A few years ago—I played music in a rundown bar on my late father’s birthday. It was a slow night—which felt a lot like singing to a roomful of house cats.
The crowd fizzled. The bartender was reading Cosmo magazine.
On break, an older man offered to buy me a drink. He was droopy-eyed and long-faced. He told me his son had just ended his own life, days earlier.
He drained his bottle, then made small-talk with a thick tongue. I don’t know how our conversation drifted. But conversations involving beer often do.
He said he didn’t believe in God. After his son’s death he came to believe God was nothing but a cruel joke.
He fell from his barstool. I helped him off the ground.
He started crying. “Jeezus,” he said. “You look like my son.”
All I could think to do was hug him.
A cab arrived to carry him home. He tipped the band fifty bucks before he left.
On my drive home that evening, I rode the beach route. I pulled over and walked the shoreline. The moon and stars were putting on quite a show. I looked for major constellations, but I’m no good with astronomy.
So I thought about the man at the bar.
I reasoned that, if the Almighty were indeed real, He might have sent that poor man to that particular joint. And if that were true, maybe I was supposed to say something to him.
Something like: “Buck up, Daddy Warbucks, the sun’ll come out tomorrow.”
God knows, that’s the sort of thing everyone said to me after Daddy ended his own life.
Anyway, that night I listened to the Gulf water. The sound was hypnotizing. It made me imagine things.
I imagined the Almighty, sitting with me. I pretended like he was a few feet away, sitting in one of those fancy cabana chairs. He wore a soft smile.
“Hey God,” sayeth I to the Almighty. “Nice stars.”
“Thanks. I try.”
The truth was, I should’ve told that man at the bar that it’s okay to yell at the sky. I could’ve also told him the hurt might never go away. But one day, it quits bleeding.
By then, you’ve lived with it so long, the pain isn’t even unpleasant, and it helps you remember how lucky you are.
Lucky to be alive—even if only for a few years. Lucky to have a night sky, stars, Gulf water, the taste of fried chicken. Rundown bars. Strangers who call you cabs.
“I never got a chance to thank you,” I told the Almighty.
“For what?” He said.
“For everything. For family, ice cream, house cats, people who love me. For believing in me, even when I have a hard time believing in myself. For tonight.”
“You don’t have to thank me,” said the Maker of the Universe.
Maybe I don’t.
But tonight I want to.
Peg - June 8, 2017 12:44 pm
Thank you for your profound observations and for passing them on to us. You always touch my heart. Thanks!
Dolores Fort - June 8, 2017 12:57 pm
Beverly Mathias - June 8, 2017 1:04 pm
Love this. Having lost my husband one year ago. He died in my arms as I screamed to God to save him. But I still believe God loves me.
JANE HUMPHREY - June 8, 2017 1:05 pm
Anna - June 8, 2017 1:06 pm
Please don’t ever stop writing because every day you remind me what’s most important.
Kathy Ball - June 8, 2017 1:27 pm
As a new reader, I am grateful for your insightful blog!
Helen Cantrell - June 8, 2017 1:37 pm
Thank you, Sean. This post truly touches my heart.
Jacque - June 8, 2017 1:51 pm
Jack Quanstrum - June 8, 2017 2:42 pm
Praise God and Sean for writing a terrific story on gratefulness . After reading your story Sean I am over flowing with gratefulness. I feel like I am swimming in a ocean of it, exspending no energy because everything that God has put around me good or hurtful I am thankful for whether simple things like sunsets or complicated like the death of someone you love ( my younger brother ), gone within three weeks .We don’t have to understand everything to be grateful. So thank you Sean this morning for showing me the way, truth and the light.
Janet Mary Lee - June 8, 2017 2:50 pm
Sometimes our greatest losses give us our greatest gifts. The trick is knowing what to be grateful for…You have it!!
Mary - June 8, 2017 3:21 pm
Sometimes I forget to be grateful and thank God for life in general. Thank you for the reminder.
Karen - June 8, 2017 3:22 pm
Sometimes we are put in places just to listen. I would love to sit on the beach with God and have a conversation. I would love to listen to his words of love and wisdom. Thank you for sharing your story. You will never know what a difference you made in this mans life, who lost his son. Don’t second guess yourself. Sometimes people just need an ear. I too have lost loved ones that have taken their lives. Hard to ever understand…. The pain lingers but the bleeding stops. The pain is there because you loved them so much and such a loss!! We will see them again in Gods time. Keep writing….your messages are of hope to others and your stories are so down to earth. Love your daily reads, I look forward to them daily!!!
Jan - June 8, 2017 4:58 pm
Another home run!!! Thank you ….
Nanny - June 8, 2017 5:15 pm
And I’d like to thank God for my entire life…the good, the bad and the ugly. I learned from all of it and I’m still learning today. God allowed me to live through some grave mistakes I made and brought me out on the other side. For that I’m extremely thankful.
Michelle - June 8, 2017 9:01 pm
I just read your “Dear Sean” post about the young girl who lost her beloved dog to cancer. I found the link on my Facebook link and I am so glad I did. I lost my gal Zee a year ago and the grief is still there. It will never pass, I will just have to learn how to live with it. Your story for that young girl was touching as it was inspiring. I just told Zee to keep watching over me from the other side and now I am going to go home and hug the heck out of my other dogs. Thank you for the uplift today. I needed it.
Patricia Gibson - June 9, 2017 12:11 am
Kathryn - June 9, 2017 5:20 pm
This is one of the best lines I’ve read from you: “The truth was, I should’ve told that man at the bar that it’s okay to yell at the sky. I could’ve also told him the hurt might never go away. But one day, it quits bleeding”
I was widowed at an early age and I railed at God… but he quietly calmed the storm in my heart and even if it’s broken – it quit bleeding.
Lilli Ann Snow - June 13, 2017 3:37 pm
I know God had a plan when He gave you a heart so big it wraps around the world at least three times. I know God had a plan when He gave you ears sensitive enough to truly hear the stories of everyone you meet, everywhere you go. I know God had a plan when He thought you up. God’s wonders never, ever cease to amaze me…but you, Sean, make my heart stretch more than anyone’s written words ever have before. I see God in you, Sean…and He looks just like what we were taught as children:
Jack Quanstrum - June 14, 2017 3:52 am
Your replies to Seans post hit the Bulls eye every time I read them. They cut to the real truth quality. Excellent writing.
Deanna J - July 31, 2017 1:03 pm
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Thank you!
Dianne - July 31, 2017 1:26 pm
Thank you for this wonderful, thought provoking article. I can’t wait to read your post in the mornings, starts my day with a chuckle or a tear, most days both.
Shane - July 31, 2017 1:33 pm
Sean, your writing is always heartfelt and true, however today’s is above and beyond. Thanks for touching human emotions in just the right places.
Elizabeth Westmark - July 31, 2017 1:55 pm
When my grown step-son died almost twelve years ago this October, his dad said, “I can’t live long enough to get past this.” You’re right, though. The hurt has never (and should never) go away, but thank God, the bleeding eventually stopped.
Lee M. Brewer - July 31, 2017 3:00 pm
Thanks to my precious wife of 59-years, thankfully she recently called my attention to your wonderfully written postings. They, without exception are lnteresting, enjoyable and uplifting. Furthermore, they are an encouragement to our striving to live a Christian life. Thanks!
Kyla - July 31, 2017 5:14 pm
Just in case that old man or someone else in his situation happens to read this…
#1 There is a God and He is merciful. He loves you and he loves your son.
#2 It’s okay to be honest with God about your anger. He already knows anyway.
#3 He really does know what you’re going through. Remember that He lost a Son too.
Booker - February 10, 2018 2:02 pm
This is exactly what I was searching for the right words to say. Thank you for saying it so clearly and with such compassion.
Mary - August 1, 2017 9:00 am
Luck has nothing to do with it.
Booker - February 10, 2018 2:07 pm
Sean, this post really touched my heart. I lost my little sister to suicide, and you’re right, the pain never truly goes away, even after the bleeding stops.
I think you did exactly the right thing for the devastated man at the bar. People don’t know what to say, so they repeat little phrases they believe will be comforting. Most often, though, what you really need is someone to listen and sit by your side, and offer a big hug. He probably wouldn’t remember your words the next day, but he will remember your compassionate ear and that hug.
Jeffer - February 11, 2018 8:30 pm
Sean, your stories are making me a better man. I’m 73 and I want to be as kind, observant, generous, humble, grateful, and compassionate as you. Yesterday I gave a single mom waitress a twenty dollar bill in addition to the regular tip. And felt good about it. You’re a blessing to your readers. Thank you.
Gale Smith - January 17, 2019 7:44 am
Like the song says, “We’ll understand it by and by….” For now, the pain reminds us that when we love, we are vulnerable. But love is always worth the pain of losing someone.
Trish Nehren - January 17, 2019 11:56 am
… Stary, Stary night… my world is better, because of someone as beautiful as you.
SuzanneB - January 17, 2019 3:11 pm
I have lost two sons so this post really hit home. “The hurt never goes away but the bleeding does stop”. I agree that God works through you. Thank you both for always warming my broken heart.
Mary Ann Massey - January 17, 2019 3:38 pm
You always bring emotions out in me…today was tears….