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.

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.

Dear Lord:

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.



  1. Kathy - March 16, 2018 6:35 am

    Thanks, Sean. This is my neighborhood and it’s really rattled the community. The grieving and families sitting bedside may not think about eating, but you can be sure they’ll be receiving all manner of food. That’s what we do when we don’t know what else to do – fix a casserole, bake a cake, send a Honeybaked ham.

  2. Barbara Jones - March 16, 2018 6:52 am

    God bless you , you have a loving heart and soul. You said everything I would have collector say.

  3. Pamela McEachern - March 16, 2018 6:58 am

    Mercy and Love to all of the families in this tragedy. I am praying for God to lift you up to him.
    I hope you feel Peace in knowing you are loved.

  4. John - March 16, 2018 6:59 am

    Some serious sincerity there. Nice..

  5. carol0goodson - March 16, 2018 7:01 am

    This really is a vale of tears… but I know–because I have seen and experienced it myself–that in all things, God really DOES work for the good of those who love Him–even when we can’t see it–and we usually can’t. Life is short, eternity is long.

  6. staffordmotion - March 16, 2018 7:59 am

    Sean Dietrich, thank you for another beautiful article especially in this time of tragedy! Your wonderful words should lift everyone’s hearts at this very sad time! God bless you.

  7. Edna B. - March 16, 2018 8:33 am

    These are beautiful thoughts. And yes, God will hold these folks close while they work through their grief. God bless you, hugs, Edna B.

  8. KBE - March 16, 2018 9:15 am

    You are so right. GIve them hugs, casseroles, and telephone numbers. Support means everything in a time like this. Thank you Sean.

  9. Nancy - March 16, 2018 11:02 am

    Sean, thank you for opening your heart to pray for these people. We’re all adding our own prayers and know that our Lord will answer them. Bless you!

  10. Jan - March 16, 2018 11:05 am

    Joining with you in praying for comfort, strength, healing, peace and love – lots of love for these families and all those touched by these events. Thank you, Sean!

  11. Connie - March 16, 2018 11:17 am

    Praying with you. For comfort for families. For all families everywhere who are suffering. For babies hospitalized because their parents failed to care for them. For parents who lost their children. For the victims of so much senseless hate. For you with your big heart. God bless and keep you. Love you.

  12. Susan - March 16, 2018 11:18 am

    A beautiful prayer, that’s all God ever wants from us! He wants our honest heart! Thank you for sharing your heart with me but more importantly, thank you for sharing it with God!

  13. Cathy Callender - March 16, 2018 11:18 am

    Blessings to you Sean! Your BIG love for everyone is contagious!

  14. Mary - March 16, 2018 11:37 am

    Thank you for this column. We need your messages of love and kindness now more than ever.

  15. Ruth - March 16, 2018 11:53 am


  16. Grace Murdock - March 16, 2018 12:00 pm

    What lovely, unselfish prayer. We are none strangers to loss. Praying for these folks.

  17. Kayren Owens - March 16, 2018 12:25 pm

    Thank you those heart-felt words, and I think I’ll just apply them to my daughter Brooke, and our friend Tyler, and to everyone who needs to keep their pant legs dry. I love you, Sean Dietrich, and more often that you realize you are my angel creating gentle breezes and even wind storms with your words.

  18. Marty from Alabama - March 16, 2018 12:55 pm

    When is all this craziness going to stop? I don’t know, but one thing I do know. And that is our world, not just the United States of America, is going to have to lay aside all their pettiness, pride and desires to be the one who rules. Pardon my grammar, but it ain’t gonna happen. There is only One that fills that spot and that is the One you prayed to today. He created all there is and when He gets ready, He will take it back. Until then, we are to obey His commands and stop killing, hurting others and turn to Him.
    May God’s richest blessings fall on all those hurting because of senseless actions of others.

  19. Sherry - March 16, 2018 12:58 pm


  20. Stuart Andrews - March 16, 2018 1:02 pm

    This is an eloquent, moving, and humble prayer. But like too many of our prayers that seek the tender mercy of God’s healing power, it’s a prayer full of longing without confession.

    Without any sense of failed personal responsibility. Responsibility we all share. Every last one of us. For the violence that permeates our culture, for our politics, and for our gun laws. For having failed to do enough, whatever it is, to diminish the violence that preys on us and on our neighbors each and every day.

    Violence is not the “price of freedom.” Our culture is saturated with violence. From personally aggressive words and unspoken messages in our homes and workplaces to video games and movies that anesthetize the sensibilities of our youth.

    Instead of blaming the NRA and failed political leaders, let’s own the problem. Let it become ours. As the Brady family has. Gabby Gifford and her husband have. As the Sandy Hook families and the Parkland students have. As 4 million members of Moms Demand Action have.

    As we share the pain of victims everywhere, we will still need to pull over to the side of the road to close our eyes to pray. And then we will get to work rather than being lulled into a sense of helplessness. We will call and write our legislators, march at public rallies, show up at legislative hearings, educate ourselves on successful gun safety policies, and encourage our friends to join us to do the same.

    And while we busy ourselves with activities that will drain and frustrate us, we each can pray without ceasing for wisdom and strength as we commit ourselves to a life dedicated to peace.

  21. Carol Houston Rothwell - March 16, 2018 1:36 pm


  22. Jack Darnell - March 16, 2018 1:38 pm

    I think you ‘done good’, Yep He heard…..

  23. Barbara Reynolds - March 16, 2018 1:41 pm

    And, God please don’t let people leave the families lonely after the funerals. Please visit for months to come.

    • Pam - March 16, 2018 11:28 pm


  24. Crystal Lamberth - March 16, 2018 3:21 pm


  25. Julia Martin Bradley - March 16, 2018 5:17 pm

    Tim Isley is the son of the Mayor of Springville. I don’t know him, but I grew up in that little town a long time ago. I learned of the shooting from Facebook, as I have lived in another state for many years now. Thoughts and prayers to all families. God will listen; he will help.

  26. Beverly S. - March 16, 2018 6:28 pm

    Oh my goodness, you said what was in my heart but you said it so simply and beautifully.

  27. Mary Anne Weisiger - March 16, 2018 6:33 pm

    Sean, Father God is Spirit, but his son, Jesus, is fully human, and He knows about more pain than we can even imagine! Rest assured God knew all about this before it ever happened and has people in place to comfort, but God will not interfere with the free will of man,. it is man’s will that does evil , it is not God’s.

  28. Sara Moseley - March 16, 2018 7:48 pm

    AMEN and AMEN!

  29. Pam - March 16, 2018 11:27 pm


  30. Suzan Land - March 16, 2018 11:43 pm

    I forwarded this article to Nancy’s family. I have been unable to find the words to articulate my sadness and support for them. You did it for me. Thank you.

  31. Michael Hawke - March 17, 2018 2:11 am


  32. Arlene - March 17, 2018 2:54 pm


  33. Jack Quanstrum - March 17, 2018 3:31 pm

    Best story, pray I ever read!

  34. Janet Mary Lee - March 17, 2018 5:40 pm

    Echoes my heart and my prayers. Beautifully said and heard by Him….


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