Merry Christmas

Hi. How have you been? I know it’s been a long time since my last letter. I just wanted to tell you that we had a good year. Maybe even one of our best.

I don’t know. How does anyone score their best or worst year?

Anyway, I don’t have time to tell you everything, but I’ll hit the highs and lows.

For starters: we lost our thirteen-year-old bloodhound this year. That was hard. In some ways, it was almost as hard as losing you—which I know must sound ridiculous. But it’s true. I never thought I’d recover.

But eventually, we did recover. We found a newborn pup who gnawed on our hearts. Imagine pure love wrapped up in floppy skin and saliva. That’s her.

We got a second dog, too, because we are clinically insane people who can’t be satisfied with simply one destructive animal.

And in other news: your daughter had her second child last week.

Lucy is her name. Lucy was five pounds and fourteen ounces. So now you have two granddaughters. Something tells me you would’ve liked that.

Let’s see, what else?

This year, I met and interviewed Miss Betty Lynn—the ninety-four-year-old woman who played Thelma Lou on the Andy Griffith Show. She kissed me, then asked if things were serious between me and my wife.

That same day, I met the son of Floyd the Barber. And also, I met and interviewed a few others who actually KNEW Andy Griffith.

What a day that was. You were missed.

Also, I’ve been wood carving a lot this year. It’s been eons since I’ve whittled. But we are on the road so much, and it’s a good way to unwind at the end of a long day.

You were the one who showed me how to whittle. Do you remember that? You and I would sit on the porch, carving things. You’d fashion little figurines from pine sticks, like deer, fish, or bears. And I’d marvel at them.

This year, I’ve been practicing. And I’m getting a little better. I carved a few miniature fish, and one cowboy. I gave them as Christmas gifts.

I gave a redfish carving to my cousin Jenny’s son who frowned at it and said, “What is this? A fat mutant blob?”

“No,” I said. “It’s a redfish.”

“It doesn’t look like one.”

I just ignored him because Jenny’s son always was a little snot.

No. I’m only kidding. He’s not little.

Over the summer, I visited your mountain grave. It was the first time since we scattered your ashes, a lifetime ago.

I’ve been avoiding you for that long. The truth is, I didn’t want to see you. I didn’t think you deserved the pleasure of my company.

But a few years ago, I had a change of heart. I actually tried to visit you a few times. Once, I even drove all the way to you, but then I chickened out. I couldn’t bring myself get that close to your remains.

I guess I got mad at you. So I bypassed you. I drove to the Grand Canyon instead. I camped beneath the stars and tried to forget I was ever your son.

Well, I’ve grown up a lot since then. And this year, I enjoyed seeing your resting place.

I’ve let go of a lot of resentment toward you. I don’t get upset when I think of you. I don’t become uncomfortable when someone mentions your name.

I even visited your childhood home this year.

And I’ve made a lot of decisions in the last three hundred and sixty-five days. For one thing, I’ve decided I’m going to remember you, not for your sins, but for the person you were. And today, I’m honoring your memory.

That’s what this letter is. It’s my holiday tradition. Every year, I touch base with you at Christmas.

Because even though you hurt me, and you removed yourself from this world early, I am still your son. And I’m ready to wear this as a badge, instead of as embarrassment.

I am son of John Dietrich, the welder, the man who whittled, the singer, the loud-talking practical joker. And I just thought you’d like to hear me say that aloud, since it’s Christmas and all.

Anyway, I have to go now. We have a busy day ahead of us. You know how it is. I hate that you’re not here to be part of it.

Still, I hope you are at peace. I hope you finally found the perfect rest you needed. I love you. I will miss you forever.

It really has been a very good year.

Merry Christmas, Daddy.


  1. Schleprock - December 25, 2018 6:38 am

    Merry Christmas, Sean.

  2. Paul Chisolm - December 25, 2018 6:44 am

    All the Love in the World to you Sean this day and always! I miss my Daddy as well. I lost him to alcohol. Merry Christmas.

  3. Pamela McEachern - December 25, 2018 6:59 am

    So happy you wrote your sweet letter, I know your Daddy had to be a special man. He was ill and would never have left you if he thought he was going to be better. I am so sorry you lost someone you so dearly love. I hope this Christmas shines a little brighter for you and yours.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham for a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS ???

  4. Brenda - December 25, 2018 7:06 am

    God bless Sean

  5. Brad - December 25, 2018 7:07 am

    Merry Christmas, Sean. ?

  6. Becca Allison - December 25, 2018 8:05 am

    Much love to you this Christmas.
    My husband’s father left this world by his own hand nearly fifty years ago, on my husband’s birthday. Sometimes they think they are giving someone a present.
    You are cherishing the good memories. Thank you for sharing your heart.
    A lot of your readers, like me, feel like you are an “extra” son.
    Merry Christmas!

  7. Jody Herren - December 25, 2018 9:45 am

    MERRY CHRISTMAS Sean-your daddy is very proud of the man you have become.

  8. Patty - December 25, 2018 9:51 am

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, from California.

  9. Susan Self - December 25, 2018 11:57 am

    It was time Sean. You did good son. Merry Christmas. God and his love you.

  10. Vickie Garrard - December 25, 2018 12:06 pm

    Merry Christmas…..I’m still working to get there. It’s still too raw. Glad you made it !

  11. Naomi - December 25, 2018 12:09 pm

    I was a daddy’s girl. My father died of a heart attack in 1968, on New Year’s Eve, 2 weeks after his 65th birthday. He had the heart attack in his doctor’s office but made it to the hospital. He was in Birmingham, AL, but I was living in Illinois. He had been in the hospital previously and I tried calling him (long distance) but he never answered the phone. After several attempts, I finally reached him and asked him why he was never in his room. He told me that he was sitting with other patients who didn’t have any visitors. His heart was still for other people instead of himself. I told him that I loved him and he told me that he loved me, our last words to each other. I’m crying as I write this even after all of these years, especially around Christmas.

  12. Marilyn - December 25, 2018 12:17 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean, Jamie, Thelma Lou and Otis! Love…..

  13. Phillip Saunders - December 25, 2018 12:17 pm

    So glad you have forgiven your dad. He had to have been a really great guy. My dad died when I was 15. The bullet that killed him was a bunch of nasty, shredded brown stuff wrapped in white paper that he lit with a match. It took a long time for him to die. Someday we will see them in person again and be able to tell them face to face that we love them. Meanwhile, life is too good to be sad. It’s Christmas Day! You and Jamie and the pups have a merry one – I sure plan to. Now go love someone!

  14. Jean - December 25, 2018 12:18 pm

    A sweet letter to your Daddy….I miss mine every day. Wish they were all here especially today. Blessings dear Sean.

  15. Nancy Hall - December 25, 2018 12:22 pm

    It’s all about unconditional love…. Merry Christmas Sean and family.

  16. Edna B. - December 25, 2018 1:01 pm

    Tis Christmas Day here, and Pogo and I have lots of presents to open. Just as soon as he wakes up! Right now he is beside me, snoring away. It’s music to my ears. Have a blessed day my friend, hugs, Edna B.

  17. Connie Havard Ryland - December 25, 2018 1:09 pm

    Very sweet. Merry Christmas and congratulations on the new niece.

  18. Camille - December 25, 2018 1:35 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean, Jamie and pups. Thank you for giving me another 365 great starts to my day!

  19. Rhonda - December 25, 2018 1:38 pm

    You are a good man, Charlie Brown. A damn good man.

  20. Elizabeth Wilbourne - December 25, 2018 1:48 pm

    Merry Christmas, Sean! My family loves your stories. We forward them to each other even though we all get one each morning! This may sound sound weird since I don’t know you, but I am proud of you! Your dad is so proud of you! Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  21. Janie F. - December 25, 2018 1:49 pm

    He’s so proud of you Sean! Merry Christmas to you & your family. We love you!?

  22. Sue Cronkite - December 25, 2018 1:53 pm

    I am so proud of your tribute. Remember the love, always.

  23. Carole Lea - December 25, 2018 1:57 pm

    What a lovely letter. Forgiveness is a powerful thing! Blessings to you. Hope your return to the Episcopal Church of the Nativity soon. It was great having you!

  24. Jess in Athens, GA - December 25, 2018 2:03 pm

    Very touching. Suicide leaves deep wounds, no doubt about that. Wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year, Sean. May you new found peace continues to embrace you year-round.

  25. Patricia Schmaltz - December 25, 2018 2:18 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean! We are off to spend the day with our 5 grandbabies (ages 4-7). FUN!!

  26. John B. - December 25, 2018 2:20 pm

    Merry Christmas, Sean and Jamie.
    You are a blessing to many, many people.

  27. Annie - December 25, 2018 2:27 pm

    And I am the daughter of Clyde,, who loved his family so much that he left us too soon. I love him and miss him so.

  28. Chris - December 25, 2018 2:33 pm

    Thank you.

  29. Teresa Tindle - December 25, 2018 2:46 pm

    Shawn, you don’t know how much your letter to your daddy touches me. My husband also left this world by his own hand when our two sons were young. My oldest son, his name is Shawn, took his fathers death very hard. It was many years before he was able to forgive him and love him. Both of my sons are very fine Christian young men. They are both really good husbands and fathers. My year has had its ups and downs too. I have been dogless this year. The first time. My two babies left this year. But what a day I had Sunday. God sent me a gift I will treasure. I had a little dog for an entire day! It was beautiful. I found her in my yard, lost from her mama. She was so sweet and loving to me. Brought me all the pleasure and love only big brown eyes and wet kisses can bring. I was able to find her mama and return her safely. But if I had my way I would have kept her for myself. It did cross my mind not to look for her mom. Merry Christmas to you and Jamie and Thelma Lou. My Christmas present for a day, her name was Bella.

    • Catherine Waggener - December 25, 2018 3:56 pm

      Teresa, I know that there will be a Bella in your life very soon because my heart tells me that. ??

  30. Jack Darnell - December 25, 2018 3:24 pm

    Good entry my friend, Your blog entries are top of my day. You do things for so many people, sharing feelings that most of us do not completely understand the depth, but KNOW the depths are there. Like TT above who can share and take comfort that you have made it and her sons can too. Anyway dude, have a Merry Christmas along with Jamie, bless her heart! Any yeah ’em dogs too!
    Sherry and jack

  31. Catherine Waggener - December 25, 2018 3:59 pm

    What a gift to find peace and forgiveness~one of the best Christmas present given and received. Merry Christmas to you, Jamie, and your precious and adored fur babies. ???

  32. Bo - December 25, 2018 6:01 pm

    Good for you, kind man. Good for you.

  33. Margarett Jane Vaught - December 25, 2018 6:15 pm

    I hope one day my grandson will write a letter similar to his daddy who left him at age 9. Merry Christmas Sean

  34. Steve Scott - December 25, 2018 8:20 pm

    Thank you. I guess I should follow your example and talk with my Daddy more. He left us when I was nine, at his own hand also. I didn’t deal with it until I was in my fifties. I wish I could meet you some day. Or at least get a chance to talk with you.I’d like thst. Maybe you’ll surprise me this year. ?

  35. Patricia Gibson - December 25, 2018 9:29 pm

    Merry Christmas

  36. Annl - December 25, 2018 10:47 pm

    I be t your Daddy loves reading that. I hope you have peace with his memory. Merry Christmas, Sean to you and yours.

  37. Janet Holliday - December 26, 2018 2:07 am

    Merry Christmas to you n your family! It is always a pleasure to read your articles.

  38. dogsdolls - December 26, 2018 2:35 am

    this made me tear up a bit. I lost my father yesterday. He was 92 and his passing was expected.. he was ready and at peace. He was a good father, not a perfect dad but he did his best for us. I am glad that you have been able to forgive your dad and hope that it has brought you peace. Thank you for sharing.

  39. Susan Kennedy - December 26, 2018 2:48 am

    Merry Christmas Sean.?

  40. Linda Chapman - December 26, 2018 6:18 am

    I love you, Sean. I’m sure your daddy did too..,

    • Jennifer Whisenant - December 26, 2018 2:22 pm

      Getting to know your parents as just persons is a blessing. Each day I try to find the best of them in my own actions. Sometimes I do but sometimes I find myself repeating the same mistakes I accused them of doing. Life is a great balancing act.They are in heaven now and I often pray they are enjoying eternity and not looking down worrying about me.

  41. Terri C Boykin - December 28, 2018 4:23 am

    Love you much Sean.

  42. Sandra Smith - January 3, 2019 4:51 am

    Wanna know why we love you Sean ?
    It’s because you have the courage to show us your soul.
    Your innate goodness.
    So few of us take the time to DO that anymore…share who we are with each other,
    We cringe away from it, seems like.
    We walk with our eyes on a phone, or head down to avoid making eye contact with anyone, let alone, actually, SMILE at them.
    YOU on the other hand, give 100% and encourage the rest of us to at least try giving 50%
    And, you make us WANT TOO !

  43. Martha - December 26, 2019 4:14 am

    Merry Christmas Sean. You’ve taken an important necessay step in being free to live wide open. Keep going sweetheart, you’ve got miles to go & things to tell & more time, precious time. Merry Christmas & Welcome to new steps & adventures with Jamie. Happy New Year!

  44. Mary Berryman - December 26, 2019 2:10 pm

    Dear Sean, a wonderful to let go of pain and transition it to a good memory and honor you father’s life
    We also got a puppy this Christmas-3 1/2 ponds of miniature bull terrier. The most cuddly, kissy, comical pup with an egg shaped head!
    Merry Christmas, Sean!

  45. Ann Biggs Williams - December 26, 2019 2:49 pm

    Forgiveness is a beautiful and freeing gift.

  46. sparkerlpc - December 27, 2019 7:13 am

    Forgiveness is so hard. Grief is so hard. I am thankful you are making your way through both, and that you can feel blessed instead of burdened by memories of your father. I know Christmas this year was not perfectm because he was not here to share it. But Christmas was better than it had been, right?
    Merry belated Christmas to you, and to Jamie, Thelma Lou, and Otis!

  47. Sam Seetin - December 28, 2019 8:11 pm

    Sean, Small nuance might help you cope. John’s superb yearly performances as Christ during Passion Plays on Easter to a large congregation
    positively affected the faith of thousands. God gave him credit for being a good man and forgave his sins owing to an affliction he couldn’t control. He was and is OK and you are OK as his son. You emerged from chaos too as a good man touched by the Lord to bring folks hope through your kind insightful soft spoken stories.
    Uncle Sam


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