Running on Empty

He turned into the graveyard. He explored the headstones in the glow of his headlights. He didn’t know why he was there.

His wife died. It was sudden. One day life was good; the next day he was picking out urns.

They say he gave up living, which is probably why he lost his job, fell behind on rent, and missed his electric bill. They repossessed his storage unit. He got evicted. It was one thing after another.

He was broke—without a pot to you-know-what in. All he had left were two kids, and an urn.

And one Datsun truck covered in rust.

He didn’t like himself. Homelessness will do that to a man. He decided to leave town. He would stay with his uncle in Atlanta to get on his feet again.

The first night on the road was spent at a rundown motel. The next night was spent in the bed of his truck with his kids. He was running out of money fast.

He held the urn while he drove. His kids slept in the seat beside him. And he thought about her. He talked to her sometimes.

He spoke in a whisper, careful not to wake his kids. While talking to her, he noticed his gas tank was on “E.”

He pulled off the highway. He had a few dollars left to his name. On the way to the filling station, something caught his eye.

It was an ancient cemetery, just down a dirt road—the kind with iron fencing, crooked headstones, and live oaks.

He turned into the graveyard. He explored the headstones in the glow of his headlights. He didn’t know why he was there.

And that’s when he saw it.

It was a headstone with his wife’s name on it. Her first and last name. He almost choked. He bent low and inspected it. The dates were different, but it was her name, along with four engraved words:

“‘Til we meet again.”

What are the odds.

The dam broke. He felt something warm inside him. He says it was the same feeling you get from a hug—minus the arms.

Then, blue lights. A police car.

The deputy asked if everything was okay. And because of our hero’s fragile state, he told the deputy all about his late wife.

The officer was kind. He listened. They talked for nearly thirty minutes. They sat on the hood of a Datsun together and overlooked the stone markers of people who left us long ago.

Finally, the deputy said, “Well, I’d better be going. You sure you gonna be okay, sir?”

They shook hands.

“I’ll be fine,” he answered.

Then, the deputy reached into his pocket and said to the man, “Take this, but please don’t tell anyone I gave it to you.”

He handed him two hundred-dollar bills. Then, the deputy crawled into his cruiser and rolled away into the dark.

When he looked at his sleeping kids. He felt the same warm feeling again. He fired up his engine, he drove toward the Shell station across the road to fill his empty tank.

Only, something was different. His gas gauge was no longer on “E,” but on three quarters.

A miracle? Maybe. Maybe not. But there aren’t many differences between broken gas gauges and miracles, if you ask him.

That was a long time ago. He was younger. A lot has changed. Since that night, the world has become a different place. Smartphones have altered the way people live. And most Datsun trucks belong in graveyards. His kids are grown. One child is a structural engineer. The other is finishing school.

And our hero is about to be remarried to a woman who he calls his “gift.” He is happy.


In a box in his closet sits an urn he hasn’t emptied yet. Inside the burial vessel are two hundred-dollar bills someone gave him eighteen years ago.

“They’re a reminder,” he says. “A reminder that loved ones ain’t gone, but watching over us.”

‘Til we meet again.


  1. neilda andres - May 20, 2018 6:23 am

    i do hope this is true and that loved ones look over us we or i need a story about autistic /handicapped children/adults

    • Neeta Hale - May 14, 2021 1:15 pm

      I want to assure Neilda Andres that God does what over us. I don’t have a story about autistic or handicapped children or adults, but I will include her in my prayers. Her comment on your blog touched my heart…. way down deep! I don’t know her, but hope you reach out to her, Sean.

  2. Dianne - May 20, 2018 11:54 am

    Good tears to start my day today. With God, there is nothing coincidental…..everything is according to His plan for each of our lives. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of His grace and hope for our lives.

  3. Nix LaVerdi - May 20, 2018 12:51 pm

    Beautiful, Sean. I surely believe our loved ones, who have passed on, are sending us messages. One needs to be open to the message in order to read it. Keep your golden stories coming. They are the sunshine of my days.

  4. Jack Darnell - May 20, 2018 1:20 pm

    Thanks my friend, just THANKS!

  5. Edna B. - May 20, 2018 1:29 pm

    Awesome story, Sean. I believe in angels and miracles too. And I believe our loved ones who have passed on stay near us until we can get by on our own. Been there. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  6. Jack Quanstrum - May 20, 2018 2:51 pm

    Heart Warming story. Thank you for sharing it.

  7. Sue Cronkite - May 20, 2018 4:36 pm

    Thanks for reminding me of miracles. They happen often and are often called coincidences.

  8. Cleo Goddard - May 21, 2018 2:38 am

    What a beautiful and heartwarming story, Sean!!!! Love it and thank you!

  9. Trista - May 21, 2018 3:06 pm

    Beautiful. A great reminder of how blessed I am.

  10. Bruce Stover - May 22, 2018 3:18 pm

    What a story!

  11. Mary Ellen Hall - May 28, 2018 12:04 am



  12. Gloria Cotton - July 26, 2018 2:03 pm

    Wonderful story God does work in mysterious ways He works in my crazy life

  13. Gretchen - July 26, 2018 5:21 pm

    Uplifting to my heart and soul. I know we Are given these God Moments and I am thankful.

  14. Karen Cooper - July 27, 2018 3:31 am

    You have a talent. God gave you the gift and you hold the pen.

  15. Sharon Brock - May 14, 2021 4:03 am

    I have my own loved-one-in-Heaven story. I carpooled with a very nice lady from Columbia (MO) to Jefferson City every day as we both worked in the same office. MO 63 is busy most times because literally thousands of people commute on this highway daily. This particular January day we were less than two miles from our exit when a semi driver lost a part of his truck right in front of me. I had no chance to avoid the sharp, metal chunk. The truck was on my right, heavy traffic on my left and most traveling well above the speed limit. Blow-out. I immediately heard my Dad’s voice in my ear telling me exactly what to do. Let up on the gas, turn on the emergency blinkers, pull onto the shoulder and for GOD’S SAKE DONT STEP ON THE BRAKES. I managed to get onto the shoulder, coasted up our exit ramp, the light turned green, and I turned right and slowly came to a full stop. Then braked and pulled the emergency. My friend and I got out of the car and I bent down kissed the ground and thanked God. My relationship with my Dad was problematic. He died in November of the previous year. Dad saved my life and for the first time in a long time, I felt he loved me.

  16. Dean - May 14, 2021 4:53 am

    Great column as always


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