There is ice on the ground. I’m walking a dog on the shore of Lake Martin at three in the morning. I’m wearing pajamas, boots, and a queen-sized comforter.
A few minutes ago, Ellie Mae—coonhound and award-winning talk-show host—woke me by whimpering.
I suggested strongly that she go back to sleep.
“Go to sleep,” I strongly suggested.
So here I am. It’s thirty-two degrees, the night is purple. Ellie is sniffing the ground, making zig-zags. I let her off-leash.
“Hurry up,” I plead.
But alas, instead of making tee-tee, she walks—if you can believe this—into cold lake water, paws-deep.
There goes my night.
Anyway, New Year’s is one day away, which makes me happy and sad.
Happy—because time keeps going forward and everything changes. And sad—because time keeps going forward. And everything changes.
Still, this is my favorite time. When everything resets itself. Even people.
I got a hand-written letter from a man in county prison. Let’s call him, Dave. The letter was written on notebook paper, with hand-drawn artwork covering the envelope.
“…Do you think people get second chances?” Dave writes. “Even after we really flubbed up (not the word Dave used), can we start over again? Or is this just a lie we tell ourselves?”
I’ve been thinking about that letter. I’ve carried it in my pocket for weeks.
I carry a handful of letters with me. One is from a man who wrote me about his late wife. One is from a fifteen-year-old named Myrick. Another is from a nine-year-old, “Griffy of the South”—who shares my birthday. Another from a twelve-year-old girl whose mother died too young. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this.
Maybe it’s because I’m so cold I can’t feel my brain. Maybe it’s because my dog has lost her mind and is wading in the Arctic Ocean.
A few years ago, I brought in the New Year in the front seat of my truck. I had my wife and coonhound with me. We parked on the edge of the Choctawhatchee Bay.
They fell asleep. I stayed awake until the clock changed.
I received an unexpected text from an old friend.
My friend had an autoimmune illness that doctors said would kill him. He was given years, maybe months.
“Happy New Year,” his text read. “It’s gonna be a good one.”
I lost it. I cried like a Vidalia farmer.
Along with his text he sent a picture of his girlfriend and her two-year-old. His face was pressed against theirs.
Dying. But wishing me a happy New Year.
They got married that year, despite his diagnosis. It was a small affair. Love is a powerful tonic.
It seems like that was a long time ago, but it wasn’t. My friend is alive today, and healthier than anyone I know. Doctors can’t explain how his disease disappeared. But it’s gone. Completely.
So yes, Dave. I believe in second chances. And I believe in more. I believe in miracles. And babies. And dogs. And love. And I believe you’ll get yours. I don’t know how, or when. But I believe.
And when they find my frozen body floating on Lake Martin, you can blame this ridiculous dog for my fate.
Happy New Year. It’s going to be a good one.
Robbey Stanford - December 31, 2017 8:03 am
Pamela McEachern - December 31, 2017 8:58 am
I’m counting on it Sean, I love your words of humanity. It seems the only good that I read and I am grateful. I hope you and your’s have a very Happy New Year as well as all the other readers!
Peace and Love from Birmingham in 2018?☄
Marilyn Ward Vance - December 31, 2017 9:38 am
God gives second chances to broken people if they reach out to Him….I’m living proof! Thank you for all your insight, Sean. Have a Happy New Year…you, your bride and your Ellie!
barbara lynch - December 31, 2017 3:29 pm
Phil Blackwell - December 31, 2017 9:48 am
2018 will be better than 2017 which was better than 2016, etc. It’s the only way the 99% make it through life, having faith in the opportunities the future holds. So here you go Howard, old friend, battling cancer. And Nita, beautifully bald headed from her fight with cancer as well. Paisley, baby Jude, Colby, and all the kids at Children’s Hospitals everywhere. We pray for you all because we don’t know what else to do. We pray that today will be better than yesterday, that January will be better than December, that 2018 will be better than 2017. We pray because we love you, each and every one. God Bless…
Dewey Fleetwood - December 31, 2017 11:30 am
I love your words that paint such a picture. Happy New Year and all the best.
Jon Daniels - December 31, 2017 11:32 am
Sean…..I read your posts every day…..this one is especially poignant for me….it’s 5:28 AM in Raymond, MS……I just talked to my 79 yr-old mama who lives in Cleveland, MS (she’s been a widow for 1 year & 11 days)…..her 81 yr-old sister, my Aunt Sue, just died about 2 hours ago in Memphis from complications of the flu…..we were all together Christmas Day at Lake Tiak-O’Khata in Louisville, MS…..Heaven just keeps getting better & better, bro! Happy New Year! Yes, it’s going to be a good one! Thank you, Lord!
George - December 31, 2017 11:48 am
Happy New Year Sean…I was awaken early this morning as well by our sons beautiful black lab named Mel Rose that we are dog sitting for…she was up walking in circles around her bed. Thank God she went back to sleep!
I agree with you…it’s going to be a good year!
Sandi in FL - December 31, 2017 12:00 pm
Happy belated birthday, Sean, and blessings in abundant as the New Year unfurls.
Sandi in FL - December 31, 2017 12:01 pm
That should read “blessings in abundance” not “abundant”!
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - December 31, 2017 12:23 pm
Happy New Year, Sean! Your daily letters help me to see that there is goodness in this world, even among all the craziness. You make me think more of others than myself. And you make me grateful for everything I have!! God bless you!
Shirley Barbaree - December 31, 2017 12:48 pm
Happy New Year!
Judy - December 31, 2017 1:14 pm
Get out of that cold lake! ? and have a wonderful 2018. ?
LeAnne - December 31, 2017 1:32 pm
Happy New Year, Sean! It’s going to be a good one.
Steve Scott - December 31, 2017 1:42 pm
I look forward to reading your blog every morning and the people you describe give me hope for humanity. Thanks for what you do. Hope to get to meet you or talk someday.
Shirley Brown - December 31, 2017 2:11 pm
And that’s why I have a cat named Grace.Of course she doesn’t live up to her name.The moniker Destroyed would suit her well. She keeps me on my toes and also loves water.I’ve learned to lock her out of the bathroom when I shower. She keeps me active and I love her. Happy New Year Sean! Through reading your daily stories, I feel like I know you. Wonder if Grace would like a dog for company? It’s just a passing thought. Shirley Brown
Dianne Correll - December 31, 2017 2:59 pm
Happy New Year!! Hope Ellie Mae gets over her cold feet without getting sick!!
Connie - December 31, 2017 4:34 pm
Happy New Year Sean and Jamie. Best wishes for a wonderful year ahead. God bless you for the joy and the tears and the thought provoking days you give us.
Rick Gordanier - December 31, 2017 4:35 pm
Happy New Year !! Sean
Anne Marie Robinson - December 31, 2017 6:03 pm
Happy New Year Sean! I need to thank my friend Myra down in Arizona where the weather probably isn’t bitter cold with a snowy forecast, like it is here. But she lead me here and for that, I am very grateful. Your post was beautifully written. I am hopeful for many new adventures, praying for good health and sending everyone love and prayers and peaceful events in 2018. May God bless you richly for sharing your incredibly wonderful talent for writing. HUGS from Cold and Colorful Colorado
ellen nichols - December 31, 2017 6:08 pm
Happy New Year. And I do believe. I so love, and hold on to your written reminders! Thank you!!
Lynda - December 31, 2017 6:50 pm
Happy New Year, Sean. I so love the way you write. I look forward every day to reading your latest epistle. You are the best. Hugs to you, your wife, and Ellie May. Your Willow Alaskan fan, Lynda.
Sheila Brannnan - December 31, 2017 6:52 pm
Happy & Blessed 2018!!!
Marion Pitts - December 31, 2017 7:09 pm
Happy New Year,Sean! Have a wonderful year!
Gloria Wethington - December 31, 2017 7:39 pm
Thank you, Sean, for your uplifting blogs! I too believe in second chances and miracles. Happy New Year! Whatever happens, it’s gonna be a good one. Because God is LOVE!
Gigi - December 31, 2017 9:38 pm
I think without the belief in second chances, we as humans would suffer lives of despair and defeat. The south I grew up in and heard stories of growing up, was a south based and built on a second chance. So I hope 2018 brings second chances and new beginnings for all who believe in and need one; embraced with a big hug and sloppy kiss or nurtured and kept close, here’s to second chances and 2018! Love your writings and ramblings!
Sue Crinkite - December 31, 2017 11:40 pm
It’ll be the best one ever!
Jack Darnell - January 1, 2018 12:14 am
Yep there are second chances, I’ve had 33 of ’em. The all worked.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, Yes, it is gonna be a good one!
Michael Hawke - January 1, 2018 4:43 am
Amen, brother. It’s going to be a good one.
Dottie (Pete Wong’s Momma) - January 1, 2018 5:18 am
Happy New Years Sean. You make my every day brighter when I read your words. God bless you
Christi Parsons - January 1, 2018 4:07 pm
Happy New Year!! I am 46, a wife and a mother, and I am embarrassed to admit this, but I hate to read. I get lost in the words and bored, but I read what you write. It reaches in and grabs my soul, and for that I thank you!! Keep up the GREAT work!!
wendy - January 1, 2018 6:42 pm
Happy New Year & RTR !!
Jo - January 2, 2018 1:07 am
I had to laugh. I can’t count the times that I have been walking in the dark yard with an old infirm dog who needs company to pee at O-dark-30. Best of the new year to you!
Martha Burke - January 10, 2018 8:48 pm
Thank you for your stories… they have a way of stirring up all my emotions… reminding me to be thankful for what I have, even though I try to thank the good Lord everyday day for the blessings and miracles in my life that I, and my loved ones have received, your stories remind me to give an extra thank you to the Lord above!