “Mom says you look like you need to eat more. You’re kinda skinny.”
I hug both women before I leave. I thank Miss Linda for all the hard work she put into tonight. I ask her who made the life-changing fried chicken.
She leans into me. I hear her whisper. She has a rasp for a voice. “I made the chicken.”
Anyway, this morning I got an email.
Miss Linda is in complete remission.
Miracles do happen.
Pamela McEachern - August 17, 2018 5:57 am
Wonderful people and such a happy ending for this story! I am praying for complete healing for Ms. Linda. Have some more tums and enjoy yourself.
Peace and Love from Birmingham
Joan - August 17, 2018 9:24 am
Our God can do anything. I will pray the cancer never returns.
I love your writing!
Nancy Thomaston Rogers - August 17, 2018 9:47 am
Ah, the amazing power of faith, love and fried chicken. Can I get an Amen?
Heather Felt - August 17, 2018 3:07 pm
Mern Brewer - August 17, 2018 9:46 pm
Double amen-++ tk u Jesus
Beth Andrews - August 17, 2018 10:37 am
The last few lines made my heart so happy!
Karen - August 17, 2018 10:57 am
Melanie - August 17, 2018 11:18 am
Miss Linda I bet a lot of people would love your recipe for Life-Changing Fried Chicken ? (((hugs)))
Paul McCutchen - August 17, 2018 11:19 am
I enjoy your stories. If I get enough nerve up I will send you one of mine. My wife and mom are the only one who reads them.
Cindy - August 17, 2018 12:02 pm
Such a blessing! My heart did a special beat! A miracle.
Edna B. - August 17, 2018 12:05 pm
The ending of this story makes my eyes and my heart wicked happy. The little girl playing the piano brings back memories from my childhood. My folks would take us kids to visit with friends of theirs. These friends had a whole household full of kids. After supper, us kids would go into the parlor with their father to sing songs while their dad played the piano for us. We would sing all our favorites for about an hour or two. What fun we had. A few years later, I realized that this man could only play one tune, which he played over and over while us kids sang our hearts out. We never even knew. Faith and love are wonderful. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.
Joy - August 17, 2018 12:29 pm
We have so many wonderful church ladies like Ms. Linda…and I am thankful for that. What a happy ending and praying that her daughter will now get the rest she needs. Being a caregiver is not easy as it takes a lot out of you. Thank you Ms. Linda for inspiring all of us with your love, faithfulness and kindness. I bet you put love into everything you make.
Thank you Sean for another inspiring story…and yes, God is still in the Miracle Business! Thanks for reminding us.
Jeanne Butler - August 17, 2018 12:36 pm
God blesssed Miss Linda. So happy for her. Love you Sean❤️❤️
Sara Shepherd - August 17, 2018 12:39 pm
Yes, miracles do happen and are performed by our God. Thank you, Lord.
Ralph Bryson - August 17, 2018 1:01 pm
Wow! And fried chicken too!
Dianne - August 17, 2018 1:05 pm
Praise the Lord for Miss Linda’s remission and for her fried chicken!!! Miracles do happen, if we only believe.
Rhonda Howell - August 17, 2018 1:36 pm
There is a lot of things I hate about the internet. Its too often used in ugly ways. But sometimes the sun comes out and that needle in the haystack sends out a light that you can see in the shadows of all the fodder.
Lots of preachers, preach. And lots of speakers, speak. But I believe the the miracle of the word is that it must be blessed somewhere between the mouth and the ears. It is either static on the radio or a big ole knot in your heart. The ability to touch someone in the unseen places of the heart and mind is a gift separate from the gift of writing or speaking. Its confirmation that you got more than just a skill to make a living.
There is too much hurt in this world today. Most caused by words, all caused by humans. Maybe that makes these words that touch the heart shine brighter than the simple goodness they relate, but they are soothing salve to a sea of hurting folks. I am thankful for those who were given this gift.
You are a needle. And you are shining in the sunlight.
Karen Irby - August 17, 2018 3:55 pm
Caroline Wright - August 18, 2018 1:29 am
Jack Darnell - August 17, 2018 1:41 pm
Rhonda said it. I enjoyed the read and yes miracles are SWEET!
Barbara Pope - August 17, 2018 2:01 pm
So happy for Ms. Linda, her family and her church–all are recipients of this wonderful blessing!
Terri Boykin - August 17, 2018 2:03 pm
God bless Ms. Linda. Love you much, Sean.
Katie Waters - August 17, 2018 2:28 pm
Gaaahh! This has me in tears. God bless Ms. Linda and her daughter.
Pat - August 17, 2018 2:32 pm
Wonderful story filled with hope for Miss Linda, her family, and those who are suffering from this awful disease!
CB - August 17, 2018 2:44 pm
Champy’s, a small locally owned cafe in Alabaster, AL has the best fried chicken you will ever find outside a church kitchen,
Deborah - August 17, 2018 2:44 pm
Great news about Miss Linda! But, how could you leave us hanging without the Cowboy Crack recipe? And yes, I too am partial to spontaneous combustion. Thank you for what you do. P.S. Just got a new baby last night. An eight week old Yorkie. All cat and dog siblings seem to welcome her except that little mixer (11 years oid) who is no longer the baby of the group.
Beki Denison - August 17, 2018 2:46 pm
Ok Sean, I need this Cowboy Crack recipe!! PLease, for the love of all that is good, send me that recipe!!! email@example.com
Our church had potluck last Sunday and I had the best Sunday afternoon nap that I’ve had in a long, long time!! They’re the best!!
Linda Youmans - August 17, 2018 2:57 pm
Arlene - August 17, 2018 3:46 pm
It’s been a while since you made me cry. Today was the day. God bless Miss Linda. Thank you Sean.
Cheryl - August 17, 2018 3:55 pm
Oh, man! I loved the whole “story” but the ending was BOSS! Thank you, Sean, once again for making routine, everyday life a special thing.
Cheryl - August 17, 2018 4:00 pm
COWBOY CRACK DIP
2 8 oz packages cream cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 pound sausage, browned and drained (I used spicy for an added kick)
1 cup frozen corn
2 cans Rotel
1. Mix all ingredients into crockpot and cook on low for an hour or two.
2. Serve with tortilla chips
3. Enjoy [this step is unavoidable]
Linda - August 18, 2018 4:34 pm
Thank you, Cheryl!
Irene Clements - August 17, 2018 4:45 pm
Just want to say thank you to my friend that led me to you and your words of wisdom and faith. I now look forward to your emails every day.
Brad Campbell - August 17, 2018 4:52 pm
AWESOME! God is good! Thanks so much for sharing this.
Sue Cronkite - August 17, 2018 6:13 pm
I’m praying for complete healing for Ms Linda. Hold each other’s hands, now your heads. PRAY!
Sue Cronkite - August 17, 2018 6:14 pm
Bow your heads. Hope my prayer didn’t get edited by Google.
Nancy Powell - August 17, 2018 6:30 pm
Thank you again, Sean! God is GOOD all the time! We serve an awesome God! God Bless you and Ms. Linda!
Jane Wood - August 17, 2018 7:23 pm
Amen and amen, Ronda.
Shelton Armour - August 17, 2018 8:13 pm
Miracles do happen. God bless you, Linda, and your fried chicken, too.
Suzanne Rainey - August 17, 2018 11:47 pm
This one gave me goosebumps Sean. Thank you for noticing and writing about the important things in life. You make life better with your thoughtful observations. Your post are a GOOD part of my day.
Phenix City, Al.
Come visit me sometime.
I’ve got good stories.
Glenda S. Southern - August 18, 2018 2:52 am
So happy to hear about Linda\s ,miracle. Wonderful story.
Becca Allison - August 21, 2018 12:20 am
I burst into happy tears for Miss Linda. Your writing often catches me like that. Don’t ever think you are not much of a writer. You are the best.
KitKat - August 21, 2018 12:32 am
God Bless Miss Linda! Tears of joy and a wish for many many more chicken dinners at church.
Phyllis Hamilton - August 22, 2018 2:56 pm
YES, miracles do happen! I was another an abused child and for years I kept a facade around me so people wouldn’t know how I really felt. I drank excessively, hid who I thought I really was but a man I love saw thru me and helped me. Today at age 65, I am just me. It truly has been a miracle.
Donna Johns - August 23, 2018 8:15 pm
My God is an awesome God!!
Pat Pecnik - October 13, 2018 7:19 am
Thank you for reminding me that miracles do still happen with and without chickens.???
Christina - October 13, 2018 1:36 pm
I’m reading this while my family is asleep, so I have to be quiet. When I got to the end, I caught myself before I yelled out, and shadow-boxed my happiness and high-fived Miss Linda instead. I scared the daylights out of my old dog. Thanks for the good start to the day, Sean.
joannie6535 - October 13, 2018 3:04 pm
Becky Kaufman - March 27, 2021 8:08 pm
And now I’m very very happy.