©Jan Andersen 2003
The Story of Sean Michael

©Donna Wotherspoon

Dedicated to the memory of Sean Michael O'Brien (Feb 25, 1972  Nov 20, 1995) and his mother Donna Wotherspoon (Sept 7, 1954 - Jan 31, 2003)

Published with permission of Donna's mother and Sean's grandmother Jeanne Rhome  E-Mail:  RhoJeanneM@aol.com

Sean's Memorial Site
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"Somewhere there is someone who dreams of your smile, who finds in your presence that life is worthwhile. So when you are lonely, remember it's true, that somebody somewhere is thinking of you."


In my life I have been loved unconditionally by someone very special.  Not many people can say that honestly, but I can.  Sean Michael changed my life forever.  I knew he was special from the moment I felt his presence within my body.  My life would never be the same again.  On the night he was born my life filled with such joy that I knew I had been truly blessed.

I was only sixteen when I found out I was going to have a baby.  Back in those days, couples got married right away when a girl got pregnant, and so we did.  I hadn't finished high school and I still wanted to go to college; my life was just starting.  Now I would be someone's mother, no longer responsible for just myself.  Now my life would go in a totally different direction than I had planned when I was a young girl. Uncertain of my future, my new life had begun.

February 25, 1972, I went into labor.  The physical process of giving birth seemed to take an eternity to endure. Towards the end of my labor, I told my husband I just couldn't take it anymore, because the pain got so bad. He responded that I didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Of course, he was right.  When I saw my baby for the first time, this little being that had been kicking my ribs sore for the last two months of my pregnancy, I knew it was worth everything that I had just been through.  He was so beautiful.  I had seen pictures of newborns; their heads were lopsided, their bodies were red, their faces had very little expression.  Sean was a perfect shade of pink, his head perfectly shaped, his eyes were wide and full of wonder.  At the age of twelve I had chosen the name of Sean Michael to name a boy if I were to ever have a son; the name fitted him perfectly.  His last name would be O'Brien.  And if that wasn't Irish enough, he looked just like a little leprechaun.  His ears came to a slight point and his two-inch length hair went from ear to ear around the back of his head like a little old man.  I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and love for this little person who had just come into the world.

Sean was a very good baby, and even though he didn't seem to need it, I would hold him for hours.  I would rock him to sleep, sing to him, hug him, love him.  I loved taking care of him.  He would tolerate my changing his clothes several times a day, bathing him, and brushing his hair.  He would hardly ever get fussy at my constant handling of him.  He was my living breathing "baby doll.  I would dress hi in little outfits constantly.  Watching him develop and learn about the world about him amazed me.  He was into everything before he could even walk.  Sean was curious and interested in everything.  It appeared to me that he wanted to learn and experience every bit of his world around him, and as much of it as he could possibly manage every day.  Life was an amazing adventure for him, and for me.  He didn't just want to play with a toy, it seemed to me that he wanted to know why things were the way they were and how they worked. I woke up one morning to find that he had taken most of the woodscrews out of his crib and it was laying in pieces on his bedroom floor. There was Sean, sitting on the mattress that was lying in the middle of the floor, playing with the parts of his bed, grinning from ear to ear.  He appeared to be quite proud of his accomplishment. 

Once Sean started to walk there was no stopping him.  Almost as soon as he could get around on his own two feet he was running.  He would only allow me to hold him for short periods of time before he would demand to be put down.  He was just too busy to be cuddles for very long.

Sean's sense of humor developed very early.  Because he was the first grandchild in the family, my mother couldn't wait to hear him say "grandma" for the first time.  Sean began to talk very early; he could say complicated words like "telephone" before he was one year old.  My mother would sit with him and try to get him to say "grandma". Every time she told him to say the grandma he would say some other word and start laughing.  He knew what she wanted, but it was too much fun seeing grandma get frustrated at her attempt. 

One day I had taken him to a department store with me.  Within moments he had wiggled his hand free from mine and was gone  as usual.  I looked frantically around the store for him.  As I approached the shoe department, I heard a faint giggling coming from the back room.  When I looked back there, there was Sean, up on a ladder, turned around leaning away from the ladder about five feet off the ground, watching me hunt for him.  He got the biggest kick from seeing his mommy panic and when he saw that I had spotted him he burst into laughter.  It was hard to stay angry with him for very long.  He would look up at me with those big beautiful blue eyes, tell me he loved me and my heart would melt.

Because Sean was always so very active, someone suggested that I should have him seen by a doctor in order to determine if Sean had behavior problems.  The doctor, as he put it, told me that he felt that Sean was "a problem, gifted child".  Because of that fact, he would tend to get bored easily.  Sean was very intelligent with a vivid imagination.  However, it was going to be very difficult to keep him interested in anything for very long.  When Sean got bored, he got busy.  This usually meant he was dong something he shouldn't be doing or playing with something he shouldn't have.  Which really became a major problem for his teachers after he started school.

One day when Sean was four, tragedy hit.  Sean had gone with his dad for a day of hang gliding.  Sean loved to spend time with his dad.  Dad did exciting things like ride motorcycles, teach karate, and fly hang gliders. Sean loved every minute of it. Towards the end of the day his dad crashed the glider.  Sean, at the tender age of four, saw his father killed.  After Sean witnessed his father's accident, the laughter and light that sparkled in his eyes seemed to dim.  The memory of the accident buried itself deep in his mind almost immediately.  When Sean was brought to me that day, all he said was that they "lost" his dad.  Afterward, he began to have nightmares about his "mommy being bloody", as he put it.  He never mentioned his father's accident.  Not even in therapy until he was about ten, did the memory of that day come back.

The strong bond that my son and I shared became even stronger after his father's accident. I was everything to him.  I was not only the best mommy, but the best at everything.  In his eyes I could do no wrong.  When Sean was about six or seven-years-old, the TV show "Charlie's Angels" was very popular.  We were sitting on the couch one evening watching the program when he looked up at me and exclaimed, "Oh mommy, you're prettier than Charlie's Angels!"  To Sean, I was.  If anyone said anything about me that he didn't think was right, he would become very angry with them.  In his eyes I was perfect.  He would give me a hug and tell me he loved med all the time, even as a young man.  He showed his love for me constantly.  He would make little presents for me in school, bring me flowers, and when he got older, protect me.

As a young boy, I began to see signs I Sean that he had no fear of anything. As with his father he was always testing the limits, looking for bigger and better thrills.  Sean was quite the little darn devil at a very early age.  Almost as soon as he learned to ride a bicycle he began building ramps to jump off of.  One day, when he was about six, I walked out of my mother's house to find tat the neighborhood children had lined up trash cans for Sean to jump over with his bike.  Of course I had a fit and told him not to jump his bike over the cans again.  He promised med he wouldn't and I went back inside the house.  A few minutes' later, I went outside to check on him, making sure the trash cans had been put away and that he was no longer jumping his bike over them.  He wasn't.  However, five or six of the other children were lying side by side in the street and Sean was in the process of going off the ramp and jumping over their bodies!

Raising Sean was a constant worry.  I never knew what he was going to try next.  Half the time I was sure he never let me know what he was doing because it concerned him too much to worry me.  It always concerned him when he saw that I was upset.  It would bother him greatly to see me unhappy or worried.  He would tell me not to worry, that he knew what he was doing.

As a teenager, Sean was a born leader.  No matter what Sean wanted to do, the other kids wanted to do it too.  He was the pied piper of the neighborhood and always had numerous friends around him.  He never got into any serious trouble.  However, I am sure he did more than he ever got caught at.  The other adults adored him.  He was respectful, charming, considerate and kind.  Sean never uttered a disrespectful word to me in his life, not even in anger.  Sean was always the first one willing to help out wherever he could.  Still, in his eyes there seemed to be such sadness.  There was a very serious side of his personality that began to show itself from a very early age.  But always, he showed me how much he loved me.

Sean grew from a charming little boy, a troubled teenager with all the normal growing pains, into a very handsome, kind, loving young man.  Whenever I needed an escort to accompany me to a function, Sean was always willing to go with me.  I was very proud to be on the arm of my son.  He was my knight in shining armor.  He was a deeply sensitive young man.  He was always concerned about other people's welfare before his own.  He was the peacemaker in the family.  Always willing to help me, his grandparents, his sisters, his friends, or even a stranger.  He loved unconditionally.  He never asked anything in return  He gave so much of himself he would have nothing left for him.  Always eager to please, looking for acceptance, Sean just wanted to be loved.

Sean's life seemed to be one tragedy after another.  One night, shortly after Sean turned eighteen, while riding his bike home from a girlfriend's house, a man in a car pulled over to him and at the point of a gun, demanded that he get in the car.  The details of that night are not of much importance except for the fact that Sean had to fight for his life that night. The day after, I had him admitted to a hospital for a month because of the trauma involved with what he had experienced.  Later we found out that the man that had kidnapped him was an escaped convicted murderer from a local jail.  Sean realized how lucky he was to be alive, but the memory of that night would haunt him for the rest of his life.

While Sean was confined to the hospital, the girl with whom he had been involved became pregnant by someone else.  At first she told Sean that the baby was his.  He was thrilled at the prospect of being a father. He had so much love to give.  When he found out about her deception, it hurt him deeply.  I don't think he ever got over the pain of the disappointment.  Sean began suffering bouts of depression from the time he was a teenager.  Every new hurt of disappointment would wound his soul deeply.  It gave me a great sense of pride to know that my son was a very caring and sensitive person.  It also gave me great concern.  At times, because he was so deeply compassionate for other people, he would be taken advantage of.  He always gave people the benefit of the doubt.  Sean had many opportunities in his life, but gave them up because someone else needed him.  He was one of the most unselfish people I have ever known.

One Saturday, when Sean was not quite twenty-four-years-old, I had picked him up from a class he had to attend.  He  had been very depressed about his life for some time.  He had spent the summer trying to help homeless kids away from drugs and was going to churches to try and get food and shelter for these kids.  He himself was living on the streets with them in order to try and help them.  I had convinced him to move back home with me because of my concern for him.  Things had not been going well for Sean in recent months and he told me the felt like he had failed at his life and was worthless.  He was having trouble sleeping and he was worried about his future.  He was very upset when he told me that he used to feel he was special but didn't feel that way about himself anymore.  He also told me he didn't want to live anymore because he felt that he was a burden to everyone.  It told him I was very proud of him and that he was special.  When he asked me, "Why are you proud of me momma?" I told him I was proud of him because of the man he had become.  I also told him that if I lost him  would not be able to bear it.  He told me that he loved me very much but he needed and wanted to be with his father.  In retrospect, I think it was his way of telling me goodbye.  On November 20, 1995, two days later, my beautiful son suicided.

Sean Michael changed my life forever.  On the night he died, the joy in my heart died with him.  But having been his mother, I can say that I have been blessed.  Sean Michael was my greatest joy and my deepest sorrow.  If I could make the choice of being able to rid my soul of this intense grief and sadness over his loss, but in return I would have to give up all memories of him, I wouldn't do it.  In my life I have been loved unconditionally by someone very special.  Not many people can say that, but I can.
Donna Wotherspoon, Sean's Mommy
Sept 7, 1954 - Jan 31, 2003
Donna, Phil and Sean
Sean Michael
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