It’s a nice day for driving. I am on my way to attend a Baptist church in country. There are fourteen members in this church. Eleven of them have white hair.

I arrive. They weren’t kidding when they called this place “small.”

It’s a thirty-five-foot long room with mildewed ceilings, a piano, and rugs over the linoleum floor. I am the second one here this afternoon. The preacher, Brother Will, got here an hour before me to turn on the window-unit air conditioner for service.

This church is part of the rural quiltwork that is America. Simple, plain. This is a place our people gather to sing songs they’ve been singing since the invention of mud.

Hymns about enduring. Melodies about hard times. About believing.

Brother Will is sitting on the front pew, alone. Legs crossed, arm slung over the back. He is staring at the ceiling. The sun is setting through the windows.

He doesn’t hear me come in because he is hard of hearing at this stage in his life.

We shake hands. He is tranquil. His face is lined with smile marks. His hair is salt and pepper. I sit beside him.

“I knew a woman, once,” he says. “A good woman.”

He is not speaking to me in the preacher-voice of a clergyman. Preachers of my childhood used tones of voice that Harvard professors might use. But this man is not like that. He is talking with me, not above me.

“She was a good woman,” he goes on. “She had two kids, one of them was really sick. Her husband didn’t make much money, worked at the mill.”

The woman took in wash to pay family bills, keep cupboards filled, and pay doctor bills.

“But her husband cheated on her,” says Brother Will. “It was awful. The man left her. She was alone with her two kids, and nobody never saw that man again.”

He removes his glasses, and pinches the bridge of his nose.

“A local family,” he says, “took this woman and her children in. They lived in one room.”

Her sickly son finally died from illness. And it was a black day. The casket was four-foot long. The woman’s ex-husband never showed for his own son’s funeral.

“A few weeks later,” he goes on. “As if her life couldn’t get any worse, that poor young woman found out she had cancer in her breasts.”

It weakened her. It almost killed her. But it didn’t.

He tells the story like like it happened yesterday. “She was so strong,” he says. “It was like she never had cruddy days. Every morning she’d have this large smile on her face, and tell people how grateful she was to be alive, and how wonderful this world was. And I would think: ‘How can this woman believe that? How?’”


Doctors operated, but sickness whittled her down to eighty-nine pounds. One night, her youngest child cried beside his mother’s bed, waiting for the worst, waiting to lose his last family member.

The preacher smiles. His blue eyes are sharp, and clear. He snaps his fingers. “And just like that, something happened to that woman.”

Just like that.

She started gaining weight. Her strength returned. Nobody could explain her recovery. Soon, she was back to herself. She got a job in town, and she earned enough to buy a home, a car, and put one son through college.

He stares at the altar again. He is a direct man, and he doesn’t mince words.

“If it weren’t for her,” the preacher says. “And all she went through, I’m gonna tell you the truth, I might have lost my belief in…”

This is all he says. Because he’s already said enough.

Service begins. People start entering the doors. Nine members are in attendance this evening.

There is an elderly woman on the front row. She is very, very old, in a wheelchair, wearing a pink skirt suit. Her smile is enough to light up Montgomery.

The preacher delivers a short sermon in the old style. The style I grew up on. This is the kind of sermonizing that reminds me of church socials, covered-dish suppers, and itty-bitty congregations.

After service, the preacher introduces to the old woman. Someone rolls her wheelchair toward me.

“This is the woman I was telling you about,” says Brother Will.

We shake hands.

“Pleased to meet you, ma’am,” I say.

The woman mumbles something I can’t understand.

Brother Will smiles. He kisses the ancient woman on the cheek.

“Say hello to my mama,” he says.


  1. Cheryl Dodson - November 9, 2018 6:47 am

    Love our way of life. You share it so well! Thank you.

  2. Lucretia - November 9, 2018 7:26 am

    Sweet can be the struggles. Thank you for the reminder, Sean, in your words spoken to the heart. Lucretia

  3. Susan Self - November 9, 2018 8:16 am

    I could feel my lips touching her cheek. Smell the lavender that perfumed her sweet little body. Oh how you brought those memories back. Precious memories. Sean, our God is good. Thank you for reminding me.

  4. Steven P Bailey - November 9, 2018 10:40 am


  5. Nancy Rogers - November 9, 2018 10:46 am

    Making me cty again…

  6. Kristine Wehrheim - November 9, 2018 11:00 am

    Very special.

  7. Elizabeth Edens - November 9, 2018 11:09 am

    You’ve done it again!!! Made me feel something! Thank you.

  8. Ronnie - November 9, 2018 11:25 am

    Love this!

  9. Martin Bauguess - November 9, 2018 11:59 am

    His grace is sufficient.

  10. Josie - November 9, 2018 12:22 pm

    A beautiful story of love, grace & healing…

  11. Penn Wells - November 9, 2018 12:33 pm

    It doesn’t happen often, but somehow I knew where this was going. You have the ability to put us in the scene right next to you as it is taking place….

  12. Janet Gray - November 9, 2018 12:41 pm

    Another heart warming story. I can see my mama in the little church in rural West Virginia. Taking along four children while God only knows where my alchoholic father was. She prayed and as poor as we were, gave thanks for all of our blessings.She went to be with Jesus in 2014 but left a legacy for thousand to live y. THANK God for praying Mothers who are responsible for men like Brother Will and you Sean. BEAUTIFUL STORY.

  13. MaryJane Breaux - November 9, 2018 12:45 pm

    Pure. Unadulterated humanity at its finest. Thank you Sean.

  14. Chuck Gerlach - November 9, 2018 1:49 pm


  15. Ernie Tompkins - November 9, 2018 1:50 pm

    Awesome! Thank you!

  16. Terri C Boykin - November 9, 2018 2:05 pm

    Love you much Sean.

  17. Kathy Smith - November 9, 2018 2:44 pm


  18. Shelton Armour - November 9, 2018 2:45 pm

    Thank you for that story…it touched my heart.

  19. Donna - November 9, 2018 2:49 pm

    Well this story sure cracked my composure.

  20. Pat - November 9, 2018 3:05 pm

    Beautiful just beautiful!

  21. Marylin Anderson - November 9, 2018 3:18 pm

    Wow! I did not see that coming. Thanks, Sean, for another beautiful story. ❤

  22. Jack Darnell - November 9, 2018 3:20 pm

    I knew a woman like that, not the sorry husband, or lost children part, but one who worked in the mill and provided for a family and bought a couple houses. She knew how to talk to God, raise a family and handle meager finances…. That was my Mother in law.
    I enjoyed this story my friend, THANKS

  23. Jack Quanstrum - November 9, 2018 3:24 pm

    Incredible story! Wow! It snuck up on me!

  24. Edna B. - November 9, 2018 3:39 pm

    Wow, now that brought the tears a’flowing. Awesome story. Thank you Sean, and God Bless you. Hugs, Edna B.

  25. Pamela McEachern - November 9, 2018 5:39 pm

    Mom’s find a way, that’s who they are. Thank you for sharing this sweet story.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  26. Bob Hubbard - November 9, 2018 5:41 pm

    Tears from an – allegedly somewhat cynical – old man this morning. My mother passed away when was five so I have only vague memories of her. But, I suspect she would have been like this woman – resiliant, hard working, and hopefully proud of her son.

  27. Rebekah Northrip - November 9, 2018 7:54 pm

    Great story about a great and loving God. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  28. Janet Mary Lee - November 9, 2018 8:01 pm

    That there is a church I would love to visit some Sunday morning! Mama’s can be such blessings! And so can love and gratitude…

  29. Beverly Wynn Bua - November 9, 2018 10:25 pm

    I kinda’ knew it was coming… but I cried anyway…. love your stories of humanity…….

  30. BJean - November 10, 2018 12:30 am

    There really are precious pockets of people in this world, and you seem to find a very good many of them. Thank you for letting us share in what the Lord let’s you see. ?

  31. Michael Hawke - November 10, 2018 2:48 am

    God bless you and your stories.

  32. Brenda McLaine - November 10, 2018 3:14 am

    Beautiful story. Keep them coming!

  33. Bonnie Mccormick - December 8, 2018 4:12 pm

    My 96-year-old mother just passed on November 3. I miss her so much but I know where she is! God is good. Thank you for touching my heart with this story.
    My mom was alive in my presence again for a few seconds…Bonnie McCormick

  34. Gale Smith - December 30, 2018 7:23 am

    Praying Mothers and Grandmothers have been making a difference in the lives of their children for many years, especially in the South. We are richer for having them in our lives, and we are stronger because we were raised by them. I miss my Mother and Grandmothers every day of my life. I also miss my Father and Grandfathers and extended family members. I was fortunate in having so many relatives. They were blessed and a blessing.

  35. Caleb Halstead - December 30, 2018 3:24 pm

    Just read your daily post for today (December 30, 2018) and want to wish you a Happy Birthday, Sean. God bless you for the humor, warmth, memories and love you bring to your readers (like me).

  36. Steve Winfield - December 30, 2018 4:01 pm

    I know nothing of the Pulitzer process but that’s up there brother. Wow.

  37. salter - December 30, 2018 6:09 pm

    Look forward to your stories every day.You are such an inspiration….Born and raised in Brewton. May know Jamie’s mother

  38. unkle Kenny - December 30, 2018 7:07 pm

    the first time i read this story it was good . I read it 3 times today and slowly realize that this story is the story of your moms sickness and the miracle of her recovery . It is now a greater story with much deeper meaning to me than when I first read it . uk

  39. Janet - January 3, 2019 11:50 am

    My mama lost her husband to a heart attack. He left her with five children, ages 3 to 13, 1000 miles from her family. When she decided to move us back down south, she hired an auctioneer to come to our house and sell a lot of our possessions. My father was a preacher so he had a lot of suits and neckties. I remember watching the auctioneer selling my father’s ties and when no one bid on them, he bought them himself. I don’t know how my mother survived that or how she survived losing a son to a car accident 8 years later or how she survived a mastectomy and chemo after that. I know she never lost her faith and I somehow think it had something to do with the old hymns she loved and played on her piano. The old hymns lifted her up. I miss her and am grateful every day for her.

  40. Carolyn Matjasko - January 16, 2019 8:25 pm

    Very sweet story.


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