When I first met Michelle, the first thing she did was hug me.
It all started when Michelle emailed me one morning and asked to interview me for the newspaper. I was floored. I met her at a coffee shop. I wore my most expensive T-shirt.
This was early in my fledgling career—if you can call it a career. I had never done an interview before.
At the time, I was living with my mother-in-law in a house that smelled like bath powder and Febreeze plug-ins. My wife and I resided in a bedroom the size of a casket and shared a restroom with my mother-in-law.
Trust me, no matter how rough your life is, it gets a little rougher when you share a bathroom with your mother-in-law.
Back then, I spent my days working on novels and columns, and I spent my evenings working late hours as a beer-joint musician. My wife served as a caregiver to her mother; my mother-in-law spent her weekdays listening to HGTV at volumes loud enough to liquify Pittsburgh steel.
That was our life.
So I drove to Mobile one afternoon to meet Michelle for the interview. I was nervous. I showed up early. My hair was long, tied back in a ponytail. My beard looked unkempt.
Before entering the café, I glanced at my unsightly reflection in a window and cringed. I was wondering what Michelle’s reaction to me would be.
She hugged me. That was her reaction. She rose from her table and embraced me.
When the “Mobile Press-Register” later ran her article about my work, I read her words while seated in my mother-in-law’s living room, as Chip and Joanna Gaines blared on television loud enough to levitate furniture.
Nobody had ever written the kinds of things Michelle wrote about me. And probably never will again.
The next day I started getting calls from people in my life. People had seen the write-up in the paper. My aunt even drove over to Mobile and purchased approximately 7,000,000 copies of the newspaper to give as Christmas presents and wedding gifts.
Over the years, Michelle and I became friends. We met for lunch. We talked about writing. We got together for beer and tacos.
So when her husband, Matt, was diagnosed with a tumor on the left temporal lobe last year, yeah, it hurt.
Matt is a great guy. A newspaperman to the core. A writer’s writer. My first introduction to Matt was after he had retired from the newspaper business and was working as editor for—seriously—America’s leading elevator magazine.
I asked him how things were going in the elevator industry. He looked at me, deadpan, and said, “It has its ups and downs.”
Since Matt’s diagnosis, Michelle’s life has been refocused. She’s kept herself upbeat. She’s remained positive. I’ve never once heard her or Matt complain. But it doesn’t take a genius to realize that this has been the year from perdition.
Still, somehow Michelle has continued. She has continued being a mom to two kids, continued cooking suppers, making beds, being the laundry fairy, and looking after her people. Also—and don’t ask me how—she’s found a way to keep producing first-rate newspaper stories.
As Matt’s cancer has progressed, I am certain things have gotten harder for her. But Michelle has never wavered. She’s just kept moving. Kept cheering. Kept believing. Kept fighting. Kept smiling. She will likely be canonized in her own lifetime.
I bring all this up because one of Matt’s lifelong dreams is to take a road trip on U.S. Route 66. He wants to ride the chipped American highway and see the sunset in Amarillo, or the Milky Way over the Mojave.
And even though they can’t afford to take an elaborate trip like this right now, if you ask me, they can’t afford not to take this trip, either.
So I suppose I’m formally asking you, whoever you are, to pray for my two friends. And not only them, but for all friends whose lives have been touched by cancer. Right now, I can think of 12 people within my inner circle who seriously need your prayers. I’m betting you can think of more people, too.
I know you’re busy. I know you have your own problems. But also, I know that prayer works. And I know that nothing would be better than to see Michelle and Matt careening down an open highway with the top down, motoring West along the Mother Road. Together.
Right now, Michelle is probably reading these words and wondering what exactly she just read here.
This is my hug to you, Michelle.
lindadmiresean - May 19, 2022 7:17 am
Sean, set up a GoFundMe account for Michelle and Matt, so they can take their Route 66 trip NOW.
Then tell your readers about the account. Then sit back and smile.
oldlibrariansshelf - May 19, 2022 10:22 am
Christine - May 19, 2022 10:27 am
Yes, please start a GoFundMe for them. We all want to make his dream come true.
snielson2008 - May 19, 2022 12:20 pm
Like Linda said, seriously. This is my first time to comment ever. Sean, set up a GoFundMe site and let your fans send Matt and Michelle on their trip of a lifetime! We’ll do it. For you, Matt and Michelle. You’ll see. With love from Birmingham.
Peggy Campbell - May 19, 2022 3:50 pm
YES YES YES … I’m IN! It’d be an honor to support Michelle and her beloved Matt–anyone who was a catalyst for the edification I get daily from your column, Sean, deserves my enthusiastic involvement!
Mike - May 20, 2022 1:31 am
Trudy - May 19, 2022 7:54 am
As I write this, I’m sitting up all night with my Dad in his hospital room praying for him. Will also be praying for Matt and Michelle and praying they get to make that trip. Sean, you are such a good person and I’m glad Matt snd Michelle have you as their friend.
PMc - May 19, 2022 8:17 am
This is a beautiful tribute to your friends. And I would love to contribute to the Hwy 66 adventure. I hope you will let us know how things go for them.
Peace and Love from Birimgham.
Mimi - May 19, 2022 11:01 am
Me too! But with my daughter. 🙏🙏❤️
Tim Smith - May 19, 2022 9:40 am
Has anyone set up a “go fund me” to make this trip a reality?
Tahma Nash - May 19, 2022 10:30 am
Matt and Michelle, your names are before the Throne of Christ, our Intercessor, this morning. I imagine He will be hearing a flood of prayers on your behalf. May they all be answered!
Beth - May 19, 2022 10:32 am
Where do I send a check?
Ann Thompson - May 19, 2022 10:35 am
Prayer said…out loud. ❤️
Susan - May 19, 2022 10:37 am
Praying for your friends!
Donna - May 19, 2022 10:42 am
Sean, thank you for sharing these heartfelt words. Matt and Michelle are in my prayers, as are their children.
Jean Tate - May 19, 2022 10:47 am
Thank you for writing about Michelle. I am one of her friends from Agnes Scott College, her “Scotties”. I have been reading your work since Michelle posted some on Facebook, well before she wrote the article about you. I remember her posting about how excited she was to meet you for the first time! She is a beautiful soul, so thank you for writing this.
🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - May 19, 2022 10:50 am
Prayers from South Africa for Matt & Michelle. May they travel Route 66 & enjoy the journey. Never put off till tomorrow what can be achieved today is my theme while I see my husband slowly deteriorating with Alzheimer’s at 83. We have been blessed with a good family & had the opportunity to travel together many times, him for business too.
Bette - May 19, 2022 10:57 am
I will. And thank you for not being afraid of being accused of politically incorrect by asking for prayers. I know God listens.
Dale Ann Watford - May 19, 2022 10:58 am
I’m crying while I’m praying in The Wonderful Name of Jesus. You truly are a great friend. God bless you all.
Mimi 1122 - May 19, 2022 11:00 am
Where can we send some $$$ to make that dream happen ? It would be an honor
suzi - May 19, 2022 11:02 am
Michelle and Matt, prayers for you and other families fighting cancer.
Praying• Every•Day• and please God, throw in a happy wish come true for each one.
Becky Thomas - May 19, 2022 11:05 am
Prayers for all fighting cancer. God, please.
Stephanie Powers - May 19, 2022 11:08 am
Keeping them in my prayers–create the “Go Fund”. I will contribute.
Te - May 19, 2022 11:25 am
Prayers sent up. Blessings and peace showered upon them and you.
Kim H. - May 19, 2022 11:27 am
I am praying for Matt and Michelle!!🙏🦋🙏🦋🙏
Susan - May 19, 2022 11:29 am
Praying for Matt and Michelle🙏❤️
Helen De Prima - May 19, 2022 11:30 am
Add me to their prayer list, Sean.
Lisa - May 19, 2022 11:32 am
Yes, prayer works. Michelle and Matt are added to my prayer list. Illness and trauma seem to permeate our in radiating concentric circles. And yet, the sun rises, the moon passes through phases and stars twinkle. Recently prayer warriors rallied here for a young father of three with a brain tumor. Three surgeries and months of speech therapy he is back at being the funny cup cake baking dad and catering chef. Prayer works. All the best to you and yours and prayers for all of your inner circle. –
-Never to busy for prayer-
Kelsey - May 19, 2022 11:32 am
Simply wonderful. Thank you, Sean. I am sharing.
Vicky - May 19, 2022 11:36 am
I have said a prayer for your friend Michelle and Matt. And I echo what everyone else is saying-let us help to send them on the trip that is so badly needed. And thank you for being such a wonderful friend, Sean.
LisaWray - May 19, 2022 11:39 am
I, too, would like to contribute to the Route 66 trip. Please let me know how.
Dee - May 19, 2022 11:45 am
Prayers for peace for Matt and Michelle. God bless them with your presence and wrap them in your unending love. Heal his body; in Jesus’ name. Thank you, Sean.
Bobbie Gordner - May 19, 2022 11:46 am
I so much enjoy your essays! Thank you :-)! Would it be possible to set up a fund to help Matt realize his dream of traveling The Mother Road? It shouldn’t be missed, even though portions of it are closed.
Bonnie - May 19, 2022 12:22 pm
A GoFundMe was exactly the first thing I thought of too. Lots of us would contribute I’m sure.
And yes, prayer does work. It may not be the answer we want, but God is always in control. Always.
Sean of the South: My Friend Michelle | The Trussville Tribune - May 19, 2022 12:29 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Patricia A Schmaltz - May 19, 2022 12:38 pm
You’re a good friend.. and you and Michelle (and millions of your faithful readers) are lucky to have found each other. Is there a GoFundMe site? I’d contribute! Hugs.
Susan Kennedy - May 19, 2022 12:38 pm
I’m in. Gotta get them on the road. Please let us know how to help.
Lisa K Riley - May 19, 2022 12:44 pm
Praying for Michelle and her husband. You’re right. They can’t afford to not go. My husband and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon last year. We had always wanted to go. A month later he was dead. Don’t wait! Make the memories!
Linnea Miles - May 19, 2022 1:27 pm
Sean, is there a bank or a fund we can send money to for this trip of a lifetime to happen? It’s supposed to.
Jim Kelly - May 19, 2022 1:30 pm
God Bless Michelle and her husband. I shall remember them in prayer. I sincerely hope they make that trip !
Southern Girl - May 19, 2022 1:35 pm
Sean, just so you know, it is through Michelle I learned about you and your fantastic writing.
Wendy Lowe - May 19, 2022 1:42 pm
How can we help? Let’s send them!
Ellouise - May 19, 2022 1:44 pm
I think you should set up a go fund me page for her. I’d certainly contribute!
Elaine Price - May 19, 2022 1:45 pm
I just prayed for these great people…I live in Albuquerque NM and sincerely pray we see them on this stretch of the Mother Road…come check out the El Vado Motel…refurbished Route 66 1930’s motor court that would welcome them!
Wesley Nichols - May 19, 2022 1:50 pm
Hi there. Yes…. God is real. Don’t doubt it. My father passed away about 3 weeks ago from brain cancer. God didn’t choose to heal him here, but chose to completely heal him in Heaven. Jesus is healing our hearts.. It’s the Love we feel that makes us cry sometimes…. and that’s ok.
Michelle… someone gave us some advice during this difficult time. Drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. God Bless.
Michael Edwards - May 19, 2022 1:58 pm
Prayers and hugs for Matt & Michelle! Some of my best moments in life were on trips I couldn’t afford. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; sleeping in the car with Cinder, my amazing Labrador retriever who warned me of a bear in the mountains; lunch with friendly folks in diners on Route 66; beach camping and many more. Praying it will be a fun adventure!
PS I’m a 20-year cancer survivor. Sometimes I don’t think I can go one more day but God’s mercies are new every morning. Sean’s blogs brighten my day, joy comes in the morning, the darkest hour is just before dawn (that’s in the Bible somewhere, maybe the book of Psalms). —Best wishes from an old guy in Texas
Christina - May 19, 2022 1:58 pm
If you can feel our hugs, they are coming your way!
LynnB - May 19, 2022 2:00 pm
Yes! We’re on it! Where is the GoFundMe?! We can all travel with them vicariously!
Margaret Byrd - May 19, 2022 2:02 pm
I would love to help make it possible for them to have this trip. My husband died of cancer 45 years ago and I’ve never forgotten how hard it was to try and meet the emotional, physical and financial needs of my three children, my husband and myself as we fought terminal cancer. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me your address and I’ll send you some money for this trip.
KiKiTexas - May 19, 2022 2:08 pm
I am battling a rare cancer. I understand wanting to do things while you physically can. I’ve done part of Route 66 and It would be so worth it for them. You or Jamie need to set up a Go Fund me account as so many of us will contribute.
John Henderson - May 19, 2022 2:20 pm
Is there anyway/anyplace that I could contribute to some sort of fundraiser to help your friends take a trip on Route 66?
Gayle - May 19, 2022 2:33 pm
Dear Sean,you have the most beautiful giving readers who constantly show their love and compassion for their fellow human beings. What a tribute to genuineness of the human spirit.
Sheila G - May 19, 2022 2:42 pm
Dear Mr. Sean, we all have the itch to help Michelle and her husband. Can you help us scratch that itch???
Dale Parsons - May 19, 2022 2:46 pm
I will pray for Matt & Michelle, seriously. My brother and I rode the old Route 66 with our grandparents. I’m so thankful for that trip. I wish I had taken notes and
more pictures. That was 1967. I am four years older than Grandpa was when he drove his new 1966 Ford from Saginaw, Michigan to San Gabriel, California, with Grandma in the front seat, and my brother and I in the back. I hope Matt and Michelle get to take that trip.
Patricia Gibson - May 19, 2022 2:55 pm
Prayers for sure!
Krista - May 19, 2022 2:59 pm
You’ve probably noticed: we are praying and we want a GoFundMe page.
Linda Trauffer - May 19, 2022 3:04 pm
Praying for Matt & Michelle! Cancer diagnosis is frightening! Michelle is doing the right thing, living life to the fullest; rejoicing in each day they have together. Maybe someone could get a Go Fund Me started so their Route 66 dream can come true. We lost our son (48) to glio blastoma multiform in 2012, Lord bless them!
Jan Walker - May 19, 2022 3:04 pm
I’m praying and believing for Matt and Michelle. And for you, Sean. Love never fails.
Joyce Culling - May 19, 2022 3:23 pm
Sue Adams - May 19, 2022 3:24 pm
Allen - May 19, 2022 3:29 pm
Praying. Yep, know a lot of people including my doctor. God’s timing is perfect! And miracles come in all shapes and forms.
Ann g Bradford - May 19, 2022 3:36 pm
Prayers going up for all their needs to be meet.
Diane Mark - May 19, 2022 3:54 pm
would someone please organize a GO FUND ME for this couple to make that trip……….I would gladly donate
Joyce - May 19, 2022 4:07 pm
Peggy M. Windham - May 19, 2022 4:08 pm
My prayer list is long too, Sean but I will certainly add Michelle and Matt!
Linda Chapman - May 19, 2022 4:12 pm
I’m adding their names to my prayer journal right now!
Jan - May 19, 2022 4:20 pm
Praying for Michelle, Matt and so many who are touched by the diagnosis of cancer. Father – Thank you for your presence, your grace and your mercy. Please Lord bless Michelle and Matt and so many others who need your blessings today and always. In all things, Thy will be done. Amen.
Diane Bailey - May 19, 2022 4:21 pm
April M - May 19, 2022 4:33 pm
Sean, start a Go-Fund-Me campaign for these lovely people and send them on their way.
Jane - May 19, 2022 5:29 pm
As a two time Cancer Survivor I want to tell your friends how to handle cancer. Tell God this is too big for them to handle, and they are turning it over to Him. (Do not take it back by reminding Him every day that you need a cure.) Then do as your told by your doctors, and get ready for that trip. We need a Go Fund Me page!
Marcey Corey - May 19, 2022 5:35 pm
Ellen Cameron - May 19, 2022 5:49 pm
Sean, you should start a go fund me page for Michelle and Matt!!! Thank you for sharing their story and for asking for prayers!
texasmom - May 19, 2022 6:02 pm
Adding them to our prayer list also…
Michelle & Matt’s page: https://gofund.me/11695719
Linda Moon - May 19, 2022 6:20 pm
I’m glad Michelle hugged you first thing. Aren’t hugs so good, Sean. Yours are award-worthy. Michelle and Matt will be very much in my prayers and thoughts, also. I’ve been on and am still traveling some of that perdition road. I’ve been on Route 66, too. I’m writing through teardrops now and I and hope you take the trip, Matt and Michelle. Hugs to you both.
John - May 19, 2022 6:28 pm
Prayers! God knows who needs them!
Cecelia Arnold - May 19, 2022 6:47 pm
This was beautiful and moved me. I will pray for this couple. Thank you, Sean.
Chasity Davis Ritter - May 19, 2022 7:27 pm
I’ve cried a couple times today and right now I’m crying and praying for your friends Michelle and Matt. Cancer sux beyond nice words. You know I lost my Dad to Cancer and both my grand mothers and my father in law and my sister in laws dad and 3 of my best friends dads and my dearest friend from work too I can go on…. But cancer is also only a word… not a sentence. One of my moms sisters is a breast cancer survivor. Another is battling right now. My other best friend (yes I’m blessed I think God compensates sometimes) her dad is a survivor and her mom is in the battle and my last best friend (ok sorry if I’m bragging) is a survivor too. We both went in for cal backs from lumps in our breast February or 2021. She had it and I didn’t. B UT she’s still here and I’m thankful every single day. But cancer SUCKS!! My work friend (there sound better) took her dad to a check up yesterday and I got one text from her that just said f🤬🤬k. F🤬🤬k f🤬🤬k and I knew. It was bone marrow cancer. Yes the list I pray for is long and your friends are on it now too. I hate cancer. I’d almost be willing to keep head lice and mosquitos if cancer would just go away.
Valerie - May 19, 2022 8:01 pm
Totally well done! Michelle and Matt should have their moments on the open road together!
My cousin, Levi, is much too young to be blind, too.
davidpbfeder - May 19, 2022 8:14 pm
Add my voice to those of us asking for a Go Fund Me page!
Vern - May 19, 2022 8:18 pm
What April M sais
Nancy M - May 19, 2022 8:58 pm
Praying for Michelle and Matt and for all the people I know who have or have had cancer. And for you and Jamie, Sean. I saw you in Pintlala. I Hyundai get to see you again sometime.
Nancy M - May 19, 2022 8:59 pm
Hope to get to see you again. Darned predictive text!
Cyndee - May 19, 2022 9:32 pm
What a great article! I too have cancer. I know that prayers work. Keep on writing!
Sallie D Snyder - May 19, 2022 10:29 pm
I’m sure thousands, maybe millions, of people are praying for Michelle now, but just so you know, so am I.
Jane M - May 19, 2022 10:51 pm
Found it!!! Here is a link for the GoFundMe page! https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-matt-michelle-celebrate-life
Carole Tannehill - May 19, 2022 11:19 pm
You are the friend everyone wants. Thanks for being you.
Karen - May 20, 2022 12:11 am
My prayers are with Michelle and Matt. I hope they send you a few photos of their trip down Route 66.
Martha - May 20, 2022 2:18 am
I prayed when I first read this. As I went through my day praying for others I prayed more. Just now reading devotions and headed to bed I added them to my prayer list. God’s got this.
shirlley hill - May 20, 2022 3:35 am
Praying and put them on my permanent prayer list – prayer does work mfriend.
Sandi. - May 20, 2022 7:58 am
I’m praying for Matt and Michelle, too. Please keep us posted with an update soon, Sean.
terric - May 20, 2022 11:45 am
Prayers said for your friends, and all those who have cancer as well as those that love them. Love you much Sean.
BMc - May 21, 2022 5:10 am
Prayers for healing, comfort and to be able to take that ride down Route 66!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - May 21, 2022 5:19 am
Lynn Arledge - May 21, 2022 4:46 pm
Prayers for Matt, Michelle and their families. Praying of course for healing, but also for courage, faith and peace that only comes from a relationship with Jesus. Thanking God for intercessory prayers. May He bless them and you, Sean.
Emily Walls Ray - May 22, 2022 1:48 pm
I pray with you that Michelle and Matt get to take that trip. I know too, that prayer works. I am sure Michelle welcomed this “hug,” and thank you for letting your readers share in it. Emily originally from Tuscaloosa
DiAn - May 22, 2022 5:30 pm
May the Lord be with Matt and Michelle this day and on the trip – please help them to feel Your presence, guidance, and peace! Bless them and Bless Sean for writing this now. Amen! – Thank you, Sean!
Melissa Claunch - July 8, 2022 3:38 am
Praying for your friends as well as my friends that are fighting cancer.