I remember when I first met Robbie. I was 9 years old. We were approximately the same age. We met at church.

My very first memory of him is one of laughter. Because that’s what we did when we first met. We laughed. We laughed hard. We laughed in the middle of a church service.

It was the kind of crippling laughter that makes you lose control of all muscular function. The kind of laughter that causes drool to leak from the corners of your mouth.

It was nuclear laughter. We laughed so hard we could not breath. Couldn’t speak.

The adults in the pews kept telling us to “Hush,” or “Show some respect,” or “Would you two shut up?”

But you know how it works. The more they told us to stop, the harder we laughed. We laughed until we nearly peed our little church trousers.

To this day, I cannot remember laughing any harder than I did with Robbie Conrad.

He came from a good family. His parents ran the prison ministry. They were meek people. I remember Robbie and his dad liked professional wrestling. They knew all the wrestlers’ names. They knew all the moves.

I also remember that Robbie and his dad seemed to have a pretty good relationship, something I never had with my old man. He and his dad seemed to actually like each other. Whereas, sometimes I wasn’t sure how my father felt about me.

A little over a year after we first met, my father died. My father died by suicide, and my father tried to kill my mother, too. So it made for juicy gossip. My family made the newspaper. We became a walking stigma.

When your father dies the way mine did, your boyhood friends don’t know how to deal with it. So they don’t. Your friends just cut you off. You become a nonentity.

My Little League team dropped off the planet. The kids at school scooted away from me in the cafeteria like I had small pox. Children on the bus whispered among themselves when I was nearby, then suppressed giggles.

Even my close friends disappeared.

The week after my father died, I called my friend Gary; his mother said he wasn’t home. So I called my buddy Brent; “He’s busy at the moment,” his mother said. I dialed Chadley’s number; “Sorry,” said his mother, “Chadley just stepped out.”

On the Sunday following my father’s end, my mother took me to church. I didn’t want to go. I was prepared to be blackballed by my church friends, too. I was ready to be ignored.

But that didn’t happen. I wasn’t invisible.

Robbie Conrad marched right up to me. He was unafraid. There was nothing awkward in his gait. Nothing uncomfortable in him.

He removed something shiny from his pocket.

“I got you something,” he said.

I was shellshocked.

“You got ME something?” I said.

He nodded.

He gave it to me. It was as keychain. One of those personalized fobs, with my name printed on it.

I held that keychain like I was holding the Cup of Christ itself. In that moment, the tin trinket was the most precious thing I had ever held. The keychain meant that someone was thinking of me. Someone cared about me. Someone remembered me.

Then Robbie embraced me.

“I’m here for you,” he said. “Anything you need. I’m your friend. I’m not going anywhere.”

He brought laughter into my life during the darkest period of my existence. I remember his cheerful voice. I remember sleepovers at his house, and singing with the radio. I remember watching professional wrestling until the wee hours. I remember spying on his sister and her friends during our moments of boyhood curiosity.

I remember too much.

We lost touch over the years. I emailed him a few times. But not as often as I should have.

Today, Robbie’s sister told me that he passed away. He had been struggling with cancer for eight years, and he finally came to the end of his earthly battle.

And as I write this, there is a keychain lying on my desk. I’ve had this thing since I was a child. When I look at it, somehow I know something. I know something within the pit of my soul. The same way I know that tomorrow the sun will come up. The same way I know that God looks out for orphans and fools like me.

I know, without doubt, that the angels have never laughed as hard as they are laughing now.


  1. Debbie - July 7, 2022 6:37 am

    Love between friends…one of the greatest blessings of all. I’m glad you had that friendship.

  2. Ed (Bear) - July 7, 2022 9:10 am

    Life is very good at throwing us curveballs. If life was a major league hardball pitcher, it would be the top most winner in the all time greatest breaking ball hurler’s hall of fame.

    The way to counter such an incredibly dominant athlete as “life” is to practice being patient. The next pitch might be the fast ball you love and in your sweet spot. And you, Sean of the South, happen to be good at hitting them out of the park.

    Be strong my friend. Nothing worthwhile usually comes to us without a little patience and perseverance. “Good friends are like stars. You can’t always see them, but you know they’re there.”

  3. Charles Musser - July 7, 2022 9:17 am

    I am with you Sean. I think heaven has received another angel.

  4. Randy Baker - July 7, 2022 9:38 am

    Everyone needs a friend like that at some point.

  5. Gina Arney Yount - July 7, 2022 10:07 am


  6. Ann Thompson - July 7, 2022 10:45 am

    I’m so sorry for you at this time of your friends death. Hang onto that key chain! And laugh! It’s hard to do these days. But, needed. A special gift you shared. The world needs more people like him.

  7. Carol - July 7, 2022 10:49 am

    Sincere condolences to you, Sean. Robbie will be as happy to see you, as you will be to see him, again! Friends like this are never separated!

  8. tmitsss - July 7, 2022 11:29 am

    A good well earned obituary is a treasure that can’t be bought, except perhaps with a $1 key chain.

  9. chris - July 7, 2022 11:31 am

    So sorry for the pain you have felt over your many losses. This sounds weird but because of your extreme hardships and loss God has turned something awful into something good. You remind me weekly of what it means to be a better person. Thank you

  10. J - July 7, 2022 11:33 am

    We all need to start being more like Robbie.

  11. Matt Ovaska - July 7, 2022 11:35 am

    The devil hates fathers. God said, “I will be a Father to the fatherless.” I can tell you that after your dad passed, your new Father didn’t let you get away with anything, kept you safe, and loved you!

  12. Debra Krauel - July 7, 2022 11:36 am

    Absolutely beautiful!!!
    Tears of laughter, sorrow and hope right now.
    Thank you for sharing!!

  13. Susan - July 7, 2022 11:41 am

    What a beautiful tribute to your friend, Robbie♥️♥️♥️

  14. Sally Ann Sisson - July 7, 2022 11:45 am

    Love starting the day with your blog……. never know if I’m going to laugh or cry or do both! Thank you so much, Sean!

  15. Christine - July 7, 2022 11:47 am

    Thank you Father for all the Robbie’s in our lives that you place there for us. Comfort Sean’s heart knowing that he’s safe with you.

  16. Dolores - July 7, 2022 11:48 am

    Lesson: Teach your children and grandchildren to be Robbys, kindness and compassion are held dear and never forgotten.

  17. Ann - July 7, 2022 11:50 am

    I’m so very sorry about wonderful Robbie…you were blessed with him in your life….keep laughing and remember him.

  18. Danielle - July 7, 2022 11:54 am

    I’m so sorry for the loss of this friend, Sean.
    Thankful to read about the gift he was to you.

  19. Marilyn - July 7, 2022 11:58 am

    Touching! Now that I think about it, all but one of my early childhood friends and classmates have passed. Maybe they are laughing with Robbie…

  20. Bob - July 7, 2022 12:20 pm

    The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  21. Roy - July 7, 2022 12:22 pm

    “Find those who tell you Do not be afraid, yet stay close enough to tremble with you. This is a love.”

    –Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh, p. 90

    Seems like an apt description of your friend. Sorry for your loss

  22. Beverly Tsapralis - July 7, 2022 12:24 pm

    So sorry for the loss of your good friend. Know he’s looking down at you and will keep a close watch to make sure the laughs continue to come from you.

  23. Bev Meyer - July 7, 2022 12:34 pm

    I found you right after the Uvalde shooting. I’m from Uvalde and someone sent me your post about the Helpers and I fell in love with your writing. I look forward to your posts every morning. My husband passed away from cancer a year ago today. I really needed this one. Thank you!

  24. Pieter Voorhees - July 7, 2022 12:40 pm

    I had a similar friendship.that started in the first grade in 1948. His name was Danny and he and his mom lived with her mom and dad right across the street from public school (grades 1-12) in Middletown, DE, a then a farm town of 3000 (and gambling capiital of the state. He never spoke of his dad and I never knew why..We became instant best friends until my mom, dad and me were away for a year after our fifth grade. When we came back, we were never in school together again, but every time we got together, we simply resumed the conversation. I went off the UNC Chapel Hill and the Navy for four years and we never saw each other again. It was another 5 years before I went back to Middletown and learned that Danny had died, and it was another 10 years before i had a similar friendship. He too died about 5 years ago, and I still love and miss them, both, but I.m so blessed to have two such wonderful friendships.
    Pieter Voorhees

  25. Candice - July 7, 2022 12:44 pm

    Beautiful! The power of friendship is what holds the world together.

  26. Holly Moore - July 7, 2022 12:47 pm

    I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. May we all strive to be more like Robbie. The world would be a happier place with more Robbie’s in it! Praying for his friends and family! Got Bless you Sean!

  27. robnrockin - July 7, 2022 12:53 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to your friend Sean…would that we all have Robbie’s in our lives. He makes me think of what your mama says…look for the helpers. He was a helper for you and a warm wonderful child of God! Blessings to his family and yours!

  28. Sarah - July 7, 2022 12:58 pm

    I’m so glad Robbie was a friend to you.

  29. William Farley - July 7, 2022 1:04 pm

    Outstanding in every way … My friend Tommy Ford from Roll Tide lore turned me on to your writings a few weeks back, Boy I am glad he did … Keep up the great work Sean, I look forward to each and every day …

    Bill Farley,
    retired Jail and Prison Chaplain
    and Associate AD, UA
    Norman, OK.

  30. MR - July 7, 2022 1:10 pm

    May we all learn to be a friend like Robbie was for you.

  31. Sean of the South: Robbie | The Trussville Tribune - July 7, 2022 1:21 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  32. Trish - July 7, 2022 1:23 pm

    Sean, I’m teary eyed right now —- how wonderful to have had a friend right at a crucial & difficult time in your life —— that hurt is deep, but to have love, acceptance, laughter & a keychain sure helps find joy! RIP Robbie — your life was precious!

  33. Susan Marler - July 7, 2022 1:27 pm

    What a beautiful eulogy for the loss of a great friend. My deepest sympathy on your loss and condolences to you and his family.

  34. Cynthia Russell - July 7, 2022 1:38 pm

    Thank You Again Sean!!
    ALSO, THANK YOU FOR YOUR BOOK “the Incredible Winston Browne” … very short chapters, very engaging words.. Loved this book!! Thank You So Much for your writing.. in a world of negativity – you give us the GOOD STUFF!! Checking with my library now to get another one of your books!! KEEP WRITING DEAR SEAN… give Jamie a hug too!! We always could use a hug! Cynthia Russell

  35. Julie Patterson - July 7, 2022 2:04 pm

    Good friends make all the difference in a dark and lonely world. Thanks for sharing Robbie with your readers; may Perpetual Light shine on Robbie and grant him eternal rest,

  36. Te - July 7, 2022 2:05 pm

    I began to realize, after I reached a certain age, that people I know and love were going to die. And they did. Some of them were a lot younger and shouldn’t have because there are folks who smoke until they’re 110 and swear that whiskey before bed is what keeps them going. I realized, too, that I would forget them in time, and only the random thought or some spooky dream would remind me of their existence. So I keep their names and emails in my contacts. Every time I search, I run across a name and am reminded of good times and conversations, friendship and laughter. Sorry about your friend. Robbie was a good one, and closest when you needed him most.

  37. Deborah Blount - July 7, 2022 2:07 pm


  38. David Britnell - July 7, 2022 2:10 pm

    I have always wished for a friend like Robbie. Don’t get me wrong, I have many great friends but not really a CLOSE friend that you can just open up to. Sean as usual I ran the gamut of emotions while reading your story today. Thank you for being there. Your email is the first thing I look for every day.

  39. RichardC - July 7, 2022 2:11 pm

    Thanks be to God that there are “Robbie’s” in this world.

  40. Dale - July 7, 2022 2:12 pm

    GOSH what a great post! Thanks Sean.

  41. Lana - July 7, 2022 2:44 pm

    This makes me feel so good I’m so many ways, but especially for you

  42. Ruth Mitchell - July 7, 2022 2:52 pm

    The world needs so many more of Robby. Thanks for sharing yours!

  43. emjaytexas - July 7, 2022 2:53 pm

    God knows exactly what we need and when we need it. Too often we’re unaware: it’s so subtle sometimes that we don’t see His hand in it until years later. Be He knows, and He loves us all. Amen.

  44. sjhl7 - July 7, 2022 3:00 pm

    People like Robbie are so needed in this world. You are one of those people too. The kind of person who is there when they are needed the most. Thanks to Robbie for being there for you and thanks to you for being there for so many others!

  45. Lifetime Chicago - July 7, 2022 3:00 pm

    This is just an outstanding story!

  46. Mary - July 7, 2022 3:01 pm

    Oh to have a friend like that,I do. Definitely brought tears to my eyes.

  47. Ron J Fitzsimmons - July 7, 2022 3:03 pm

    I was a little bit “luckier” because I got to my Dad while he was hanging from our ceiling and cut the rope in time to save him. But, as you note, in small towns the word gets around and your friends either do not know what to say or they just want to avoid the situation altogether. So sorry about your (true) buddy.

  48. Audrice - July 7, 2022 3:07 pm

    Sean, I am so sorry for your loss. Such sweet memories are treasures, and I’m glad you have them.

  49. Toni - July 7, 2022 3:11 pm

    I’m so sad for you that Robbie has passed on. Happily he is in heaven with Jesus and you can meet up with him again someday and spend eternity laughing with such a good friend.

  50. Christina - July 7, 2022 3:31 pm

    Everyone needs a friend like Robbie! (And be one)
    And laughter would make this world real good now.

  51. Jeanie Madeley - July 7, 2022 3:34 pm

    Everybody deserves a friend like Robbie.

  52. Sue Rhodus - July 7, 2022 3:40 pm

    Friendship like the Cup of Christ !!! Oh, what a statement

  53. davidpbfeder - July 7, 2022 3:59 pm

    So very very sorry for the loss of your friend. May these warm memories you share swiftly temper your pain and grief.

  54. Tom Wallin - July 7, 2022 4:07 pm

    God bless Robbie. A true friend. I think I hear him laughing right now.

  55. Steve McCaleb - July 7, 2022 4:32 pm

    A buck twenty-nine key chain…..a million dollars worth of good memories. Funny how that works ain’t it ?

  56. Anne Arthur - July 7, 2022 4:44 pm

    Laughter is medicine. Bless God for people who have the gift of laughter, kindness, and caring friendship. RIP Robbie. Love is eternal.

  57. Faye - July 7, 2022 4:53 pm

    Blessings and love to you today!

  58. YF - July 7, 2022 5:19 pm

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend Robbie. Sending you a virtual hug. I have just recently discovered your blog, and I just love getting your messages in my inbox.

    I have to ask, because I kept waiting for you to say it. You said you remembered so much else about your time with him, I was just curious as to whether you could remember what it was that you two were laughing so hard about that day in Church.

    I hope that all of your memories of Robbie are happy ones.

  59. Ruth Ann - July 7, 2022 5:45 pm

    Dear Lord , please make me like Robbie.

  60. Melissa Norman - July 7, 2022 5:54 pm

    Thank you for focusing on the love and not the loss. Having lost my beloved husband suddenly almost three years ago, I am trying to recall the laughter and forget my sobs as he walked right into heaven while in my arms. As days turn into months and months into years, I know I will survive his loss, but, never forget the love that we had for each other. We live on forever in the memory of our loved ones!!!

  61. K - July 7, 2022 6:49 pm

    God bless Robbie. I know God has welcomed him home. What a good friend.

  62. MAM - July 7, 2022 7:04 pm

    Well, Sean, that one mixed tears with a great big grin on my face at the end. Your writing always releases emotions of some sort. I love the happy ones, but the sad ones are needed, too, always with a touch of humor. And you tell them so well! Thank you for a bright bit of sunshine and reminders in my every day.

  63. Melissa Miller - July 7, 2022 7:30 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend passing away. What a beautiful way to remember him.

  64. Sarah Latham - July 7, 2022 7:47 pm

    I’ve known that your dad killed himself…but only recently have I realized he was abusive to your mom even to the point of wanting to kill her & your perception was he didn’t like you…..what you experienced was so damaging, destructive & cruel. But you grew up to be kind, intuitive & laser focused on what matters in life…..folks with “good beginnings” sometimes grow up to be selfish jerks….your beginning was so painful, but look at the glorious human you’ve become!!

  65. Linda Moon - July 7, 2022 8:27 pm

    Robbie passed away. I’m so sorry. I was with many “Robbies” today who are all in the struggle together. I understand why you needed friends after your father died. I’m way past 9, but I’ll be your friend whenever you need one. Oh, and laughter is simply the best, Sean.

  66. MermaidGrammy - July 7, 2022 8:42 pm

    I’m so sorry you lost your friend. Twice. It’s hard to keep up with people but sometimes, I believe God sends up particular friends for a particular time – a specific need. I agree with your idea about the angels. Can you imagine the grand stories he has to tell? Bless you

  67. Jocelyn - July 7, 2022 9:27 pm

    Sorry for Robbie’s passing. Brought back great memories for you. May he rest in peace. Laughter is a great medicine.

  68. Sue Adams - July 7, 2022 9:47 pm

    Bless the Robbie’s of this world.

  69. Lavenda - July 7, 2022 10:57 pm

    R I P Robbie

  70. Sandy Burnett - July 7, 2022 11:05 pm

    May that laughter continue ringing in your ears and welling up in your heart. May you also know that even though he’s no longer here, he will always be your friend. You will always be his friend as well. Mourning and rejoicing with you and his family.

  71. Debbie g - July 8, 2022 12:19 am

    Amen sue
    And Sean. You are one of the Robbie’s of this world too
    Love you and Jamie. Sorry u lost your best friend

  72. Sandi. - July 8, 2022 12:26 am

    Sean, I’m sincerely sorry that your childhood friend, Robbie, passed away. May he R.I.P. No doubt he would be so happy to know you have such wonderful memories of his kindness to you.

  73. Anita Smith - July 8, 2022 11:00 am

    This is so beautiful, thank you for reminding us that sometimes a simple gesture can mean the world to someone else ❤️

  74. Connie - July 8, 2022 2:55 pm

    ♥️♥️♥️♥️ oh how God uses you. Thank you!

  75. NancyB. - July 10, 2022 12:55 pm

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, Robbie.

  76. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 10, 2022 11:12 pm


  77. suzi - August 25, 2022 2:17 am

    God Bless all the “Robbie’s” out there and God Bless all the “Sean’s 🙏🏼


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