Lord have mercy. Betty White is dead. She inherited her Eternal Reward today on New Year’s Eve, at age 99. Less than 24 hours before the New Year.

It’s been quite a year.

She was the last Golden Girl to go. Her co-star, Estelle Getty (Sophia), died in 2008 at 84 from dementia. Bea Arthur (Dorothy) died of cancer at 86 in 2009. Rue McClanahan (Blanche) died at 76 in 2010 from a stroke. And now Betty.

Lord have mercy.

Most people, of course, will forever remember Betty as her character, Rose Nylund, the giddy Golden Girl from Saint Olaf, Minnesota. But, for some reason, I will always remember her character from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

When I was a boy, our local channel would play Mary Tyler Moore reruns before I caught the schoolbus. I would sit before a screen and laugh whenever Betty White appeared. She cracked immodest jokes, which I somehow knew were inappropriate for freckled Baptist boys. I liked her right then.

But then, so did the rest of the nation. She was America’s grandmother. And she was funny, as evidenced in few of Betty’s words:

“Facebook just sounds like a drag. In my day, seeing pictures of peoples’ vacations was considered punishment.”

“Vodka is kind of a hobby.”

And my personal favorite:

“The older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.”

This morning, my neighbor received her current copy of “People” magazine. I saw the glossy issue poking out of the old woman’s mailbox. The cover featured a photo of Betty White with a bold headline that read: “Betty White Turns 100!”

Betty died just seventeen days shy of her 100th birthday. Talk about black irony.

We lose beautiful things every day. Every morning, it seems like something wonderful breathes its last. This year I’ve lost too many friends and too many family members.

In 2021 I attended more funerals than I cared to. I’m afraid that if this keeps up, nobody will be around to attend mine.

We’ve also lost a multitude of little folkways, tiny traditions people often forget about. Hugs. Fewer people hug these days. And handshakes; fist-bumping just doesn’t feel right.

We’ve also lost some of our humor. There was a time when Americans could tell jokes about stuff going on in the world and nobody got offended. Today, it’s fashionable to get offended.

Sometimes, I’m afraid we’ve lost decency toward one another, too. As we round the corner into the next year, I wonder, have we forgotten how to be nice?

A few days ago I was at the supermarket and I saw a young man butt in front of an old woman who was reaching for the last carton of pulp-free orange juice. The kid was maybe fifteen with wavy hair. He wore a 10-dollar shirt with an 80-dollar polo horse sewn on the front.

He stepped in front of the lady, confiscated the OJ, then sauntered away without glancing back. Maybe he was looking for a puppy to kick.

The lady looked like she was about to cry. And if I’m being honest, I was about to cry too. Because I immediately began to wonder what’s happening to our species. Who have we become?

But do you know what? No sooner had I started to lament the current status of mankind than something happened.

An employee approached the old woman. The employee was also a teenager. The young man handed the woman a carton of orange juice, and said, “We had some extra juice in the back. I thought you’d like to have it.”

And the kid didn’t stop there. After that, he handed the woman a buy-one-get-one-free coupon. THEN, he handed her ANOTHER carton of orange juice. Then—get this—the young man actually gave that old woman a hug.

So maybe hugs are making a comeback.

Either way, every time I start to feel blue about the shape of our world, every time I start to poor mouth my own kind, something always changes my mind. I don’t know how this little miracle happens, but it does.

Each time I wonder whether we’ve lost the nucleus of our collective soul, I am reintroduced to my species. And belief begins to form within me. It is a belief that this world is not falling apart, but in fact, blossoming.

I realize what I’m about to say might sound foolish, and you have every right hurl rotten tomatoes in my direction, but I truly believe that it’s not over. We’re not over. Our story is not over. I believe we are just beginning.

I sincerely believe that mankind is learning to become kinder, and learning to become gentle. Yes, I understand that civilizations are still killing each other. Yes, there are wars happening. Yes, this world is a dang mess.

But I also believe that no matter how loudly the naysayers claim that humanity is divided; no matter how the broadcast journalists claim that Americans hate each other; no matter how many doubters point out how screwed up we are; I believe they are wrong.

I believe in hope. I believe this year is going to be better than the last. God help me I do.

Because a wise person once said that the older you get, the better you get. Unless, of course, you’re a banana.

Happy New Year.

71 comments

  1. Nan - January 1, 2022 6:38 am

    I hope you are right about world getting better! Happy New Year to Sean and Jamie!

    Reply
  2. Carole Moormann - January 1, 2022 6:38 am

    Thank you Sean. I just had to start crying today when I heard that
    Betty White died. Thank you for putting into
    Words what a lot of people were thinking. God bless you. Have a wonderful
    New Year!!

    Reply
  3. Deborah Blount - January 1, 2022 6:42 am

    I believe you are right Sean. I believe if one person sprays sunshine and love around them, two people will be infected. When they spray their sunshine and love, each will infect two more people. This is one pandemic I can get behind. I’m hoping the fever spread far and wide. Afterall, we are talking exponential infection here. Happy New Year!

    Reply
  4. MermaidGrammy - January 1, 2022 6:57 am

    I think you’re right. Besides that, Roll Tide, Roll!! I remember when Allen Ludden died. Every time she had a chance, she would talk about what a wonderful man he was. He was the best husband, ever, I believe. People like Betty White remind us how to be sweet. And gracious. And funny without having to be nasty and/or mean. We will miss Betty white, if we try, we can all be like her. Happy 2022, Sean!

    Reply
    • Debby Looney - January 7, 2022 4:55 pm

      I believe that to be true as well. We all have a choice. Either we choose to be kind and gracious or the opposite. It is our choice.

      Reply
  5. AQ - January 1, 2022 7:45 am

    Happy New Year Sean! Thank you for you!

    Reply
    • Betty Neal - January 9, 2022 1:34 pm

      It’s what you make it…Heaven on Earth as the song goes…God didn’t create junk so our younger generation will survive..We have…

      Reply
  6. Cathy Catlin - January 1, 2022 9:13 am

    Happy New Year, Sean!

    Here’s to the nice people, the kind people. They are out there, just as you described.

    They go about doing their thing without fanfare. Like the teenager who kindly brought OJ and a buy-one-get-one-free coupon to a distraught woman.

    Most folks don’t notice these kind folk because their niceness is stealthy. They just do what they can to help, and even sometimes (gasp!) give a hug to folks who look like they could use one.

    They are out there just doing their thing. Every. Single. Day. God Bless Them All!!!

    And I agree that 2022 is going to be better than 2021, even without Betty White.

    EVERYONE loved Betty, and now that she’s in heaven, I think she is going to be in charge of ensuring that kindness abounds on Earth. That’s why God gave her wings on the very last day of 2021. 💖

    Reply
  7. kristiknits - January 1, 2022 11:09 am

    Bless you dear Sean. May 2022 be kinder to us all

    Reply
  8. Carolyn Kelley - January 1, 2022 11:16 am

    Love this , Happy New Year

    Reply
  9. Ann - January 1, 2022 11:25 am

    Happy New Year, Sean and Jamie.
    You teach us to SEE not just LOOK, and you’ve done it again. I, too, believe there is a lot of kindness in store for everyone in spite of media fears. Betty White was always a favorite and thank you for the memories.
    It’s gonna be all right!

    Reply
  10. Larry McEntire - January 1, 2022 11:39 am

    Remind me of the Carl Sandberg poem, FROM THE PEOPLE, YES! Good stuff! Thanks

    Reply
    • Heather Miller - January 1, 2022 2:21 pm

      My family loves Betty White. My mother’s favorite tv show became The Golden Girls. My granddaughter’s favorite show is the Golden Girls. She is glad Hallmark Christmas-true-love-kissee-kissee-movies are over, and the Golden Girls reruns will be back in their rightful nightly spot. She called me twice yesterday to tell me she did not like Betty White’s dying. I said let’s have a birthday party in her honor on January 17th, her 100th earthly birthday!! We can have cheesecake and ice cream for dessert. We collaborated on the menu: hamburgers and waffle fries. Sounds delicious, to me, and it will happen.

      She then said the reunion in heaven with Sophia, Dorothy, and Blanche, was happy. The four of the girls together will make Jesus laugh. They can all live together again. I have one smart granddaughter.

      Reply
  11. JoAnn Dixon - January 1, 2022 11:44 am

    Thank you for always giving the rest of us hope!

    Reply
  12. Joy Jacobs - January 1, 2022 12:12 pm

    I’m still hugging. At church all the little kids hug me and I pass them on to the rest of my silver haired crowd. There’s nothing like a hug from a 4 year unless it’s a hug from a 70 year old. ❤️

    Reply
  13. Karen+Erwin-Brown - January 1, 2022 12:20 pm

    loved Betty White. RIP

    Reply
  14. Leigh Amiot - January 1, 2022 12:22 pm

    Betty White was adorable. My grandchildren call me Gammy…Betty White’s grandmother name in “The Proposal” was Gammy. I laugh every time I see the dance scene in that movie, she and Sandra Bullock were hysterically perfect together.

    Happy New Year, Sean, Jamie, and all the comment contributors on this blog. It’s good to hear from people who haven’t given up on this world.

    Reply
  15. Karen - January 1, 2022 12:32 pm

    Sean, I believe too. Happy New Year..

    Reply
  16. Kelly - January 1, 2022 12:33 pm

    Well said!

    Reply
  17. NancyB - January 1, 2022 12:33 pm

    Rest in peace, Miss Betty!
    Happy New Year, Sean and Jamie!

    Reply
    • Cheryl Andrews - January 1, 2022 2:54 pm

      Thank,you, Sean, that was beautiful! Happy New Year to you and Jamie!

      Reply
  18. Suzi - January 1, 2022 1:02 pm

    Go into this new year with renewed hope, purpose and joy 🎉🍷🙏🏻
    Always be on the look out for the good, the positive ❤️

    Reply
  19. Paul McCutchen - January 1, 2022 1:04 pm

    Happy New Year and I hope this year you constantly run into people like the young man with the orange juice. May you days be graced with a “buy one get one” type of day. Maybe we will go to the buy one get one type of year. You know what I mean.

    Reply
  20. Suellen - January 1, 2022 1:30 pm

    We see random acts of kindness almost every day. My husband struggles to walk due to a stroke. I hobble around him on my cane trying to carry everything and open doors or whatever. People leap into action to help us all the time. Once a man ran to the door of a restaurant and held it for us and then to our surprise went on his way walking down the street. People get up and offer us their seats. We had fresh produce delivered to our porch all summer long and he also brought us fish he had caught already breaded and ready to be fried. We live across the street from a business and I’ve often seen the business owner come across and pick up litter in our yard too. I hired a guy to come and trim some bushes and he did it at a ridiculously low price and then came back and did some other things that needed doing for free. He’s coming back tomorrow to clean out my gutters. I think I might adopt him. I could go on and on. Acts of kindness are happening all the time but most of the perpetrators work behind the scenes. It just springs forth from the goodness of their hearts. For goodness sake, we’re living in a new house built for us by my daughter and son-in-law rent free. How could we not feel blessed? Happy New Year Sean and Jamie and to all the readers here.

    Reply
  21. Louise Stewart - January 1, 2022 1:36 pm

    Happy New Year! Thank you for sharing the many amazing little things in life. Your words have been a blessing to me.
    “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 NIV

    Reply
  22. Brenda - January 1, 2022 1:57 pm

    Happy New Year! Happy blessings for 2022!

    Reply
  23. Kathy Croft - January 1, 2022 2:13 pm

    I agree 100%! Loved Betty White in Golden Girls & Mary Tyler Moore. Wished more shows were still being produced like they were when we grew up!

    Reply
  24. ralph bryson - January 1, 2022 2:22 pm

    Great article Sean. I would take issue with 4th to last para. “……broadcast journalists….” There are no broadcast journalists! Maybe broadcast bafoons, script readers, etc. Journalists…I don’t think so! Thx.

    Reply
  25. Sandy Burnett - January 1, 2022 2:23 pm

    Happy new year. We may miss Betty White, but we will be able to see her again and again and enjoy her ability to say a line with all sincerity knowing it will put us in stitches. Being older than you, I remember her from even further back on various game shows. Even then she brought joy to the audience. Don’t know if you realize it, but you do too in your own manner by writing of everyday things which touch us all. There is joy sometimes in the tears you release by something touching and joy in the laughter from other situations. Keep up the good work. In another 50 years or so someone may be writing of missing the commentary you have provided, that is if there are enough people still reading and writing.

    Reply
  26. Connie - January 1, 2022 2:30 pm

    Happy New Year Sean. Thank you for always making our day a little better. Thank you for giving us something to think about and reflect on. I know 2021 was a terrible year in lots of ways but there are pockets of good everywhere. I choose to see those and hope for more of the same in the year ahead. God bless you and Jamie and give you strength and peace.

    Reply
  27. Joni Friesen - January 1, 2022 2:34 pm

    Thank you for reminding us that there’s good in this world. I happily deleted all news apps, and I read your articles -every one- instead. It’s a vast improvement on my life, and I wonder if we could convince the rest of our country to give it a try. Have a happy new year!

    Reply
  28. BRENDA DAVIS - January 1, 2022 2:41 pm

    YES, I BELIEVE YOU’RE RIGHT ! THANKS FOR SHARING GOOD NEWS !

    Reply
  29. Jean - January 1, 2022 2:42 pm

    Happy New Year Sean!! I do hope you are right. I too have lost too many friends for the last 2 years. Too much violence…too much sickness…too many people who don’t care about their fellow man. I am going to agree with you and say we will overcome all this and be stronger and better. Sending love and many thanks for your wise words.

    Reply
  30. Dee - January 1, 2022 2:44 pm

    Sean, I am amazed at the stories you see and tell and I am inspired to be more observant myself. It’s easy to be self absorbed when fighting a terminal illness, but you give me a glimpse of the world outside while I stay inside to be safe. Through your everyday observations you help us to see the good in our “species”. Thank You.

    Reply
  31. Shelton A. - January 1, 2022 2:52 pm

    I believe God and his loving presence are revealed to us more in the little miracles that do happen each day. Sean, you share so many of them with us. The big ones, everyone sees and the doubters go to work debunking the miraculous. But the little ones, we see them ourselves and are left to marvel in wonder. Thanks for sharing so many of these with us. I pray for a 2022 filled with little miracles that show that there is a new world coming…one that’s kinder and more loving, more caring.

    Reply
  32. Shelton A. - January 1, 2022 2:55 pm

    RIP Betty White. If I make it heaven, I hope to see you there. Rest well and rest easy.

    Reply
  33. Jenny+Young - January 1, 2022 3:10 pm

    Oh Sean…I would have been tempted to tackle that first boy, pop him with my Grammy purse, give him some grandmother reprimands & take it back! But then I would have missed the wonderful sweetness of the second boy & left angry instead of hopeful. Thanks so much for sharing this story!

    Charlie & I watched “The Most Reluctant Convert: The untold story of CS Lewis” last night. (I don’t know why it’s called the Untold story because you can read it in his book ‘Surprised by Joy’) We are huge CS Lewis fans. At the end of the show he said this…I can’t quote it but let’s try….If we could see the people around us, even the most boring, quiet, uninteresting or ugly person, if we could see them as God sees them; when He is finished with them…they will be so beautiful we would be tempted to fall down & worship them.

    Your writing has really helped me to see people. To be able to step back & appreciate our differences more, to be more understanding & a better grace giver. Thanks so much! I hope this year brings wonderful things for you & Jamie.

    (@jennylovescharlie)

    Reply
  34. AlaRedClayGirl - January 1, 2022 3:39 pm

    Betty White was a national treasure, but she will live on forever for us in reruns. RIP. Happy 2022! May this year make up for the past two years.

    Reply
  35. Susan Marler - January 1, 2022 3:51 pm

    Thank you for hope for us all. Peace, love and health for 2022!

    Reply
  36. Lucinda - January 1, 2022 3:58 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for this column today! Bittersweet because of the loss of Betty White but such kindness and encouragement for a new year. Blessing to you and Jamie in 2022.

    Reply
  37. Patricia Gibson - January 1, 2022 4:01 pm

    Thank you, Sean❤️ I believe in us too! I don’t watch mainstream media. I am grateful to you for sharing the good. We all need that. Have a blessed Nee Year!!

    Reply
  38. Bill Straw - January 1, 2022 4:03 pm

    Happy New Year, Sean. I agree with you that maybe we will outgrow the rudeness, need to stifle others, and begin to feel compassion and caring for our fellow citizens. May 2022 fill your heart with joy.

    Reply
  39. PEGGY THOMPSON - January 1, 2022 4:08 pm

    Happy New Year!! Thank you I pray your right…our world is getting better.. God Bless!

    Reply
  40. DAVID A WILSON - January 1, 2022 4:24 pm

    YOU are undoubtedly the best writer I read! I could go on for pages as to why I write this comment however do not feel that is required. Just saying THANKS says it all.

    Reply
  41. Sheila G - January 1, 2022 4:27 pm

    Here’s to Sue Ann Nivens, AKA Betty White. A life definitely well-lived.

    Reply
  42. Pingback: Sean of the South: New Year | The Trussville Tribune

  43. Vivian - January 1, 2022 4:44 pm

    Never underestimate over-ripe bananas, though. Even they can go on to provide sweet and healthy banana nut bread!

    Reply
  44. Joyce Anders - January 1, 2022 4:48 pm

    Thank you Sean. I’m an 84 year old woman who went to bed thinking I could put on my big girl panties and spend my first New Uears Day alone and be OK with it. But during the night my elastic must have broken, because this morning my resolution had died. Your article about Betty White made me smile. She was a great role model. I CAN do this. I’m going to find someone who needs a smile today amd get on with my life. Happy New Year!

    Reply
  45. CAROLE A LAWSON - January 1, 2022 4:57 pm

    I just discovered you the other day and I love the way you wrote and view the world. Thank you.

    Reply
  46. Stacey Wallace - January 1, 2022 4:59 pm

    Happy New Year to you and Jamie! Love y’all!!

    Reply
  47. Penn Wells - January 1, 2022 5:58 pm

    When my oldest grandson was ten (a few years ago) he said, “I believe in belief.” A quote now safely ensconced in my Book Of.

    And the Orange Bowl Offensive MVP, Stetson Bennett IV, heard the naysaying pundits say he was “less than” and “couldn’t.”

    Head down. One foot after another.

    Beware of the Dawg, Sean!

    Reply
  48. L Hill - January 1, 2022 6:59 pm

    …from your mouth to God’s ear!!

    Reply
  49. MAM - January 1, 2022 7:27 pm

    My first thought was that you would chase after the “thief,” but I’m glad you stayed for the much better story! It’s a reminder to us not to get angry, but to observe! Anger solves NOTHING. Thanks, Sean. Happy New Year to you and Jamie!

    Reply
  50. Liz+Watkins - January 1, 2022 8:31 pm

    When you can’t find the sunshine, Be the sunshine!
    Happy New Year🎉🎉🎉🎉

    Reply
  51. Bill - January 1, 2022 8:48 pm

    I pray that all are doing well and have a Happy New Year free from the Covid.

    Reply
  52. cekey44 - January 1, 2022 9:05 pm

    When folks aren’t on (anti) social media most are actually nice to one another. Some folks that have written nasty stuff to me on Fakebook are very nice to me when we are face to face. And I’m not a big ole mean guy.

    Reply
  53. Jeanne Butlet - January 1, 2022 9:21 pm

    Sea you always me think and make me cry. I love you. Happy New Year❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  54. Linda Moon - January 1, 2022 9:34 pm

    Maybe Betty White is beginning a New Life in another place where time never ceases. Many of us hope for Everlasting Life from the Lord’s mercy. This former Baptist (me) liked Betty a lot, and I’d love to see and hear her again, Somewhere. I’m not a banana nor formerly been one, but I’ve ripened and mellowed over time in the here and now. God help us everyone, Sean. I believe in you, so have a Happy New Year!

    Reply
  55. Andy Gartman - January 1, 2022 10:38 pm

    Happy to not be a banana. And Happy New Year to you and Jamie!!
    Your preacher buddy.

    Reply
  56. Bill - January 1, 2022 11:35 pm

    So don’t be on Facebook. You CAN choose your friends on Facebook. So un friend them. Life is too short to worry about short-sighted peopl.
    and have a Happy New Year.

    Reply
  57. Bonnie - January 2, 2022 12:23 am

    Thank you for believing in mankind, for having hope

    Reply
  58. Donna R Ledford - January 2, 2022 12:41 am

    Thank you.

    Reply
  59. Debbie g - January 2, 2022 1:18 am

    Nice matters. Love is so easy
    Love your story too Sean
    Love to to and Jamie and to us all
    Happy new year

    Reply
  60. christine Wackrow - January 2, 2022 3:23 am

    Another great story, Sean! I always feel encouraged about life in general when reading your stories. Thank you.
    Chris

    Reply
  61. Nancy Brown - January 2, 2022 2:48 pm

    Love your writings! You have an amazing sense of observation. Don’t sell old bananas short. I have some bananas right now which will become delicious banana bread later today.

    Reply
  62. Richard Baker - January 2, 2022 4:31 pm

    Dear Sean, you are not speaking into a void. All words that have aspects of truth about them have “spirit” and they do not die. But, as Holy Scripture tells us, they accomplish the purpose for which they were sent out. Strengthen the faint hearted. I don’t know if you wear underwear or not, but you are a lot like that gentleman you told us about who had to reach out and help the poor, confused, wounded dog.

    Reply
  63. Martha Black - January 5, 2022 3:32 am

    I watched a really goof movie with Betty in it this weekend, entitled, “The Lost Valentine”. You should try to find & watch it. Just a lovely movie and she played her part so well.
    Alas, we’ve lost a valentine, we’ve loved so well and enjoyed so long. I guess we’ll just have to get along loving each other well.

    Reply
  64. RWiegers - January 5, 2022 9:20 am

    I saw a cartoon, Betty White, surrounded by dogs, standing in front of St. Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter said something along the lines of, “It’s really something when you live nearly a hundred years and people say you’ve gone too soon.” I thought that summed it up pretty well. She was so loved. So are you.

    Reply
  65. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 5, 2022 3:30 pm

    Reply
  66. Phillip Rusher - January 5, 2022 5:07 pm

    Thank you Sean, beautiful message, hope many, many people read this and have great take a ways, love this message and am also a believer!!!!

    Reply
  67. Carol Bennett - January 6, 2022 12:55 am

    Betty is so happy. She’s having the time of her life with the love of her life.
    Blessings to you and the love of your life for 2022

    Reply

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