I heard it on the radio last night. I was driving. When the announcer said it, I pulled over.
The radio voice explained that a shooting had happened at UAB Highlands Hospital in Birmingham. One woman dead. A young man injured. The shooter did himself in.
UAB Highlands. The same hospital my wife has visited. The same building, same waiting rooms, same vending machines, the same weak coffee.
Nancy Swift died. She was 63. 28-year-old Tim Isley was the other victim.
While I write this, Tim isn’t doing well.
I’ve never met Nancy or Tim. And their stories are none of my business—there’s a lot that isn’t my business. But, I want to say something, if I may.
You have no reason to listen to me. I know that billions of other messages are filling your inbox while you read this. And I know you’re very busy.
I’ll make this quick.
If there’s any real magic in you, like the preachers say, use it. Send it to the families who need some.
That’s what I ask.
Do your thing. Do it big. Throw your weight around. Help the grieving feel strong. Make Tim Isley all better. Give the families of the victims all sorts of things to believe in.
It’s hard to believe in anything this day and age, God. I don’t know if you know this. After all, you’re not human like we are. We’re frail. We lose hope too easily.
So that family needs you to do something. Make some miracles in the sky, give them special dreams, do something incredible. Let them see beauty. Let them feel something other-worldly.
I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud here. You’re the one with all the ideas.
Anyway, remind them to eat. It’s easy to forget food during a time like this. And help them get plenty of sleep—that’s more important than it sounds.
When they cry, squeeze their hands. When they moan, rub their backs. When they double over and sob about the injustice of it all, Lord, cry with them.
May their friends offer no advice. Only hugs, casseroles, telephone numbers, open ears, and all the tears they can muster.
And may the family be carried by an angel, flying high above a sea of sadness, without drowning in it. Without even getting their pant legs wet.
You know I wouldn’t ask this if I didn’t mean it. And I do mean it. So do a lot of other folks.
These families may be strangers to me, but not really. Nobody’s a stranger in this little world.
In fact, I’ll bet we know some of the same folks. Maybe my nephew plays baseball with somebody’s cousin, who knows someone’s aunt, who’s kin to my mother.
Maybe we even visit the same hospitals sometimes.
I don’t want to beg, and I don’t think I have to. Because a long time ago, I once heard a preacher say:
“If two folks agree on something, and ask God for it, God promises he’ll do it.”
So I’m no expert on heavenly matters. But I do have a few folks who agree with me. So, I think that means you HAVE to do it.
I suppose what I’m asking for is love. Lots. Give Tim Isley the love he needs to pull through. Give the family of Nancy Swift so much kindness it makes them drunk.
May you comfort those who mourn. May you cry with those who cry.
And may God bless Birmingham, Alabama.