Three of us sat beside Mama’s above-ground pool, out in the wilds of Black Creek. We were beneath a Dollar-Store umbrella, and a canopy of live oaks longleafs. My mother, my kid sister and me.

Mama’s old transistor radio played Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” My nieces were splashing in the plastic-framed pool, trying to see which child could rupture a vocal cord first. It was hotter than the hinges of hell outside.

“You look good,” Mama said to me.

“So do you,” I said.

“You’ve gained a little weight since the last time I saw you.”


The last time I saw Mama, my wife and I were moving away from the Florida Panhandle. That night, not so long ago, Mama and I were sitting on the Choctawhatchee Bay of my youth.

It was sunset. A heron was on the shore. And I was saying goodbye to Walton County, Florida, bound for Jefferson County, Alabama. Mama didn’t cry. But I did, a little.

She’s shorter than I remember. The woman has always been five-foot-two. But I’d guess she’s more like four-eleven now. If she were any shorter you could put her in your pocket and carry her around.

She has two brilliant white streaks of hair up front. The rest of her hair is stubbornly brunette. Because that’s what she is. Stubborn. My father once said she was the most stubborn woman he ever met. “She makes talking to a mule look easy,” is how he put it.

The radio was now playing to Conway Twitty’s “Linda On My Mind.” The nieces were engaged in a mutant version of Marco Polo, the worst game ever created by humankind.

“So what’s been going on?” Mama asked. “What have you been doing with yourself since you’ve been living in Birmingham?”

“Not much.”

“You write all the dang time.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Is that all you do is write?”

“Sometimes I go to the bathroom.”

The sun was overhead, baking the world into submission. Black Creek was looking good today. I once caught the most fish I’ve ever caught within the brackish waters of Black Creek.

At one time, I errantly believed I was an actual fisherman. But the truth is, I’m more of a Pabst Blue Ribbon enthusiast with a boat.

I looked at Mama. It was hard to believe this was the same woman who raised me. She only faintly resembles the smooth-skinned young woman who reared two children after the suicide of a troubled husband.

When my father engineered his own end, Mama was nearly the age I am now.

I remember how people treated her after it happened. I remember going into town to shop for groceries. I remember how people would sort of edge away from her because “suicide” is a dirty word, and nobody wanted to get trapped in a conversation where that particular subject might come up.

I also remember the way some people sort of forgot my family after my father’s death. Not because they were trying to be ugly, they weren’t, but because nobody quite knows what to say. What do you say? It’s easier just to leave it alone.

So I remember my mother walking through the supermarket, pushing her buggy. She was covered in a rainbow of bruises that my father had left her as a parting gift. Her skin was blackened. Her lower lip was busted and scabbed over. Some of her hair was missing because it had been pulled out.

She was trying to buy ground beef from the meat department. The butcher looked like he wanted to vanish. The cashier said three words to her. Very few folks made eye contact.

But my mother was unfazed. She acted like there was nothing wrong. Like nothing had happened. She acted as though my family had not recently landed in the newspaper.

Mama looked people directly in the eyes. She spoke to everyone as though they were pals. She cracked jokes. She smiled a lot. That was a long time ago, but she is still the toughest person I have ever known.

“So you’re doing good?” she asked me.

I nodded. “I think I’m doing okay.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She patted my thigh. “That’s good.”

Our life wasn’t easy. Many have had it worse than we did. But looking back, I now realize that our lives were a little bit easier than they should have been. Not just because of Providence. But mostly, because I had the privilege of being raised by a stubborn woman.


  1. Julie Patterson - June 29, 2022 6:08 am

    Thank God for stubborn women.

  2. Billie - June 29, 2022 6:39 am

    I lost my Mom in May. 98 years, 5 months, 8 days. She lived almost 33 years after the passing of my Dad, who she cared for through 17-1/2 months with a brain tumor. 3 of us daughters, all living 6 to 13 hour drives away. She pretty much had to walk that journey by herself. She took offense when I tried to let her know I admired her toughness and stubbornness. Lived until she was 96-1/2, independently. Her last two years, probably her saddest. Assisted living. COVID quarantine and isolation. Tough.
    I know I don’t have to say it, “Be thankful for your tough mama.”

  3. allisvant - June 29, 2022 6:44 am

    Kudos on another simple, but revealing (to newer readers, at least) article on your personal story; and after reading your columns, and a book or two, over the past 3-4 years, I believe I can safely say that some of her stubbornness has been passed on down! I trust you’ve begun acclimating yourself to having moved “up north” – my family and I made our annual pilgrimage to PCB last week; however, as I haven’t been able to go in recent yrs., I now have an abundant supply of deceases epidermal cells; if any of your readers has a kid would like to study such under a microscope, I can supply!

  4. Rena - June 29, 2022 7:00 am

    There’s always something to be thankful for 💓

  5. Lyn Cogswell - June 29, 2022 7:49 am

    One of my mother’s sayings was “don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.” Those who made that mistake with Mom only did it once. I borrow her phrase every now and again when necessary.

  6. Ed (Bear) - June 29, 2022 8:05 am

    Forest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does”. That was the first time I heard that message. I’m over 70 now. You’d think that after while, I would learn to quit doing stupid things. I reckon I’m too stubborn. Stubborn is as stubborn wants to do.

    Stubborn women are strong and are a healthy blessing to whoever they’re with. I’m blessed with a stubborn wife. I’m lost without her. She always knows what I should be doing. And quite honestly, she’s usually right!

  7. oldlibrariansshelf - June 29, 2022 8:33 am

    When the going gets rough, the women have to be tough–for themselves and for their children.

  8. Julie Stovall - June 29, 2022 9:42 am

    You often write about your Dad – understandably so. I’m glad you e written about the angel who stuck around and dealt with the hard things

    • Nan - June 29, 2022 10:17 am

      My thoughts exactly!

  9. Julia Swaney - June 29, 2022 9:58 am

    Thank God for strong mothers ♥️

  10. Ann - June 29, 2022 10:32 am

    There is so much love, admiration and respect here. Your insight is a lesson for us all.

  11. Randy Baker - June 29, 2022 10:39 am

    Many of us have been fortunate like that. A great tribute to moms!

  12. Debbie g - June 29, 2022 10:58 am

    Beautiful sean. She and you are awesome
    Love to you and Jamie( your other stubborn lady)😀😀
    Love to all of us

  13. Dolores - June 29, 2022 11:15 am

    Your Momma displayed perseverance, tenacity, and determination. These are leadership qualities, a requirement for every parent. Never more true than of a single parent. Children don’t need indecisive, feeble parenting solong as the child is aware parental resolve is rooted in love

    Stubborn has a bad connotation (as in being obstinate). There’s a fine line we walk as parents, wanting our children to have a better life and teaching them to avoiding the pitfalls of life. It takes both decisiveness and a willingness to let them try their own wings at times. It’s why parenting is known as the hardest job you’ll ever do.

    Bad things can still happen but they don’t define you, your reactions and attitude do. I can’t think of a better lesson to teach your child. This in a day when people are so easy to claim victimhood and grab at offense. Thank God for strong Moms and Dads.

  14. Patricia Collins - June 29, 2022 11:18 am

    I loved our column. My mother was a stubborn woman ( I think it has been passed down through the ages) mostly because she inherited it from my 4’11” grandmother who was “hell on wheels “. Yep when my grandmother was mad at something or someone I swear those little feet turned into small wheels which she use pretty often. Thanks for making me think today of the 2 most stubborn women in my life!! They are truly missed .

  15. Miss Jillian Crocker - June 29, 2022 11:34 am

    I can’t believe you left. Your mom, your home,everything that you loved. And for what? A town that has surpassed even Chicago with it’s murder rate.
    So sad…so very sad.

    • Sean Chatham - June 29, 2022 12:22 pm

      Why don’t you stay in your lane, and let Sean and Jamie stay in theirs? Unnecessary comments like this are what is, “so sad…so very sad.”

      • Jan G - June 29, 2022 3:53 pm

        Spot on, Sean Chatham, and my thoughts exactly!! Thank you for saying what I and I’m certain many others were thinking!

    • Nana - June 29, 2022 1:11 pm


    • Kathy - June 29, 2022 3:23 pm

      And this is your business because why? Wow you are judgmental. You’d do yourself a favor, and everyone else, to work on that.

    • Susie Flick - June 29, 2022 5:18 pm

      My goodness….

    • Laurie Pallotta - June 29, 2022 5:52 pm

      What a disappointing comment to such a raw story. Shame on you, Ms. Crocker. If you were a loyal reader of Sean’s work like most of us are, you’d already know why he chose to leave his Florida home town — his mother and sister no longer live there, by the way — and move to Birmingham — where my son, daughter-in-law and grandson have happily chosen to live, by the way. He did it for love.

  16. Leigh Amiot - June 29, 2022 11:59 am

    So many good comments today…what came to my mind:
    “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25
    The worst things that happened to your mother were unable to strip her of her dignity. I’m proud of her for how she held her head high despite horrific circumstances.

  17. STEVE JAMES - June 29, 2022 12:02 pm

    Amen Sean. My lot was not suicide but I remember the black and blue bruises and the awkwardness in my small town due to divorce before divorce was common or cool back in the 60’s. Yes, thank God for stubborn and strong women. I love and miss you mom.

  18. Ann Davis - June 29, 2022 12:15 pm

    Love this! I’m a stubborn woman- I hope my daughters will feel the same way. 🥰

  19. Ron - June 29, 2022 12:28 pm

    Thank you for another facet of your journey. Life is complex and relationships are complicated. Your post reminds me that significant in times of chaos and trouble, clarity of principle and a resolve to walk them out, makes for the best leadership … that seems to be true, whether one is a civic leader a corporate CEO, a Pastor, or most significant, a parent. Those under them best benefit in spite of the surrounding challenge. May we be thankful for them.

  20. Mary Michael Kelley - June 29, 2022 12:52 pm

    I relate to your mama. I’m only 44, but life would’ve dictated in every similar circumstance that my hair should be that light copper color by now. Instead it’s just red. I know her – even though I don’t know her. I lost two of my three children over the past eleven years. Talk about folks not knowing what to say to you in the grocery. Then there’s the sweet Publix deli workers & baggers, who still sometimes ask me how my babies are doing, because I’ve always just told them “great.” To me, they are great. They’re no longer here—pain free. But that’s no sadness for a Publix worker to have to feel. So instead, I write it out on my own. My circle is small. But It is in Birmingham, just like you. And I’d be remiss if since I started reading your work if I didn’t just think that us two gingers who were raised on the coast, now writing land locked should start up a little writers coffee session to talk about how life is hard- and so damn beautiful- every now and then. Thanks for giving your mama this piece. She’s been through hell and back. Granted, I don’t know her—but I know her.

  21. Sheri K - June 29, 2022 12:54 pm

    Aah mammas! Where would we be without their strength and love! Glad to hear yours is still doing fine. Love to you Sean and Jamie and your extended family!!

  22. Anne Arthur - June 29, 2022 1:00 pm

    God bless your stubborn and strong Mama. She did a great job in raising you under very sad circumstances. I shivered reading about her being hurt so badly but going on strong and proud to face the cruel world. She can rejoice now seeing the adult kids she raised. God bless you for sharing this part of your life with us.

  23. Amanda Gibbs - June 29, 2022 1:03 pm

    Sean- I send applause to your mom and you. To hear you talk about Walton County. My husband is from Okaloosa County. I’m from the country in Northend of Escambia County. I was raised by 2 stubborn parents that I love dearly. Keep writing..:.

  24. Melanie - June 29, 2022 1:16 pm

    I missed hearing about your mama. So glad you wrote about her today. ❤️

  25. Holly Moore - June 29, 2022 1:16 pm

    Sounds like you were raised by a fantastic Mom❤️ Thank you for continuing to bless my inbox every morning!

  26. Ruth Mitchell - June 29, 2022 1:19 pm

    Your mom’s success can be seen in you and your sister, and I’m sure that’s all she has ever wanted. You make HER proud and so many of your followers happy.

  27. jachanin - June 29, 2022 1:27 pm

    You rarely write about your mother. Your writings seem to idolize your father, but you never mentioned how he abused your mother. Not a person to be idolized!

  28. BettyK - June 29, 2022 1:30 pm


  29. David Britnell - June 29, 2022 1:33 pm

    As far as I know, my dad never mistreated my mother or we 6 children. I am so thankful for my family when I hear stories like yours! So sorry you had to go through that. My mom died at age 96 – she had lived a long full life and we were so thankful for that. Even so I still miss her! You would have loved her Sean!! God bless you and keep you healthy and strong.

  30. Mary J Neal - June 29, 2022 1:42 pm

    Why did you move from Fl to Birmingham?

  31. Chasity Davis Ritter - June 29, 2022 1:47 pm

    You have an incredible momma, Sean. And I don’t think you’ll ever forget that. Some of us are mighty lucky to have women like that in our lives.

  32. Diana Davis - June 29, 2022 1:50 pm

    God bless you and keep you, and your beautiful, strong Mama.

  33. Rene Bumgarner - June 29, 2022 2:07 pm

    I wish I could find the words to express to you how much YOUR words help me. I went through such a similar childhood and the scars are so deep. When I read what you express, it helps me so much. I love you Sean for opening up your wounds to help mine heal. It helps so much!! May God Bless You!!

  34. Susan Marler - June 29, 2022 2:16 pm

    A stubborn woman with a heart of gold. I know, I had one of those too. And I’d bet she never quit loving your Dad, flaws and all.

  35. Christina - June 29, 2022 2:25 pm

    Highest respect for your mama.

  36. Barbara - June 29, 2022 2:41 pm

    I’m so thankful for you Sean, and for your talented writing. I hope you can overlook recent hateful comments and unwarranted opinions which are totally uncalled for and invalid. That being said, I’m encouraged by your mothers determination, grace and strength to survive and thrive. I’m grateful for her faith and perseverance and for bringing you up, which is a gift and blessing to your followers and friends.

  37. Dottie Doherty - June 29, 2022 2:44 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your mom and she gets to read it which is even better.

  38. Cathy M - June 29, 2022 3:01 pm

    Your mother is not only stubborn, she is brave and courageous. Can you imagine what it took for her to walk into the grocery store in that condition and carry on as if all was ok? She did that to feed her children and she could have chosen to hide in a closet. When I was growing up there was a tv show called Queen For A Day. I loved it. Everyday women were surprised and literally sat on a thrown and wore a little crown. I guess their families had recommended them by mailing their stories to producers. Your mom is one of these women. Don’t wait till she is gone to tell her. I have been blessed with a strong and hardworking man to help me raise three children who turned out pretty well. I thank God all the time that I had him beside me. Single Moms are either strong or weak. Yours was stubborn and strong. Praise her today. It will be the most important thing you ever tell her. Trust me. I am 74 and all a Mother really wants in her golden yrs. Is to know she was appreciated. It’s not a job for the faint of heart. I love you and Jaimie

  39. Kathy Smith - June 29, 2022 3:18 pm

    You and your Mom are Overcomers. I wish nobody had to be one but we do. Life can be harsh. As for people not making eye contact, acting awkward and not knowing what to say they can simply say, “I don’t know what to say.” It’s surprisingly adequate.

  40. Dolores S Fort - June 29, 2022 3:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Sean. I am so happy to hear that your Mom is well and kicking in Florida. Would love to hear more stories about your amazing Mom!

  41. Roxanne - June 29, 2022 4:23 pm

    I’m glad you got to see your Momma ‘n ‘em. ❤️ You are a good man, Sean. I’m not sure why the trolls have come out from under the bridge, but the basket Most of us have been cast into is way more full of strong, stubborn Billy goats. Just keep on waking. I don’t always love your stories—some of them are hard. But I always APPRECIATE your honesty and candor and the depths of hell you (and your family) plumbed to come out on the other side. Good is always bigger. Thank you.

  42. davidpbfeder - June 29, 2022 4:34 pm


  43. Virginia - June 29, 2022 4:53 pm

    I so enjoy reading what u write. Sometimes it brings a s.ile to my face & sometimes it just makes me stop & think. Thank you for your honesty about life. I’m tired of all the fake things out there. We need more ” real people” to tell it like it is/was. Thanks again.

  44. Elizabeth Greiner - June 29, 2022 5:08 pm


  45. Susie Flick - June 29, 2022 5:26 pm

    Love reading this about your Mama. I had a quiet, loving, strong, independent in her own way Mother and was very blessed with a great dad too. We all need to remember all they did for us to help us become who we are now. I miss them both and would love to hear my mom’s laugh and my dad’s voice.

    Kudos, Sean, for a wonderful way to start my day!

  46. Diane - June 29, 2022 5:30 pm

    Beautiful Sean!

  47. Anthony - June 29, 2022 5:34 pm

    Stubborn Woman “ sounds like a really good country
    song. How about writing her one.

  48. Judy - June 29, 2022 5:39 pm

    So sad! I understand what do you say! Even years later, what do you say! So sad!

  49. Rebecca - June 29, 2022 6:20 pm

    Beautiful words. My mama eyes are tearing.

  50. Joy Jacobs - June 29, 2022 6:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing about your mother. I read your autobiography “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” I recommend all of your many fans to read it. It’s a picture of what happens to a family when a parent chooses suicide. ❤️

  51. Jim Broome - June 29, 2022 6:25 pm

    Thank God for stubborn Mamas!!!

  52. Jim. Broome - June 29, 2022 6:33 pm

    Thank God for Mamas!!!

  53. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 29, 2022 7:25 pm


  54. MAM - June 29, 2022 10:23 pm

    Maybe some of these “negative nellies (male and female)” will learn from you to look on the bright side of things and think about all the good in our world if they continue to read your writings — your always positive words, with always that little dollop of humor thrown in.Thanks, Sean, for all your words every day!

  55. Karen Taghi Zoghi - June 30, 2022 2:14 am

    Touched my heart! Thank you for sharing your beautiful stories.

  56. Ashley Uber - June 30, 2022 2:51 am

    You never cease to amaze. I’m stubborn too and dang glad! God bless and keep writing Sean.

  57. Slimpicker - June 30, 2022 3:04 am

    It sounds more like perseverance than stubbornness.

  58. Sandra J Stapulionis - June 30, 2022 1:39 pm

    It was a hard time for you all. Thank God for giving you a strong mother. May God continue to bless you and your mom.

  59. Dee Thompson - June 30, 2022 2:48 pm

    My mother was a stubborn lady too, and a fierce advocate for her children. Everything good in me, I owe to her. She left us two years ago and I miss her every day. She told me a lot of stories about her mother, my memaw, who drove from Marietta Georgia to New York City in 1933 when she was 8 months pregnant, to get my grandfather to come home. He was depressed because he had lost his baseball career. I based my new novel on that story and it’s available on Amazon.Return to Marietta.

  60. Carolyn Foster - July 2, 2022 8:03 am

    I love all your stories, even the ones that make me cry. This tribute to your Mother was so very lovely. Thank you for taking the time to write and reminding us of our humanity. You are an angel!

  61. Linda jordan - July 6, 2022 9:44 am

    This is Linda Jordan and I was sent your story. Sue is a strong lady and I so appreciated your kind words about her. Whenever your family is in KC give us a ring and we can catch up. 🙏🏻

  62. Deborah - July 23, 2022 12:36 pm

    Your way with words ……❤️

  63. Carol - August 3, 2022 5:14 pm

    Thank You & Bless the hearts of all Stubborn Women….


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