The Storm

Tonight as my mother-in-law lies in her hospice bed, still holding to life, my wife suggested that I share my mother-in-law’s all-time favorite column from several years ago in honor of her life. This one remained stuck to her refrigerator for years.

Without further ado:

Well, the hurricane is approaching. It’s morning, and the first thing I hear in my mother-in-law’s house is the blaring Weather Channel.

My mother-in-law likes her television at volumes robust enough to rattle her artificial hip. Especially when the world is ending. Like today.

On the screen, a lady-meteorologist is having a nervous breakdown. On the map, she points to a red-colored cyclone that’s roughly the size of Greenland, and says, “THIS IS A HURRICANE!”

This is the kind of insider information you get watching the Weather Channel.

She then traces the map with a digital pointer, making colorful and scientific designs. She says, “ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-FIVE MILE AN HOUR WINDS, FOLKS!”

My mother-in-law turns the volume up.

The weather-woman looks like she’s about to faint from anxiety. She adds, “It’s ESSENTIAL to make sure you have bottled water, triple-A batteries, and a BIKE HELMET…”

“Do we have any bike helmets?” says my mother-in-law.

“Helmets? You don’t even own a bike.”

“They said I need a helmet.”

“You? What about me?”

She shrugs.

The first thing I’d like to mention is that the weather forecasting business has changed. For most of my life weather-people wore polyester suits and looked like your father’s dentist. They pointed to maps and told forecasts in radio-DJ voices. They never talked about bike helmets, and they never lost their cool on the air.

This weather-woman’s mascara is running.

So I go to the garage to check on the helmet situation. All I find is my old catcher’s mask.

“We need bottled water, too,” my mother-in-law calls out. “Is my car gassed up? Buy some batteries while you’re at it. Oh, and be sure you get some toilet paper.”

Of course, we live on the Gulf Coast, so this is not our first big hurricane. In fact, we’ve seen so many storms that nearly every year the Weather-Channel vans come to town and get ticker-tape parades. We love these guys.

Half of my immediate family has been featured on the television discussing major tropical disturbances.

There was the famous interview my uncle gave during Hurricane Opal at a hardware store:

“Good afternoon, sir,” said the weather-person with a microphone. “Any thoughts on the storm which could slaughter thousands, potentially destroying millions of non-profit pet shelters, nursing homes, children’s advocacy centers, and monasteries?”

My uncle spit out his wad of Skoal and for his big national TV debut, he said, “Heck of a thing.”

Weather Channel gold.

That same evening, my uncle got thirty-five phone calls, two marriage proposals, and one invitation to speak at the annual policemen’s banquet.

It should be said, I take storms seriously. Storms like this are no joke. This one is strong enough to suck the blood out of a deer tick and leave me with a lot of yard work. But the worst part, if you ask me, is that this storm will probably require evacuation.

And, if you’ve never evacuated from a hurricane, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s a lot like going on vacation with your mother-in-law during a historical reenactment of the American Revolution.

Imagine you’re in a traffic jam, stretching from Orange Beach, Alabama, to Beaverton, Oregon. Your vehicle is loaded with boxes of family photos, fine china, shrink-wrapped wedding dresses, your mother-in-law’s walker, and every pair of shoes your wife has ever bought.

Your wife is driving. You’re listening to radio updates. And of course, your mother-in-law announces that she has to pee.

So you stop at a gas station. There are six hundred cars who do the same. Mostly, these are minivans with screaming children and dogs stuck in kennels.

You escort your mother-in-law inside to the bathrooms, hoping her roller-walker will earn you a good spot in the long restroom line. It doesn’t. You’re running out of time. In line, your mother-in-law explains that her bladder is reaching the critical zone. Something must be done.

The important thing here is to remain calm. Which you do. You explain to her that you were once a Boy Scout and that going to the bathroom outdoors is all part of God’s natural plan.

Next, you guide your family’s matriarch to the dumpster behind the service station. You stand nearby, eyes closed, ears plugged, singing “Amazing Grace” loud enough to drown out all ambient sound.

And it is this precise moment when you realize that you forgot to bring toilet paper.

But anyway, the good news here is that there is no talk of evacuation with this hurricane. At least not yet. Furthermore, I am grateful for the Weather Channel and for that frantic weather-woman. Without her I would have never thought about things like bike helmets.

Speaking of helmets, you really ought to see my mother-in-law in her catcher’s mask. She is adorable.

And I will add that we are all going to miss her dearly.


  1. Elaine Wilson - August 12, 2021 7:07 am

    I have always heard that every storm has a silver lining. I think Mother Mary was the silver lining before the storms! God bless you all!

  2. Joe Dorough - August 12, 2021 9:44 am

    I can see why this is Mother Mary’s favorite. God be with her!❤️

  3. Lynn - August 12, 2021 9:59 am

    Sean, thank you so much for sharing this phase of your life with transparent vulnerability. Losing a dear family member is never easy, but you and your wife have what it will take to weather the grief. God bless you all and guide you with strength and compassion, and of course, humor!

  4. Joan Moore - August 12, 2021 10:02 am

    So will we, but soon she will no longer need a walker…or a catcher’s mask. Love and prayers.

  5. Harriet - August 12, 2021 10:45 am


  6. Margaret Jackson - August 12, 2021 11:19 am

    Praying for Mother Mary and your family. My mother passed in October, 2013. I still miss her, but know she is whole again and happy in heaven. I often wonder if she’s playing practical jokes on Daddy!!!

  7. Heidi - August 12, 2021 11:28 am

    I agree with Mother Mary…this is definitely a fridge sticker. May she have peaceful days with no helmets ahead. God bless her, you and Jamie.

  8. Liza Bragg - August 12, 2021 11:43 am

    Dear Sean,
    I think we will ALL miss Mother Mary!
    Liza Bragg

  9. Dean - August 12, 2021 11:51 am

    Love it made me laugh while doing my dialysis. Your column is something i look forward to every day.
    Praying for your family

  10. Bob E - August 12, 2021 11:52 am

    Not your typical mother-in-law you lucky guy.
    May you all be blessed.

  11. Suellen - August 12, 2021 12:02 pm

    Getting older myself I can sympathize with Mother Mary. Life was much simpler when we didn’t need so many devices just to motivate and when our bladders held more than a teacup. I can also understand why this was one of her favorite columns. It sounds like you have always been there for her when she needed you the most. That is a treasure beyond price.

  12. Molly Mitchell - August 12, 2021 12:04 pm

    Remember the old Reader’s Digest page titled, “Laughter is the Best Medicine?” This fits.

    The Lord bless and keep you during these days.


  13. Debbie g - August 12, 2021 12:05 pm

    Mother Mary on a walker with a catchers mitt on behind a dumpster and no toilet
    Paper. 😂😂😂😂no wander she loves you. Y’all deserved each other !!!! And love for all

  14. Bill Harris - August 12, 2021 12:19 pm

    Thank you Sean

  15. Cheri Johnston - August 12, 2021 12:29 pm

    I understand why this was her favorite 💟 You have such a gift, you make me realize how fragile life is. I adore these morning 🌄 columns drinking my tea with you. God is watching over Mother Mary Jaime & you. 🙏🙏

  16. Paul McCutchen - August 12, 2021 12:37 pm

    Hopefully it just stays as a “wannabe” hurricane and ends up at my house in Georgia as a low pressure system.

  17. Peg Begley - August 12, 2021 12:37 pm

    Blessings a d to an easy passing for your Mother Mary

  18. sallywalpole - August 12, 2021 12:59 pm

    Prayers for your Mother-in-law and family.

  19. Debbie Andreasen - August 12, 2021 1:10 pm

    Love reading your blog, my mamas name was Mary, and she was from Brewton. She ask for a helmet when the weather person said she needed a helmet. Didnt have one so she put a large boiler on her head. May the Lord bless and keep your mother Mary.

  20. Debbie Lawrence - August 12, 2021 1:20 pm

    Thank you Sean for sharing this difficult, but also precious time of loving Mary. Our prayers are with you and your family, praying Gods will wrap his arms around you all and give you peace.

  21. Linda Vaughan - August 12, 2021 1:40 pm

    These recorded memories are already serving a magnificent purpose for you and Jamie.

  22. Janice - Silverhill - August 12, 2021 1:56 pm

    Yes we will, Sean. Yes we will ❤️

  23. Stacey Wallace - August 12, 2021 2:03 pm

    Sean, may God bless Mother Mary, Jamie, and you.. Praying for y’all.

  24. Eleanor Dietrich - August 12, 2021 2:05 pm

    As I read your listing of things you didn’t do/have growing up, it makes me think that otherwise you probably wouldn’t be writing this wonderful column every day, This is your calling (thank goodness). Otherwise you would likely be somewhere inside and working for someone else and not providing us with the daily read, which is usually both funny and touching. Bless you for loving your Mother Mary, you have each been a blessing to each other.

  25. Diane Copeland - August 12, 2021 2:10 pm

    Sending prayers your way. Sad to watch a person slip from this life, but we know where they are going. 🙏🏻

  26. Dick Currey - August 12, 2021 2:18 pm

    One of my favorites was when she made you watch Naked and Afraid like she had never seen it before. Still makes me smile thinking about. Your family was so blessed to have Mother Mary. Praying for you all through out this time.

  27. Ruth Mitchell - August 12, 2021 2:29 pm

    I am so glad my friend introduced you to me. I love your writing and your sense of humor. I hope my sons-in -law just feel a fraction of the love for me that you do for your mother-in-law. May God grant you and your family peace at this stressful time of her journey through life.

  28. Karen Snyder - August 12, 2021 2:36 pm

    I love my boys, but most every morning these days I wish I had also had a daughter. Would have loved to have a son-in-love just like you! ❤️🙏🏻

  29. Bernadette Wyckoff - August 12, 2021 2:50 pm

    Prayers for you 🙏 ❤ 💛

  30. Gayle Wilson - August 12, 2021 3:00 pm

    This brought a smile. Your explanation of hurricanes and the weather channel were spot on. And as always, bless Mother Mary and each of you as she is making her journey to a beautiful land.

  31. Robyn - August 12, 2021 3:20 pm

    Beautiful writing Sean…you are a writer and I’m glad you share your thoughts. Know lots of prayers going y’all’s way…robyn

  32. Lori - August 12, 2021 3:57 pm

    Oh gosh Sean – this is hilarious!!! Your mother in law and I have much in common – as a joke during a particularly bad tornado like weather day here in the MS Delta our youngest thought it hysterical to have his now wife and and I his mother to get in the hallway insisting we but baseball helmets on as he told us there was an immediate threat of a tornado near. We did as instructed and even put a mattress over us as he snapped a picture of us as he is yelling “I think it’s starting” then proceeds to die out laughing to the point of losing his breath…there was NO tornado he just thought it would be funny for us to put helmets on and take a picture. Much love to you and your bride and Mother Mary – thanks for the joy you bring in the midst of a heartbreaking time.

  33. cat718 - August 12, 2021 4:02 pm

    We love Mother Mary and we will miss her. ❤️❤️❤️
    Your story reminds me of the time we were traveling back from Alabama to our then home in Nicholasville, Ky. My grandmother, Montez, was coming back with us to visit for a few months. We called her by her first name because she became a grandmother at the tender age of 36. The traffic was hideous, 18 wheelers on every side, and us in our submarine sized Dodge Polara, our heads in a swivel, trying not to get creamed.
    All of a sudden, Montez announces in her dulcet Southern drawl, “I think I would like a vegetable plate for dinner”. (Lunch was dinner, supper is the evening meal, still is to me). I miss her every day.
    May God bless and keep Mother Mary, you and Jamie. ❤️❤️🙏

  34. Vi - August 12, 2021 4:03 pm

    What nice tributes you are giving to your mother in law

  35. Linda Moon - August 12, 2021 4:47 pm

    I’m not surprised to read “still holding to life”. It seems to me that Mary has tenaciously weathered storms in her LIFE, and now at the ending of it she’s still holding on against the dying of the light. We readers will miss her, too. And thank you, Jamie Martin Dietrich, for your suggestion. It was an honor to read it.

  36. Dawn - August 12, 2021 4:53 pm

    This! This was the first column I read that made me a huge Sean of the South fan and subscriber!! Hilarious! We will all miss hearing of Mother Mary and seeing her beautiful pictures on social media. Prayers for you all!

  37. Sharon J Mondragon - August 12, 2021 5:09 pm

    Dear Sean, Thank you for sharing the journey of your much-loved mother-in-law’s final days with us. When my dad was in hospice, we sat around the kichen table and told the social worker all our dad stories. It was a way to honor him, but also to fix those stories in our minds and hearts. It was a holy time. I can tell it’s like that for you. Blessings, John Cooper’s Daughter

  38. Peggy ALEXANDER - August 12, 2021 6:30 pm

    God has given me a wonderful son in law who does everything he can for me and I am thankful. My daughter says I always take his side instead of hers😂😂

  39. Chasity Davis Ritter - August 12, 2021 7:09 pm

    I’m glad you have so many wonderful memories and lots of them documented forever on your columns. They’ll be a blessing in the days and years ahead. Still praying for all of you.

  40. Betty - August 12, 2021 8:34 pm

    How wonderful to have Mother Mary and her sense of humor! Not all mothers-in-law can laugh at themselves. We, your readers, will miss her too.

  41. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 12, 2021 11:18 pm

  42. Judy Waldrop - August 13, 2021 12:34 am

    Been with you through the storm you are now facing. Love you all

  43. Shirley Jensen - August 14, 2021 2:12 pm

  44. Shirley Jensen - August 14, 2021 2:13 pm

    Continued prayers for you and your wife and Mother Mary. 🙏🏻♥️🙏🏻


Leave a Comment