The Atlanta Braves are playing for a shot at the World Series. My wife and I are watching the game, cheering loudly, occasionally shouting expletives and flinging popcorn at the TV screen.
But as I watch America’s Team grind against the insufferable odds, locked in a barbarous battle against the LA Dodgers, I’m thinking about other things. Life things.
Because say what you will about these spoiled professional athletes, but these guys on the TV don’t give up. They never give up.
And that’s what has me thinking.
During Game last night’s game, for example, the Braves were behind, and the commentators were predicting a skull crushing loss. They experts said the Braves didn’t have a shot in a wintery hell. But they won.
This game. Same old story. The pundits all claimed Atlanta could never wallop the chosen from Los Angeles. But the Braves are fighting.
Bear with me, I know this baseball analogy is getting ridiculously boring. What I’m getting at is, these twenty-something multimillionaire athletes refuse to fall down and die. They do not give up. They will not give up. And I wish I were more like that.
In my life as a writer, I have been fortunate enough to meet and interview a lot of people who have faced dire scenarios and taken on the devil without flinching.
Children with leukemia. Old men who survived numbered wars. Single mothers who raised families on shoestring budgets. And the one quality I notice in all these remarkable people—simple as it may sound—is that they never give up. Not ever.
Take my mother. She is perhaps the strongest person I know. She possesses a strength I will never fully understand. She survived a husband who beat her, tried to kill her, and then survived his subsequent suicide.
After that, she went on to survive single-motherhood, thankless jobs, and the rigors of raising an American teenage boy who had an appetite like a hypoglycemic water buffalo.
And her trials didn’t stop there. When Mama reached the retirement phase of life, when most people her age start kicking back, buying RVs, touring national parks, and drinking Mai Tais in their muumuus, my mother developed a rare autoimmune disorder.
Her disease mystified doctors. Many a trained medical man looked at my frail mother and said, “You are going to die, ma’am.”
The disease was punching blueberry-sized holes into her muscles, and it was moving toward her heart. Mama whittled down to ninety-some pounds. Her hair became thin. There was a catheter port implanted in her gaunt neck. At her worst, she looked like a skeleton covered in skin.
But somehow she survived. The doctors at Emory University Hospital remarked that, throughout their combined careers, they had never seen a woman so doggedly tough.
Mama beat the rap and lived to tell. She never gave in. She never gave up.
But here’s the thing:
I give up all the time. Yes. I admit it freely, I am not a fighter. I surrender too easily. In my life, I have gone through some very hard times—just like you. But the big difference between you and me is, whereas you probably keep going, whereas you keep smiling, whereas you keep staying positive, I usually don’t.
I have my blackbelt in the art of sucking my thumb. I’ve always been this way. Growing up, I was the kid who got his feelings hurt and ran off crying for Mama. And I did this until I was roughly in my thirties.
I am not a strong man. In fact, sometimes I don’t know what I am.
Still, on nights like tonight, when watching these young ball players dance across a green field in Atlanta, chasing a five-ounce stitched leather ball, I find myself inspired by the memory of the woman who reared me. And I find myself humbled, too.
Above all, I find myself making a silent vow to myself. A promise I will probably break, but one I mean just the same:
One of these days I’m going to be a stronger version of me. I swear it. Someday I am going to be less afraid. Someday I will worry less about horrible things—most of which will never happen.
One day, I’ll be so strong you won’t even recognize me. And on that day, I hope some other hapless and defeated child, sucking his or her thumb, might look at me and feel courage.
Anyway, after the Atlanta Braves win the big game, I hear my phone vibrate on my side table. I pick it up.
“Braves win,” texts my mother.
Because, you see, that’s what happens when you refuse to give up.
EAP - October 19, 2021 12:54 pm
Sean, never give up again. I won’t if you won’t. Well, maybe we can give up for just a little bit, now and then; but come back strong later on; like your mother and you just did for us in your late-arriving essay today. Thank you, Sean, and more power to you, awesome Jamie, your indomitable mother, and even to the Atlanta Braves too!
Sandy Burnett - October 19, 2021 12:55 pm
You may have given up on one little thing or another along the way, all of us do, but you haven’t given up totally: you are still writing! You are giving others insight into why people do things and advice( nicely played that many won’t recognize as advice) that many will take into their lives and come out better for it. So glad your mom can still watch the Braves and enjoy the game! Bless her and you, neither of you have given up! I’m trying not to either! May God bless us all.
Sadie - October 19, 2021 12:57 pm
Terrific and inspirational. You are gifted with communication skills.
Harriet - October 19, 2021 1:03 pm
I cannot believe the Braves won last night. They REALLY might go to the World Series.
Sean, you gotta have nerves of steel to write a story everyday that people actually look forward to reading. You you will leave a legacy and that takes a lot of strength.
Paul McCutchen - October 19, 2021 1:05 pm
Yes they won and I hope they make it to the series, My mom is like the Braves also. She lives in Arkansas, in the country, has flowers around the home that looks like in was on the cover of House and Garden and is in her nineties and is in better physical condition than me. God Bless ’em all. The ones that will never give up.
Joan Moore - October 19, 2021 1:09 pm
Where’s your mom?
Debbie Schmidt - October 19, 2021 1:21 pm
I, too, grew up in a domestic violence situation. I have made much progress, but there are still many days when the little girl inside of me worries too much and assumes the worst will happen.
One of my favorite preachers used to say, “ I ain’t what I ought to be, but thank God I ain’t what I was”. I’m working to do better and many days I succeed.
By the way…I’m 70 years old.
Trudy - October 19, 2021 1:36 pm
Thank you for sharing bits of your mother with us. She must be an incredible woman and I would love to know her. You both inspire me. Never give up.
Penn Wells - October 19, 2021 1:38 pm
If there’s one thing you are not, Sean Dietrich, it’s a quitter. You have proven that over and over again. And our “former” politicians have made me realize I am not either. I care too much about this country and the University of By God Georgia Bulldawgs to quit now…
Maggie Priestaf - October 19, 2021 1:54 pm
Me, too. Give up all the time…
Ray - October 19, 2021 2:02 pm
You say you’re not brave… but every day you choose to get up and keep going? That’s bravery!
Suellen - October 19, 2021 2:03 pm
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You had more to contend with at a young age than most people. I bet if your Mama needed you, if Jamie needed you, you’d be as strong as anybody. Strength isn’t the absence of fear but feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I believe in you.
John R Bates - October 19, 2021 2:05 pm
You are the stronger version of yourself. And you’ll be stronger yet. Me too. That’s how we roll.
Sue - October 19, 2021 2:06 pm
Vince Lombardi; “Winners never quit and quitters never win”. Truth👍
Cheryl Andrews - October 19, 2021 2:11 pm
No, I do not believe you are not strong and brave. You’ve been through much more hardship than most people. Don’t put yourself down and keep on writing your wonderful pieces! Go Braves!
Christina - October 19, 2021 2:28 pm
My son got second degree burns yesterday from the instant pot and we are staying at the burn unit at the hospita. I watched him scream in pain like never before, yet being a little 10 year old trooper telling me “Mama, it’s a good time to take deep breaths”. Yes, braves win.
Pete - October 19, 2021 2:38 pm
Hey Sean – great blog!! Gooo Bravos!!
Cathy - October 19, 2021 2:43 pm
Wow! I think you sell yourself short here. I have heard you speak in person, read your books and read your column every morning. You are not a quitter, not by a long shot. You are a success story and I am so proud of you for what you said abt, your Mother today. The pain that you felt as a child was felt by her , believe me. I can’t imagine how she survived and you are the result of her strength. I would love to know her. Southern women with grit are steel magnolias. Your Mom, Jamie and your mother in law have all shown you and you are a lucky guy. You are not a quitter, for sure❤️🥰
Bill - October 19, 2021 2:47 pm
Sean, I have admired your Mom as long as I have known you and your writing. She is a remarkable woman. This story is a great tribute to her. Go Braves!!
DAVID A WILSON - October 19, 2021 2:51 pm
As usual: GREAT message!!!!
AlaRedClayGirl - October 19, 2021 3:11 pm
Sean, your home life drug you through hell and back while you were still a child. And yet, here you are writing and inspiring many people every single day. A quitter could never do that, a survivor could though. You are strong, or you wouldn’t be here today.
Tom Wallin - October 19, 2021 3:13 pm
Sean, you will make it, too – like your mother. You are tougher than you realize. You made it through your very tough teenage years and now are helping thousands of people with your daily words. You helped Mother Mary the last few years and helped give her joy during her final years.
We are all with you every day even though you don’t know us but hopefully can feel our spirits every day. Have a great day and Go Braves!
Southern Girl - October 19, 2021 3:13 pm
As always, beautiful and inspirational blog
Geneva Boehs - October 19, 2021 3:22 pm
I know you didn’t write “Quitters” to get an outpouring of comments disputing your self-perceived tendency to quit, but I cannot keep quiet. Surviving the suicide of your Dad and not laying down and dying yourself? Being the one to take his ashes in your hands and fling them out over the abyss? Going back to school and getting a degree after age thirty? Leaving an interview with a high falutin’ editor and writing anyway despite her naysaying? Standing by your wife and helping her care for her mother all those years? Writing every day and sharing with us through the decline and death of your and her dear Mother Mary? Choosing to write about upbeat things every day and being willing to share your innermost fears and insecurities? Sorry Sean, that doesn’t add up to being a quitter. I wish I had half of your determination and steadfastness. Keep up the good work. I’m sure your Mom is tremendously proud of you.
Chip Noon - October 19, 2021 3:31 pm
Thanks for your observations and your own courage.
Ellouise Pennington - October 19, 2021 3:40 pm
Thank goodness your momma called. I was afraid she was with Mother Mary and somehow, I’d missed it.
You’re so wrong! You might be sensitive, but that’s a good thing. You are NOT a loser. You bravely face negativity from your readers every day but you never give in to their ignorance. You put your heart on paper every day, knowing someone somewhere is just waiting to step on it. You give all of us a glimpse into a life we don’t live, but we enjoy it through your words. And your hear. You’re the winner we’d all like to be. If only we were brave enough
Ellouise - October 19, 2021 3:45 pm
Some of your readers. That is a bad sentence. My editing skills aren’t very good!
elizabethroosje - October 19, 2021 3:47 pm
Sean I totally get that struggle. But I do see that you are NOT giving up. why? you are still right HERE writing and for that I thank you and moreover, I thank God. Praying for you and Jamie…
Mary Burns - October 19, 2021 3:47 pm
You are stronger than you think you are. Who else would not have had all the bad things that happened in your childhood, and lived to tell about it. Everyday, you keep going. And during this pandemic, never missed a day of making people’s lives better and giving people something to look forward to. Like the doctors and nurses, you kept showing up. You gave us something to think about, every day. So, thanks. Stay strong. Jamie will help you!!
Steve McCaleb - October 19, 2021 3:58 pm
Somewhere, somehow…..Ernie, Skip and Pete are are smiling at you right now. Enjoy this moment. You’ve earned it.
Jan - October 19, 2021 4:06 pm
Moms are like that … they have to be. You never give up on your child or your family. Never.
Linda Moon - October 19, 2021 7:46 pm
Life things are often what I think about. And then I thought “What?!” about your mother with an autoimmune disorder. You never told us about this before. I need some of her toughness today and lots of Sean of the South readings, too, because you bring hope and laughter and courage. I’ll re-read this post later on to remind me to keep calm and carry and never give up.
Ernie - October 19, 2021 7:49 pm
How long have you been writing this blog? More than a week? You’re no quitter.
Linda Moon - October 19, 2021 7:53 pm
Correction: keep calm and carry ON and maybe just CARRY some burdens in real life. Most of us DO carry heavy burdens at times, like today.
Bobby - October 19, 2021 7:59 pm
I have this framed quote beneath a photo of its author—“If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride…and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.
Barbara Jean Gravlee - October 19, 2021 8:39 pm
I’m glad you never gave up writing!😁
Matthew H Iskra - October 19, 2021 10:11 pm
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence, determination and hard work make the difference
— Calvin Coolidge
gwenthinks - October 19, 2021 11:18 pm
I’m sitting here watching Game 3 and reading your blog. You are inspiring! and, of course, Go Braves!
John Tucker - October 20, 2021 12:05 am
Sean, keep writing. Never, never, never quit.
Pam Crichton - October 20, 2021 12:09 am
Thank you, and God bless your Momma and you.
Te - October 20, 2021 11:14 am
You underestimate yourself.
turtlekid - October 20, 2021 11:37 am
Tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. All the blogs you wrote about your mother in law made me wonder about your own mother. Thank you for this surprising tribute that started with a baseball game, I don’t know about sports, but I do know love. What a heroic woman to have survived all she has. Thank you for acknowledging her and respecting that tenacity that kept her going. You inherited that for sure!
Eleanor Dietrich - October 20, 2021 2:22 pm
I look forward to reading your column every day, doesn’t seem like giving up to me!
stephenpe - October 20, 2021 4:16 pm
Its one thing to appear brave but your honesty trumps anything you feel is a shortcoming. I know Im a coward at times and I had a great father. I seriously doubt I would have been the man I am without the childhood I had. I marvel at people like you who bring so much good to the world after what happened to you in childhood. I learned early on in my teaching career that children I had at first thought were bad were doing heroic things considering their home life. Woody Allen once said 90% of life was just showing up. You keep showing up. And we all love you for it.
Sonya Tuttle - November 5, 2021 10:18 am
Powerful and profound. Love knowing more about your heroic mom!!