The little girl talked too much. That’s what teachers said about her. On the first day of class, they moved her to the front of the room because of this.

It wasn’t that she wouldn’t stop talking. It was that she couldn’t. It was involuntary. A reflex. A superpower.

Her smile is another of her gifts. It’s a quirky smile passed down from her mother. Her mother had a lazy eye and saw double. Whenever her mother smiled for cameras, she tilted her head to correct her vision.

The little girl picked up this habit. Today, she can’t smile without leaning left.

She joined the workforce at age twelve, waiting tables. By her teenage years, she worked at a nursing home.

In high school, she met this fella. He was wild, he liked to party. His major hobbies included Budweiser and ice cream. And she loved him.

They would marry. And they would make a life for themselves. The young man would work labor jobs until he became a steelworker. She too, would put in long hours to pay bills.

In her early twenties, she was fed up with small paychecks. She wanted to go to school. It was an outlandish idea, but she enrolled anyway.

She passed her classes with flying colors. And when she finished her degree, she decided she wasn’t finished.

“I wanna go into the medical field,” she told her husband.

“Do what?” he said.

She took classes, but they were hard, and demanding, and expensive. The science courses were torture. So, she used her superpower. She talked. She made conversation with the smart students and the teachers. They helped her through. In a few years, she was a therapist. Bona fide.

Her husband was on the front row of her graduation, clapping hard.

By thirty, she tried to get pregnant. But no luck. After several failed attempts and miscarriages, doctors told her it would be impossible to conceive. The news nearly ruined her.

She was in her kitchen one day, the television was playing. A greasy televangelist appeared on the screen. He said: “Someone out there wants to have a baby!”

She turned up the black-and-white set on the counter.

The televangelist hollered, “Trust in the Lord, and you shall have your baby!”

Then, the preacher instructed his viewing audience to remortgage their houses and send in thousands of dollars to the address on the screen.

The woman collapsed on the floor. She cried. She hoped. She was pregnant three weeks later. She did not send money.

Our heroine gave birth to a son who looked like a frog. He was a quiet baby who liked to eat mass amounts of carbohydrates, and he was lazy, but otherwise a pretty nice guy. She had a daughter a few years later.

By then, her husband was starting to act strangely. He’d been showing signs of mental illness.

She’d gone to the pastor about it, but the preacher didn’t take her seriously. Over time, her husband became worse, and worse.

And worse.

He took his own life. Self-inflicted gunshot. The wake he left was enormous. In some ways, he almost took part of her with him. She couldn’t find sunlight. She didn’t talk much.

Soon, money became tight. And by “tight,” I mean non-existent. Survival was her objective at this stage of life. Her job in the medical field wasn’t panning out, so she made ends meet however she could.

She worked as a cleaning lady, a caterer, a Chik-fil-A cashier, a newspaper delivery woman. And she did it without complaining.

Life became complicated. Happiness became a myth. Her children were everything to her.

Then she got sick.

The illnesses came out of nowhere. Doctors said the disease would kill her. They placed a port in her neck. They filled her with poison. She lost weight. Her adult children cried. She moved in with her sister-in-law in Atlanta.

And one night, when her son was on an all-night drive to Georgia, the young man heard a radio evangelist on the stereo.

“There’s someone out there whose mama is sick!” the preacher said. “Trust! And she shall be made whole!”

Her son pulled over. He collapsed onto his steering wheel. He cried. He hoped.

Then the preacher calmly instructed listeners to cash their Social Security checks and send their insulin money to his home address.

It was a miracle. Doctors still can’t explain how the woman made a recovery.

Today, she is a spitfire. She is healthy. She likes to garden, bake, sing, paint, and babysit her grandbaby. She is trim because she walks all the time. Her dog worships her. And she is a woman who rolls with the Tide.

I talked to her this morning. She still talks more than anyone I’ve ever met. But then, I can’t point fingers.

I was made just like her.

Happy birthday, Mama.


  1. MermaidGrammy - December 13, 2019 6:38 am

    Happy Birthday to a great momma

  2. D Bullington - December 13, 2019 6:49 am

    just can’t stop smiling, thanks Sean

  3. grantburris - December 13, 2019 6:56 am

    Sean, that was especially good. You make my eyes leak.

  4. theholtgirls - December 13, 2019 7:06 am

    I did not know parts of your backstory. I thank your mama for you and your sister! Happy Birthday, Ma’am!

  5. Sandi. - December 13, 2019 7:10 am

    And now she has two grandchildren to babysit! Happy Birthday to your dear mother, Sean.

  6. Debbie Phillips Hughett - December 13, 2019 7:41 am

    Happy Birthday to your momma!!! May it be the best one yet!

  7. Sharon Lawson - December 13, 2019 8:21 am

    Wow! How wonderful!! Full of hope and wonder!!

  8. Julie Patterson - December 13, 2019 8:23 am

    Happy Birthday to an amazing woman!

  9. Harriet - December 13, 2019 9:17 am

    I knew it! I could tell in the middle of the story it was about your mama! Happy Birthday to her. 🎂

  10. Ann - December 13, 2019 9:42 am

    There was sooo much emotion and love in this to feel the final joy in this beauty….Mama’s gift from a loving son!❤️

  11. Carol - December 13, 2019 9:46 am

    That is a wonderful tribute to your mother Sean! I just love it. Please keep writing

  12. Charles Vianey - December 13, 2019 10:14 am


  13. Jean - December 13, 2019 10:40 am

    Happy Birthday sweet Mama!!

  14. Connie Simpson - December 13, 2019 10:41 am

    I feel honored to share a birthday with the woman who raised a writer/performer/speaker whose work touches so many folks and makes us feel noticed, heard, and loved.

  15. GaryD - December 13, 2019 10:43 am

    🎂for you Mama Dietrich🎂

  16. Steven Paul Bailey - December 13, 2019 10:44 am


  17. Johnnie - December 13, 2019 11:36 am

    And always Trust in the Lord and Roll Tide!

  18. Karen - December 13, 2019 11:43 am

    Happy Birthday to your Mama, and thank you, Sean.

  19. Lydia - December 13, 2019 11:49 am

    WOW-just WOW!
    Happy Birthday to your Mama

  20. Marcia Lynn MacLean - December 13, 2019 12:02 pm

    Easy to see why you think the world of her. Happy birthday to your mama!

  21. Melissa Westberry - December 13, 2019 12:05 pm

    Happy birthday, Mrs. Dietrich!

  22. Bob Rennick - December 13, 2019 12:12 pm

    Happy Birthday to Sean’s Mama! And, to all Mama’s just like her.

  23. Julie Messick - December 13, 2019 12:13 pm

    Sean, you just made my day…& it started very early today. Your & your family’s faith & love, your spirit & failure to give up is wonderful to read about…thank you.

  24. Sheri - December 13, 2019 12:30 pm

    You touched us so much with this beautiful story. Happy birthday to your sweet mama. Thank you for sharing this story of love and sacrifice. God bless you and your dear family.

  25. GG_Alabama - December 13, 2019 12:33 pm

    Sean, Thank you for your insights and compassion and for sharing them. I look forward to your email every day knowing you will bring joy, tears, perhaps a blessing but always an enrichment for my soul. Thank you. May God continue to bless you and your family with the love you show by sharing your stories – Happy Birthday to your Mama

  26. Leia Lona - December 13, 2019 12:36 pm

    Happy Birthday to your Momma, thanks to her for sharing you with all of us.

  27. Phyllis Mata - December 13, 2019 12:57 pm

    My idol without even knowing her.

  28. Susie - December 13, 2019 1:07 pm

    Happy Birthday yo your Momma, and many more. Enjoy your special day🎈🎈❤

  29. Sharon Brock - December 13, 2019 1:14 pm

    Happy birthday Mrs. Dietrich. I honor your courage. Nothing on this planet is more difficult than raising children alone. Trust in God and hard work.

  30. suzfrew - December 13, 2019 1:18 pm

    Sean, I LOVE how you LOVE your momma 💕. Happy Birthday Mrs. Dietrich!

  31. Meredith Smith - December 13, 2019 1:28 pm

    What a beautiful story for (one) the most special people in your life. Your mama. Happy birthday Mama.
    I hope today is filled with beauty and special love sent just for you.

  32. Jo Ann - December 13, 2019 1:37 pm

    Happy, Happy Birthday, Sean’s Mama!!! Hope your special day is wonderful!

  33. Debbie Harbin Hining - December 13, 2019 1:44 pm

    This one made me cry… happy tears for your sweet Mama!! I believe this is one of your best! Thanks for sharing such a touching heartfelt story! ❤️
    Happy Birthday to your Mama!! 💕

  34. Maria - December 13, 2019 1:44 pm

    I love this story. Happy birthday, may it be the best ever.

  35. Connie Havard Ryland - December 13, 2019 1:52 pm

    Happy birthday to your mama. I’ve read many of your columns over the years about your mama and she strikes me as an amazing woman. And she raised a strong and loving son. I love the way you love the women in your life.

  36. Jackie Keeling - December 13, 2019 1:57 pm

    Happy Birthday to Mama !! Tell her “Roll Tide” !!

  37. David - December 13, 2019 1:59 pm


  38. Catherine - December 13, 2019 2:01 pm

    Oh wow. Just wow and Happy Birthday to your incredible, amazing mom…💓

  39. Wanda Parks - December 13, 2019 2:12 pm

    Happy Birthday, Momma! What an inspiration you are to me!

  40. Helen Trammell - December 13, 2019 2:12 pm

    Proud Mama’s heart is filled with this beautiful gift❣️

  41. Diane - December 13, 2019 2:14 pm

    Wow. I didn’t expect the ending. God is good.

  42. Gordon - December 13, 2019 2:16 pm

    Love this tribute to your precious Mother. Wishing her a Happy Birthday today. I have two family “December birthdays “-my Son, who was the best gift at Christmas and our granddaughter (his daughter-likewise the best gift). Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  43. Cheryl W. - December 13, 2019 2:17 pm

    It is my mama’s birthday today, too. 98 years. Her 10 siblings have passed on. Her story is like a lot of folks os that time, poor farmers, her mom pregnant most of the time, depression and WWII. Mom married daddy when she was 17, and when daddy passed 18 years ago they had celebrated 63 years together. My sister and I are taking a birthday cake to the nursing home today to celebrate another year that we are blessed to have her, but she just wants to go home to be with daddy. She can’t understand why God keeps her here on Earth, but we tell her we obviously need a prayer warrior. And she is that. We hate the fact that mom has to be there (she is blind and not ambulatory) but my sister and I are physically unable to care for her. Breaks my heart all the time. Love extra on your mama today, Sean. We are blessed.

  44. Brian Gilbert - December 13, 2019 2:24 pm

    Sean, you are a talented dude. Thanks for doing what you do.

  45. Gordon - December 13, 2019 2:27 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to your sweet Mother. Wishing her a very Happy Birthday. I have two family birthdays in December-my son and his daughter (the best gifts of Christmas). Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Sean.

  46. Ann Bodiford - December 13, 2019 2:32 pm

    Happy Birthday to your Mama!

  47. Kay Stringer - December 13, 2019 2:35 pm

    The best gift you could give your Momma! She will love it, I did.

  48. Martha Young - December 13, 2019 2:44 pm

    And God does lead and protect even if it is not the way we want or like. There is a plan. God Bless.

  49. Shelton A. - December 13, 2019 2:56 pm

    Happy Birthday to your Mom. Give her one heck of a day. Make memories…

  50. Clonnie Kujawa - December 13, 2019 3:01 pm

    Love this story!! Happy Birthday to. Your Mama. My granddaughter’s birthday is today too.

  51. Diane H. Toney - December 13, 2019 3:20 pm

    A beautiful tribute……

  52. Janice, Silverhill - December 13, 2019 3:59 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your Mama. I know she is so proud of you Sean. Thank God for Mamas who stay & do whatever they have to in order to support their kids when Daddy goes away. I had one too ❤️ God bless!

  53. Jan - December 13, 2019 4:01 pm

    Sean, your Mama is an amazing, strong woman! God bless and Happy Birthday to your Mama!

  54. jack - December 13, 2019 4:05 pm

    Yep it is amazing what ‘SHE’ can do, that is mama. We are proud of you and your mama. I too have known ‘her’. She is a sister, a mama and a MOTHER IN LAW!
    VERY GOOD TRIBUTE MY FRIEND. I enjoyed the read, Life can be good.
    Sherry and jack.

  55. Sara Johnston - December 13, 2019 4:06 pm

    How heartwarming. Sara Johnston

  56. Jimmi Pate - December 13, 2019 4:31 pm

    This one made my heart smile. Happy birthday, mama!!

  57. John Hancock - December 13, 2019 4:32 pm

    Happy birthday to your momma! Touching story!

  58. Linda Moon - December 13, 2019 4:39 pm

    Girls with super powers rock. And Mamas with super powers rock, too. About one-third of the way through reading I knew the girl you were writing about was your Mom. Oh My God, I love her. We almost share a birthday…mine is 3 days away. I’m glad she made you! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Sean’s Mother! I’ll be thinking about you again with love and happiness in 3 more days!! And you can think of me if you want to!!

  59. Susan Gregory - December 13, 2019 4:44 pm


  60. Norma Williams - December 13, 2019 5:00 pm

    God bless you Sean! Tough ladies make tough children. My Momma was tough also. I like to think I am tough to at 80 years old! Love your daily words. 🙏🙏❤️

  61. Lita - December 13, 2019 5:20 pm

    Happiest of happy birthdays, Sean’s Mama! Much love to you an yours xx

  62. Susan L Parker - December 13, 2019 5:23 pm

    Happy birthday to your Mama, Sean! And thank you for sharing her story with us. You have such a gift for saying things in just the right way. And you describe people so well, it’s like I know them!
    Go hug your Mama’s neck now….<3

  63. Ala Red Clay Girl - December 13, 2019 7:03 pm

    Beautiful….just beautiful!

  64. David P B Feder - December 13, 2019 7:35 pm

    Happy happy happy birthday Sean’s mama! You raised him right. He is quite an amazing, talented, and insightful man. And he likes dogs. He say’s he’s just like you so you must be pretty darned special yourself. All the best!

  65. Carolyn - December 13, 2019 7:54 pm

    Happy Birthday Mama! And many more!

  66. Brenda Posey - December 13, 2019 8:05 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to your mama! Giving her a piece of your heart through your words must have made her heart swell and brought tears to her eyes. Ppl birthday to your mother.

  67. Chasity Davis Ritter - December 13, 2019 8:21 pm

    Took me a minute there to catch on you were talking about your mama. I was picturing that little girl tilting her head to smile and I was smiling at the image and then I kept reading and got all caught up and of course by the end I was crying. Your mom is quite a woman!!! Happy Birthday!!!

  68. Julia Flanagan - December 13, 2019 11:30 pm

    This was just wonderful. Had me baited for each new word. Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 91. I think he would have thought a whole lot about your mama. True grit. True Southern Belle. May the Lord continue to bless her with His grace and love. And a happy little companion to take her on walks!

  69. Nancy M - December 14, 2019 1:02 am

    Happy Birthday to Sean’s Mama! She raised a talented son, gifted in the ability to share kindness and love with everyone who has heard him speak or read his words.
    Blessings to you and yours!

  70. Frieda Borntrager - December 14, 2019 11:12 pm

    What a GREAT piece about your mama! Happy Birthday!🎉🎂🎉

  71. Jennifer Kirk - December 15, 2019 2:32 pm

    I love this story!!! I read your tails almost every day. You have taught me a lot😘😘

  72. Dawn Bratcher - December 15, 2019 5:47 pm

    Ahhh, Happy Birthday, Mrs. Dietrich! You are loved so very much! May our Lord bless you with many more happy & healthy ones!

  73. Charlie Key - December 16, 2019 2:09 am

    Two thumbs up Sean. If I had two more hands it would be 4 thumbs up.

  74. Sue Riddle Cronkite - December 19, 2019 2:11 am

    Great column. Truth in the details.

  75. Kaye Cutchen Hall - December 21, 2019 5:35 pm

    Sean, for some reason I never suspected you were writing about your Mother even though I read your column daily! Merry Cristmas to you and your!


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