A small town. The kind of American hamlet that causes you to start looking around for the Norman Rockwell signature. Hanging begonias. Storefronts with colorful awnings. A cute downtown.
There was a loud party happening on Main Street.
I followed the sound of distant music and many voices. I suddenly realized I was still wearing my pajamas. I shuffled into town barefoot, with sleep crusted in my eyes.
The sun was shining. Birds were cackling. People were everywhere. It was a veritable town-wide hoedown.
I saw women positioning casseroles on card tables. I saw children playing tag. Old men in aprons were deep frying hunks of fish.
There was music playing at the hardware store. Good music. The kind with twin fiddles. People were dancing before a plywood stage. Each front porch was crowded with people drinking lemonade and sugary tea.
Everyone was there, the whole gang. I saw them all. All my loved ones who died and left me behind. All my friends who met untimely ends. All my relatives who were called home too early. All my kin.
They were all right here, holding plates of hot food, mingling with one another. Everybody was smiling, throwing their heads back, laughing until they couldn’t breathe.
I saw grandparents, deceased uncles, departed aunts, and cousins who died before they were old enough to know what life was about.
I saw multitudes of unfamiliar children, dancing while the musicians played “Turkey in the Straw.” I asked an old woman nearby who all these children were.
“Those are the babies who died in the womb,” the woman said. “Aren’t they precious?”
We were interrupted when a large pack of dogs came running through the town, careening up Main Street. They came stampeding like a herd of bison. Among them, I saw six of my own dogs.
I saw Lady, the cocker spaniel who died in my arms when I was a teenager. I saw Joe, who was hit by an SUV in a hit and run. I saw Boone, the collie-mix who died in a veterinary office while gazing into my eyes. I saw Ellie Mae, the bloodhound I’ll never get over.
In a nearby park, I watched old friends play baseball. Mister Reginald was pitching—the retired Methodist minister who once lived on my street.
I saw my grandmother, standing at home plate, holding a hickory bat in her hands. Lord have mercy. She was a teenager, long and beautiful, with raven hair and Hershey’s Kiss eyes.
After the ball game, I was hungry. So I found a paper plate and stood in line at one of the food tables. A guy in line said, “Sean! Don’t you remember me?”
I stared at him, but didn’t recognize his face.
“It’s me!” he finally said. “James!”
“JAMES!” I screamed. James and I were friends as kids. He died driving home from his very first job. He wrecked his car on the interstate. I sat on the front row at his funeral and wept alongside his sisters.
Mid-hug, I saw someone else familiar. She was standing behind a food table, serving people. I knew those two fiery eyes, flecked with tinges of playfulness. It was my mother-in-law.
She was behind a crockpot, wielding a long spoon, wearing an apron that said “KISS ME, I’M METHODIST.”
When she recognized me, she shouted my name and came running around the table to hug me. It was a colossal embrace that made my ribs squeak.
“You have no idea how much we all miss you back home,” I told her.
Next, I saw Aunt Judith, Uncle Tommy Lee, the Williams boy, my old Little League coach, Cousin Elroy, Cousin Rose, Cousin Ray, and dear Mrs. Betty Lamb, who taught me in elementary school. I saw hundreds more familiar faces. Maybe thousands.
Then an old woman grabbed my arm and said, “There’s one more person you need to meet, sweetie.”
She led me to the edge of town, to a meandering river. There, on a shallow wooden bridge sat a young man, feet dangling over the edge, trousers rolled up to his knees. He was holding a long fishing rod like a grown-up version of Huck Finn.
He saw me.
My God, he was so young. He was so very young and so very lean. He had a mess of red hair atop his head, and his patent pending matinee smile was unchanged. He was wearing the same shirt he died in.
We embraced and I heard myself say his name. A word I’ve been waiting to use for a long time.
I could smell his deodorant, a scent I haven’t known in years. I could feel his lean trunk beneath my arms, and his beating heart only inches from my own.
“What is this wonderful place?” I asked my father.
“Does it matter?” he said
“Yes, it matters. Because I don’t ever want to leave.”
He smiled. “Neither do any of us.”
Then I woke up.
Shannon Fountain - January 18, 2022 7:28 am
I’m snotty crying and crocheting
Susie - January 18, 2022 6:15 pm
Yuck! Wash that item! Lol 😂
Sandy - January 20, 2022 2:30 am
My sister got to go this town today. I think she is sitting around with some ladies making a quilt. I am so glad she is no longer in pain and is united with all her friends and our family members. Thanks Sean for painting this picture for me.
E M Hector - January 18, 2022 8:27 am
What a dream. Please come back. We need you here to remind us that love is just around the corner.
KC - January 18, 2022 8:40 am
You were given a glimpse of heaven. What a beautiful gift. I promise you will never forget the feeling it gave you. I’m 73 and my glimpse was very similar and I’ll never forget the joy I felt. I didn’t want to leave either!
Susan H Poole - January 18, 2022 9:02 am
This is most precious and sacred – what you’ve shared with us. You glimpsed heaven. I believe when you saw your Daddy and y’all hugged, your heart was healed from the tragedy and sorrow of his death. Sean, thank you.💗
Tim Wood - January 18, 2022 10:15 am
WOW! I read you every day and enjoy every word. Dreams like this are a blessing from God. I know. I have had them. I live in Geneva AL and some of the places you have written about I know and have been to. Keep it up, Sean.
te - January 18, 2022 10:25 am
I like your idea of Heaven. Damn, if it ain’t Jas like that — with more flowers.
Karen+Erwin-Brown - January 18, 2022 10:37 am
love those kinds of dreams
She)let Hill - January 18, 2022 11:22 am
Sean, I’ve a kinda of short version, where my husband appears to me…I wanted to go back to sleep, bc the part of me that was missing was with me and I was whole again for a brief few minutes. .with his arms around me, fit like a gloveThen then I woke. The most peaceful I had felt siNE he passed away.
Sandy Nicholson - January 18, 2022 11:26 am
That is the most beautiful column you’ve written. Just makes me want to home even more. God bless you.
Janet W. - January 18, 2022 11:31 am
When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing it will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!
Lisa K Riley - January 18, 2022 11:52 am
What a blessing. You know what is waiting when you do finally kick this mortal coil.
linda keenum - January 18, 2022 11:59 am
oh my goodness, Sean!!!! I am in full ugly cry snot mode after reading this……and am so happy!! I am crying happy tears because you so beautifully described what we are all longing for. Heaven!!! so great to think about. Thank you.
Shelton A. - January 18, 2022 12:06 pm
May your dreams of heaven become reality when your time finally comes. God bless to all, especially you and Jamie.
Linnea Miles - January 18, 2022 12:11 pm
Yours was the second awesome spiritual article I read early this morning – I love, love the picture you paint, and it will be reality. The first article was from The New Yorker ( probably the first time I’ve ever read a full piece from that publication) about Nadia Bolz-Weber, a progressive Lutheran who founded a church, House for All Sinners and Saints. She’s an amazing speaker/writer ( often criticized as you report too) who cuts to the quick. And she, too, believes and loves fervently the One called Jesus who will make On That Day possible. See you there, Sean, and thank you for a sweet picture that will encourage me until then.
Sonya Tuttle - January 18, 2022 12:21 pm
Dreams are elusive, but they give us glimpses of what awaits us. Can’t recall all the names of those who went ahead of me…but you did a good job remembering. Glad you got to see your dad! 😍😍😍
Paul McCutchen - January 18, 2022 12:50 pm
Been there done that and bought the T-shirt. Wish I had a stack of the shirts. Getting older and a lot of your friends and family already gone is tough.
cflowers - January 18, 2022 1:33 pm
Sean…I lost my first grandchild on 12/15. He was 19 yo…Although I am sobbing while reading this, it reminds me this painful morning that there is hope in the knowledge that I will see him again and that he is in the care of my parents, my grandparents and my first husband, a grandfather that he never met. I hope that you know how appreciated you are. You add so much to my days but today, you have made my day better as I try to dig out of my grief.
Nancy Buckler - January 18, 2022 1:41 pm
Such a beautiful detailed dream! When He promised to prepare a place for us, He wasn’t kidding!! Family, hugs, twin fiddles🎻🎻 and food!😍 Perfect!! church line crockpot food being served by your sweet Mary.,💞! Love the part about children dancing💕 I personally lost one baby in the womb and also our 3 month old. So this was so comforting to me., But so detailed and perfect for You!!❤️ Such a gift to see so many loved ones & pets too! . Thank you for sharing. Love that you hugged your young Dad!❤️❤️❤️ And that he was smiling and fishing! & didn’t he sum up Heaven… no one wants to leave!!
Julie P, RN - January 18, 2022 1:50 pm
No better way to inspire, motivate, and encourage us to “Keep our Eyes on the Prize”…the BEST PRIZE ever…for all Eternity 💙😇💙
Jeanette - January 18, 2022 1:53 pm
I’ll have a herd of dogs, cats, and birds. I can’t wait to smell the deodorant/ starch smell when I get my ‘Daddy hug’!
Suellen - January 18, 2022 1:58 pm
Lord what a marvelous day that will be.
Jan - January 18, 2022 2:01 pm
A precious picture of what we have to look forward to as we spend our days on earth! Thank you, Sean, for sharing!
Kathy - January 18, 2022 2:07 pm
“There’s a gathering of spirits, there’s a festival of friends, and we’ll take up where we left off when we all meet again.”
Penn Wells - January 18, 2022 2:08 pm
It must have been a town in Iowa, in the middle of a cornfield. But more importantly, just think about all those people you just wrote about, how they all touched your life. And I know you don’t need me to tell you how blessed you are….
diane h. toney - January 18, 2022 2:15 pm
Because I live in Lavonia, Georgia, a small Southern town much like you described, I wanted to share with you how far a comment can fly. I mentioned several months ago our Mennonite restaurant ( Main Street 211 ) which has the best desserts this side of Heaven. When my husband and I went in for lunch one day, Trish, the owner, commented that her cousin, who lives in Arizona ( or some such Western state ) told her that she had seen Main Street 211 in Sean of the South comments. And did I mention the best desserts this side of Heaven ????????
Cheri Michele Foster - January 18, 2022 2:24 pm
What a beautiful foreshadowing. But you did get to wake up with Jamie, and that’s priceless too. Someday we will all get there. What a day of rejoicing it will be. 🙂
Heidi - January 18, 2022 2:36 pm
I needed a reminder of hope today and this was it. Thank you…..
Jenny T Brannan - January 18, 2022 2:38 pm
This one made me cry. Especially when I got to the part about Daddy, even though I knew where it was going. My Daddy died 73 years ago when I was five.
Cathy M - January 18, 2022 2:40 pm
God gifted you with this heavenly dream. I had a dream like this many yrs. ago and it is as vivid today as it was then. Mine was like a garden party . Lemonade, tea cakes, party sandwiches with no crust. I saw friends of both grandmothers whom I had not thought abt. In years and yes, all my sweet people were mingling and smiling. It was calm and very peaceful. Love was in the air. I treasure that dream as you will yours. I still have some living and loving to do but that dream gave me a new perspective about where we are headed. I think about it often bc I have lost many others since I had that dream so the group waiting to welcome me gets larger. My daddy will be front and center with open arms and let the live fest begin. Jesus has given this gift to all his children. Thanks be to God and thank you Sean for sharing this on a cold Jan. Morning. Happy Tuesday❤️👍😇
Nancy - January 18, 2022 2:44 pm
What a wonderful sacred gift you were given. I hope seeing your dad has brought you peace. I’m crying happy tears for you…
Melanie - January 18, 2022 2:55 pm
Oh happy day – you can eat all you want and toss those cholesterol pills. Save room for dessert!
Priscilla Maxwell - January 18, 2022 3:01 pm
My dad passed away a little over a year ago. During a particularly rough patch in my grief journey, I dreamed that I went int to country general store/gas station/post office where I grew up, and the lady who lived across the street who was like a grandmother to me, and a former teacher were behind the counter. As I was going around the counter to hug them, out stepped my dad, young and strong and vibrant, I walked right into his hug. We hugged for a long time, not saying anything. It was the BEST dream, and exactly what I needed, right at that time, and I am so thankful for it. I can’t wait to get to Heaven and walk into that hug again.
MR - January 18, 2022 3:10 pm
My Husband’s Father passed yesterday in the same manner that yours did. His Dad was much older and had suffered a stroke, but the pain is the same. Thank you for sharing. At the right time, I am going to share this with my husband. Right now, he is still numb, but the day will come when this post will be exactly what he needs. Thanks, Sean.
Stacey Wallace - January 18, 2022 3:41 pm
Love you, Sean. Thanks.
Glenda Busby-Fowler Hinkle - January 18, 2022 3:52 pm
Tears…….of joy for you………
Ruth Mitchell - January 18, 2022 3:53 pm
I wanna go!! I’m not crying. I’m bawling.
Susie Flick - January 18, 2022 4:25 pm
Your description is similar to my idea of Heaven. While I read I was thinking of all my family, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends. I talk to my departed family every day, in some way. What a lovely dream. I miss my parents every day. When I found my Dad after he passed, it was a day in June 1997 I won’t forget. That year in August , my older sis came up to IL from GA to help me clean out the house. My Dad hadn’t gotten rid of anything after my Mom passed in 1992. We worked dliigently for 4 days. Putting things not usable or worth much in the dumpster I had rented and had parked on the grass. Put stuff in boxes, donated furniture to the women’s shelter and put furniture family wanted in storage until they could get it. Going through a cabinet over the stove, I found a hundred dollars in cash. I said to my sis, this is a sign we are going to go get massages after all this work is done. I scheduled the appointments and we went to a local massage school. The owner and others were running a 5k that day so her husband was manning the place. I let my sis go first and she told him about how much I missed my Dad. When I was getting my massage he asked me if I wanted to hear from my Dad. I asked why he said that. He told me he lost his son and heard from him in a dream and said I would hear from my Dad some time. About 3 months later, I had a dream. My Dad had a very distinct deep voice. In my dream, I heard “You found me at the right time, I’m ok.” That was it. It helped me get on with my life. Dreams can be beautiful. .
Anne M Robinson - January 18, 2022 5:01 pm
I am waiting for that glorious day! I cried good tears. Happiness. Joy, to see those who went before us. What a reunion that will be. Thanks Sean.
Anne M Robinson - January 18, 2022 5:03 pm
I am waiting for that day! It will be so amazing to be with those we loved here for eternity. Thanks Sean.
AlaRedClayGirl - January 18, 2022 5:06 pm
Beautiful, simply beautiful!
Sue Adams - January 18, 2022 5:22 pm
Patricia Gibson - January 18, 2022 6:48 pm
Thank you for sharing that glimpse of heaven. I needed that❤️
Christopher Spencer - January 18, 2022 7:16 pm
” Oh what a day, glorious day, that will be!!” “When we all get to Heaven!!””
MAM - January 18, 2022 7:18 pm
Awesome description, Sean, and Yes, the eyes definitely leaked, but happy tears flowed! Thanks, Sean, we all need that reminder of God’s goodness and mercy! And the beautiful place to which he will lead us. I suspect it’s even better than your lovely depiction.
Pat in WNY - January 18, 2022 7:22 pm
One glad morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away …!
Becky+Souders - January 18, 2022 8:24 pm
Your heaven, Sean. I’m glad you got your hugs, however you got them. My husband, gone now 7 years, still “visits” occasionally. Those hugs are pretty precious.
Gordon - January 18, 2022 9:20 pm
Perfect; simply perfect for this day as our community mourns the loss of a dear young husband, father, son, brother, cousin, uncle, friend within our community. He left us way too soon and will be missed by many. However, he is now with those who have gone before; no more cancer; no more pain; no more weakness. Thank you for this post; maybe one of the best you have published on this platform. Thank you!
Don Crews - January 18, 2022 9:39 pm
I have just one thing to say…..the same thing I say after every one of your stories, “Wow”.
suzi - January 18, 2022 9:47 pm
When we all get to Heaven 🎶What a day of rejoicing 🎶That will be🎻🌿🎵
Linda Moon - January 18, 2022 10:01 pm
Your mother-in-law, your daddy, my daddy. Oh my, the places we’ve been to, the things that they’ve taught us, and the stories you tell, Sean. It all matters so very much and goes by so quickly. And so I’ll wake up tomorrow to read another of your stories that give me reason to contemplate LIFE itself…and then linger for a while.
Evelyn - January 19, 2022 1:07 am
What a lovely and comforting dream. 🦋
Inclined to think heaven is most likely not like the physical world we live in but surely the connections will be manifested in a most wonderful way – beyond what our finite minds can even imagine .
Ann - January 19, 2022 1:25 am
Karen Snyder - January 19, 2022 1:30 am
How blessed you’ve been to get a such a beautiful preview. ❤️
Sandy Johnson - January 19, 2022 4:09 am
Sean, I just discovered you last week!! Better late than never. Today was my Mama’s 87th birthday…her first in heaven…and I’ve missed her terribly.
Thank you for your beautiful writing. Mama, a Southern belle, would have loved it too!
Christina - January 19, 2022 6:00 am
What a sweet dream and something beautiful to look forward to for all eternity.
Barbara Hood - January 19, 2022 12:58 pm
This one made me cry and smile at the same time. Loved it
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 20, 2022 7:29 pm
elliemac3 - January 22, 2022 2:52 am
I LOVE your posts/writing. This one was just amazing! Thank you so much
Marcia Enquist - January 22, 2022 3:19 pm
Thank you for the most beautiful birthday present ever! May it be just as you wrote 🤗
Judy - January 22, 2022 4:37 pm
I lost my sister two days before Christmas. Heaven is a better, funnier place since she got there.
Robin - January 22, 2022 7:39 pm
Sean, thank you for the continual peaceful joy you send my way in these wonderful stories!
Daniel L Miller - February 10, 2022 6:40 pm
Sean, thank you for sharing this. I have had this dream. It was one of those special dreams that you remember in minute detail once you awaken…and you know it is real. One day when we are in the same place, I will seek you out and share the details of my dream. It’s one of my favorite personal stories, and I look forward to living the dream one day.