Tell’em You Love’em

I should leave him. I should let him be with his memories. I should go inside and eat my burger. But I can't. I’ve got too much of my mother in me.

A beach bar. Early evening. These days, I only visit quiet bars that serve decent hamburgers in baskets. This bar allegedly has a decent burger.

It is anything but quiet.

There is a band. The musicians are supposed to be playing country. They aren’t. The lead singer has a voice that sounds like a recently maintenanced M4 Sherman tank.

There’s a man sitting beside me. He’s staring into his glass. He’s overdressed. He wears a loosened necktie.

The bartender refuses to serve him another drink. Then, the bartender gives me a glance which seems to say, “This guy’s tanked.”

He’s half-tight, all right. He introduces himself. We shake hands.

I shouldn’t engage him. I really shouldn’t. I know this. Drunk folks like me too much. They latch onto me like deer ticks on a German shorthaired pointer.

Take, for instance, the time in New Orleans, with my cousin. An intoxicated seventy-three-year-old woman forced me onto the dance floor practically at gunpoint. We danced a light bossa nova. We twirled.

She asked me to dip her. I did. Paramedics were involved. Her hip was never the same.

The man at the bar tells me his daughter died five years ago yesterday. He’s in town, visiting her headstone. His face looks swollen when he says it.

“You think you’ve gotten over the worst,” he says. “But you never get over your baby.”

He’s a mess. The bartender helps him outside for some fresh air. He collapses on a bench.

I should leave him. I should let him be with his memories. I should go inside and eat my burger.

But I can’t. I’ve got too much of my mother in me.

The bartender has taken his keys and called a cab. And here I sit. Babysitting.

He tells me about the time he took his girl to the zoo. How she acted when she saw the monkeys. She didn’t want to leave the exhibit. They stayed all day.

At zoo closing time, a uniform asked if the little girl wanted to feed the animals.

The girl went berserk.

Thus, father and daughter went inside the primate cage together. The girl fed chimpanzees and orangutans. She told her father she was happy.

The little girl talked about it for years to come—well into her high-school days.

That’s when the car accident happened. High school. She was with three other seniors. There was no alcohol involved. The girl was inexperienced, that’s all.

A transfer truck passed her in a no-passing zone. The girl swerved. They collided with the guard-rail.

His cab arrives.

The man crawls into the back of the minivan. He tells the driver to take him to a hotel.

Before he leaves, he says to me, “Tell people you love’em. Anyone you care about. Call’em tonight if you have to. Tell them folks you love’em. I know I’m drunk, but I’d give anything…”

He makes me promise. Then he hugs me. He smells like whiskey and cheap cologne. Chances are he won’t even remember me in the morning. But I will remember him.

The cab’s taillights fade into the distance.

I love you.


  1. Judy - October 14, 2017 1:21 pm

    The way you engage people – in person and on paper – is a gift. You are so loved that people look for your stories first thing in their day. They flock to hear you speak and hang on every word. (I did a few weeks ago) Thank you for sharing your stories and your self so freely.

  2. muthahun - October 14, 2017 1:22 pm

    Thank you, Sean. Love, you, too.

  3. Doug H - October 14, 2017 1:24 pm

    Sean this is such a wonderful truth to live by… I adopted this rule in my life as I took care of my parents in their final days not knowing the day or hour that the Lord would call them home.
    My family is smaller now and each time I part ways with them or my friends whether it be a visit, phone call or text I close with I love you!
    What a wonderful gift should that be our last meeting on earth.
    1 Corinthians 13:13

    • Afi - April 12, 2018 5:50 am

      Thank you Doug H. I’ll start following your advice.

  4. teachenglish67 - October 14, 2017 1:30 pm

    There are so many types of love, but each is important in its own. I tell my children and their spouses I love them. I have special relationships with non-family members….a few former students, one who tells me I’m like a second mother to him. He tells me he loves me; I reciprocate. I have friends who I tell I love them. They know. One friend in particular is now in the middle stages of dementia. We’ve been friends for over 30 years, taught together at the same high school, became widows within a few years of each other, and shared many profound feelings and thoughts. I tell her I love her before I hang up the phone or before I leave after being with her to help her. She smiles and tells me the same. She told me she doesn’t remember as much anymore. I tell her, “I’ll remember for you.” She smiles and says, “I know you will. I love you.”
    Thank you, Sean for reminding us that it’s important to tell another you love them…’s very important.

  5. Connie - October 14, 2017 1:35 pm

    That’s my biggest thing. I tell the people I love. My mom, who most days doesn’t know I’m there. My kids-constantly. My friends and family. You just never know when it’s going to be the last time you get the chance. I love you too. Thank you for reminding us all what’s important.

  6. Bert - October 14, 2017 1:48 pm

    How could anybody not like Sean’s writing?

  7. Susan Carlson - October 14, 2017 2:41 pm

    Another day appreciating your posts…thought I was saying, “I love you.”…..nope! Not nearly enough! Why? Because those we think are unlovely…now, I’m not talking about the ones who wear their “unloveliness” so obviously on the outside…the homeless, the hard workers who cannot make ends meet, the beaten down, etc….I’m talking about the prim and proper who wear their education, social standing, and financial success on the outside.

    These “unlovelies” who don’t count themselves as such don’t see their very real need for unconditional love that would say, “I love you.” to the proud, the judgmental, the keepers of all the commandments…at least the letter but not the spirit…you know the type…they write to speak criticism to your blogs because they’ve missed the heart of your messages…they’re the ones who have no sense of their own great need. They’re the ones who don’t know how much they’re loved by the One Who knows them best.

    Please don’t give up your message…your message is for them too. I love you.

  8. Sharon Hand - October 14, 2017 2:41 pm

    This story reminds me of the Bear Bryant commercial that he made for Bell South. In the commercial, Bear states, “Tell your Momma you love her. I sure wish I could”. So do I, Coach, so do I.

  9. Marcie - October 14, 2017 2:45 pm

    Like a mustard seed, you never know how you may affect someone’s entire life good or bad, so be very careful. I always think about the Jimmy Stewart movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” , and how he affected those around him. Thank you for the reminder. To all my wonderful, beautiful friends and family, I love you.

  10. Peter I Heyer - October 14, 2017 3:06 pm

    Thank you. You are.doing great work.

  11. Jack Quanstrum - October 14, 2017 3:42 pm

    There is alot of good folks hurting in the world and your approach soothes them and me. I love you and what you do. Peace.

  12. Alice - October 14, 2017 3:48 pm

    Dear Sean another story that bring tears to my eyes God Bless you

  13. Candee - October 14, 2017 4:09 pm

    You always bring at least one tear to my eyes, happy tears, sad tears, thanks!

  14. Melodie - October 14, 2017 5:47 pm

    I can’t imagine losing a child. You comforted him in his time of need. Your mother taught you well, why? because she loves you. ♥

  15. Elle Estes - October 14, 2017 9:10 pm

    Well, now you’ve gone and made me cry. Well said!!!

  16. Elaine - October 14, 2017 10:53 pm

    I love you, Sean

  17. Kathy Burgess - October 15, 2017 3:44 am

    I lost my son on 2000 to bacterial meningitis. He was 20. I still think about him on and off all day long and every day…not on a pathological way but to reming myself how funny and sweet he was. He was sick for 1 day. A very healthy guy. For practically 24 hours straight I whispered in his ear our funny little stories and how proud he made me and how much I loved him. yes, tell your kids you love them and make sure they are vaccinated against this horrible disease. I love you too, Sean because you make me think and feel.

  18. David DeVane - October 15, 2017 4:30 pm

    It seems so trite to say it but life really is short. Tell ’em you love’em every chance you get.

  19. ponder304 - October 17, 2017 2:20 pm

    It seems like I know you and love you like family, even though we’ve never met! We need more people like you! Thank you for enriching my life! Kindred souls!

  20. Maxine - March 8, 2018 1:00 pm

    I love you, Sean, whether you are in a bar, or at the Baptist church pitch in supper or the nursing home or on the roadside with a broken down car and a broken human….You leave a feeling of love with everyone you meet. God bless you for the message you carry, “I love you”.

  21. G. Mitchell - March 8, 2018 6:53 pm

    Love you too:)

  22. Kathy in Bham - March 9, 2018 1:25 am

    Sean, I love you, too.

  23. Charlotte - April 14, 2019 7:01 pm

    My father died very suddenly, no warning it was coming. I’m sure I told him goodnight and I love you the night before (we were visiting for the weekend and staying with my mom ad dad), but I was preoccupied with getting a sleepy four year old to bed and wasn’t really focused on our conversation. The last words I remember him saying to me were, “Sugar, your daddy is just really tired”. How I wish I had given him my full attention and really listened to him. How I wish I could be certain that the last thing I told him was “I love you Daddy, so very, very much.” Early the next morning, while we were still asleep, he let the house, drove his truck several miles away, put a gun to his head, and committed suicide. I wish I could remember the last words we said to each other! If I’d known I was about to lose him I’d have hugged him so tight and meet let him go! 28 years later, I still grieve and I miss him terribly. But since that awful day I end EVERY phone call, every conversation with family and close friends with “I love you”. Because you never know. I want to know for sure that someone I love would take that with them if they leave me. And if something should happen to ME I want that “I love you” to last them forever.


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