Happy New Year

I don’t like endings. I hate goodbyes. I dislike the last day of vacation, the morning after Christmas, the final slice of pizza. I am sad when I finish a carton of rocky road, the last biscuit makes me weep, I grieve when baseball season ends. Endings are the pits.

Then again…

The end is also the best part of a good book, or a timeless song, or a movie. Take “Casablanca.” The final scene of this classic film shows the hero, nightclub owner Rick Blaine, delivering his gut-punching poetic lines to the lovely Ilsa.

The last dramatic minutes between him and Ilsa make the whole movie worth it. The entire film has been tediously mounting, building, climbing, and leading to Rick’s tearful farewell in which he tells Ilsa:

“…Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.”

Here’s looking at you kid.

Boy. What a finish.

So endings are vital. Just think about it. The ending of a ballgame is when Sid Bream’s teammates smother him on the infield after he slides into home plate. Where overjoyed ball players dogpile atop each other until they break each other’s ribs.

The ending is the crescendo of a Brahms symphony, swelling to unsurmountable heights. The ultimate few bits of a masterwork which represent the fruition of a composer’s entire career boiled down to 120 seconds. The crashes of cymbals, the sustained whole notes from a string section. La fin. Das ende. Finis. конец. 終わり. The end.

Which is why I want to share something with you that might gross you out, but it’s kind of important. So hang in there.

I speak of a recent study that was done wherein volunteers were taken off the street to receive free-of-charge colonoscopies.

Bear with me here.

This highly scientific study actually had nothing to do with the intestinal workings of the human digestive system. This research was all about endings.

The endoscopic procedures were conducted by a few gastroenterologist professionals—let’s call them Leon and Bobby Ray—who performed exams on two separate groups of patients. The objective was simple.

For Group A: Leon and Bobby Ray performed a virtually painless colonoscopy. But here’s the catch, the procedure ENDED with a few seconds of excruciating pain.

For Group B: Leon and Bobby Ray administered a ridiculously agonizing and painful exam that lasted way too long. But, the procedure ENDED with a few moments of painless ease.

Afterward, the researchers asked both patient groups about their experiences. It was startling what they discovered. Group A—the people who experienced no pain except at the end—said it was the worst incident of their lives.

Group B—who experienced several minutes of extreme discomfort followed by a pain-free conclusion—said the procedure was a day at the beach.

What does this prove? It proves something very important. It demonstrates, without circumstantial doubt, that you should never call Leon and Bobby Ray for medical procedures.

It also proves that endings matter.

To the human animal, most things that end okay, ARE okay. And things that end badly, totally stink. Or let’s put it like this: If during the final scene in “Casablanca,” Rick’s final lines to Ilsa went something like: “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!” the whole movie would suck eggs.

And so it is that upon the dawn of this New Year that I can see the end of a trying 2020 before me. And I, for one, am going to do my best to allow this year to end well.

Yes, these have been a cruddy 365 days. Maybe the worst ever. I basically lost my job this year—so did many other Americans. I have friends whose businesses shut down. I know people who fell into financial ruin. Many of my loved ones got ill. Some passed on. Social media dogfights ended friendships. Brothers were divided over petty opinions on current events. People fell into isolation and depressive loneliness.

But do you know what else happened this year?

A three-legged puppy named Wilson found a home with an elderly three-legged dog named Geezer, and they became best friends.

And in West Tennessee, a young man named Allen, with stage-four cancer, had successful treatments, and is now cancer free.

Grace, a 29-year-old in New York City, who had lost her teeth because of an abusive stepfather, was taken to a dentist, free-of-charge, by an anonymous donor who happened to notice her toothless smile in a fast-food restaurant. Today, Grace has a brand new set of teeth, and she remarks, “I’ve never felt good about my face, but now I feel like I’m pretty.”

This year, I received letters about marriages being rescued, dogs getting adopted, foster children finding forever homes, elderly parents reconnecting with prodigal sons, families becoming closer, and old friends refinding each other.

I’ve read about young men who quit video games for baseball. I’ve read about deadbeat fathers who appeared on doorsteps, unannounced, ready to be in their daughters’ lives.

And something happened to me this year, too. I rediscovered what I truly care about. I also relearned what I dislike about myself. Such as my own selfishness. My vain pride. And how I’m always so obsessed with my own problems when I should be thinking about the problems of others.

Anyway, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that my problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday, Ilsa, you’ll understand that.

Here’s looking at you kid.

Happy 2021.

28 comments

  1. Nan - January 1, 2021 6:44 am

    Beautiful! Happy New Year, Sean to you and your Jamie!

    Reply
  2. Katie J Waters - January 1, 2021 6:46 am

    Love Love LOVE IT! 2020 has brought us literally to our lnees. Something we have needed. We can and should focus on something besides our “selfish” minded selves!
    Keep looking up and moving forward!

    Reply
  3. Mickey - January 1, 2021 7:25 am

    ❤️

    Reply
  4. Deborah L Blount - January 1, 2021 10:33 am

    Happy New Year!

    Reply
  5. Pat L - January 1, 2021 10:53 am

    Love it! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  6. Vicky - January 1, 2021 12:00 pm

    This was a good ending, seeing 2020 leave. And while I feel so much sadness for those that have lost loved ones, I also have learned that the world still turns with them gone and that time does make the pain easier. I am so hopeful about 2021 and my wish is that we get this virus under control, the political issues stop, caring for every single human is possible, and life can become peaceful. Happy New Year.

    Reply
  7. Ann - January 1, 2021 12:46 pm

    That was an “ attention getter!”
    Happy Hopeful New Year 🙏🏻❤️

    Reply
  8. Sonya Tuttle - January 1, 2021 1:22 pm

    Had to read the beginning twice to get it right. The names you mentioned did not click, who are Rick and Ilse?? In my mind it was Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman! Ha ha. But the rest was good. I prefer to dwell on positives as well. My grandson is in prison, has been for most of his life, but I trust that he will find the LIGHT. I wrote him a poem I had learned. TWO Men Looked out from PRISON bars…One saw MUD, the other STARS”. Perspectives matter!!! I applaud you for your positive messages!

    Reply
  9. Patricia Collins - January 1, 2021 1:39 pm

    Love your stories
    Thank you for sharing and keep them coming

    Reply
  10. Nancy M - January 1, 2021 1:48 pm

    Happy New Year!! Your endings, the way you end your columns, are always delightful! Thank you for writing.

    Reply
  11. NancyB. - January 1, 2021 1:49 pm

    Thank you, Sean! One truly amazing happening from my 2020–I discovered you and your daily thought-provoking, smile-rendering, tear-inducing, highly inspiring blogs! Happy New Year to both you and Jamie!

    Reply
  12. Connie - January 1, 2021 1:55 pm

    I woke up thinking similar thoughts. I just don’t have the ability to put them in words. Thank you for bringing your perspective to us all. May 2031 bring you and Jamie and your family health and happiness and all things good. Hugs from Alabama.

    Reply
  13. David Aday - January 1, 2021 2:03 pm

    Actually, 2020 had 366 days. But who is counting them now?! Semper Fi

    Reply
  14. Maria Linkhart - January 1, 2021 2:23 pm

    Beautifully said Sean. These words keep going through my head, “Imagine all the people, living life in peace, Imagine.” This would be another perfect ending. It could happen…..Happy New Year,

    Reply
  15. Linda Parker - January 1, 2021 2:58 pm

    Happy New Year to you both!! I needed your words today. You meet so many many people so I am sure you would not remember me, but since I met ya’ll at our Cancer Survivor Dinner in Opelika, it is easy to respond to your posts. I, too, HATE endings, no matter how good the next beginning is I just don’t like endings. I could not watch the last episode of MASH, cried for 2 days when Little House on the Prairie ended. You understand, I know.
    My calling in life (besides being a mom) is odd- concerning this ‘thing’ I have about endings. I am an Oncology Nurse. I meet the neatest people, they are at one of the most difficult times-if not THE most difficult time- but they are at their best. They dont see it but I see it. They are clear on what is important in life. They are determined to fight or to make their peace with the inevitable. Dealing with some type of ending either way…but I see such strength in them. It has been such a blessing to my heart and soul to journey with these patients. Yes, tears, but laughter too- such a gift. Here is my ending…I am, as of yesterday, retired. Sooo many emotions. I don’t do endings well. In 2 weeks I will be back at the Cancer Center-part time. :-}
    So, your words to day hit home. It was a choice to retire early- my husband is 11 years older than me-in excellent health but I have learned from my patients first hand, tomorrow is not promised. His gift from me for a recent anniversary was ‘Time in a bottle’ . This past year’s lesson, control is an illusion, was the final push. LOVE the ones you love- make the time to spend with them. Anyway, sorry to go on and on but had to respond since I am smack nab in an ending…but a new beginning.
    May this year bring unexpected joys and blessings of health and happiness!!
    Linda Parker

    Reply
  16. Phil (Brown Marlin) - January 1, 2021 3:21 pm

    Right again, Sean. 2020 was not the end of the world. Many good things did, in fact, happen if we just think back and look for them. Hope you are able to get back to putting in appearances soon. Meanwhile, love your ALFA ads. Of course, there is always sheetrock work to be done.
    BTW, thanks for your analogy to Casablanca. It is in my top five, along with Miracle on 34th Street, The Searchers, Ben-Hur, Jurassic Park, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (just kidding about that one).
    HAPPY 2021 to you, Jamie, and the rest of your family. (and to all your faithful fans).

    Reply
  17. cuhullen - January 1, 2021 3:31 pm

    Happy New Year! May it be a year of blessing, peace, and joy.

    Reply
  18. Jo Ann - January 1, 2021 3:46 pm

    Happy New Year to you, Sean, to Jamie, & all your family & friends, including the 4-legged ones!!

    Reply
  19. Dean - January 1, 2021 4:12 pm

    Happy New Year to you and Jamie.

    Reply
  20. Patricia Gibson - January 1, 2021 5:17 pm

    Happy New Year!!!

    Reply
  21. Linda Moon - January 1, 2021 6:07 pm

    Gosh. It’s 2021 and Man is still alive. This woman (me) is, too. I know and love two brothers: Leon and Bobby. Brother Ray’s life has ENDED. He mattered. You matter, too, Sean. Your stories that sometimes end with a twist are the best …. always worth reading to the end. Hopefully, we readers, fans, and followers can look at the actual Sean
    sometime again, you big kid. That would be a Happy 2021!

    Reply
  22. Kevin Foley - January 1, 2021 7:12 pm

    So many people would give their right arm to express thoughts like you do. Cherish your gift. Happy new year.

    Reply
  23. Bill - January 1, 2021 8:42 pm

    Yeah, here’s to you kid. Happy New Year, Sean and all who read your work. Yeah, I too, am selfish. Unfortunately with people I care about. I should be more considerate and helpful to those who mean so much to me. That’s what I plan to do in 2021.

    Reply
  24. MAM - January 1, 2021 10:19 pm

    “We’ll always have Paris.” 2020 ended OK, but 2021 hasn’t started off well. We had to put our at least 12-year-old dog down this morning. I’m selfishly still crying about it!

    Reply
  25. Ted - January 1, 2021 11:41 pm

    Happy New Year Sean

    Reply
  26. Ed - January 2, 2021 5:26 am

    I came across your post from a cherished friend and found it priceless. I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer. Sometimes it is of consolation and sometimes not as much. But no matter how bad things may be today, the sun will still rise tomorrow to welcome a new day. What will we do with it? We each have the ability to make a change and make life better. What will you do with the new day?

    Reply
  27. Sheri K - January 3, 2021 8:26 pm

    I’m with you NancyB! Sean, you’re one of the many blessings God put in my life this year!! You make my day!! God bless you and continue to guide you. This is a selfish request on my part because I am so blessed thru you! Happy new year Sean and Jamie

    Reply
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