Dear Memphis

Dear Memphis, I am praying. So help me. I really am.

I’m praying for your families. For your ER doctors and nurses. For your wounded. For all who are sad.

I’m nobody, Memphis. I’m just a guy. A guy who likes your music. A guy who loves your barbecue.

I am located 200 miles southeast of you, but my heart is in Bluff City right now.

When I close my eyes to pray, my mind wanders along Union Avenue. Past Sun Studios, birthplace of rock and roll. Where Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis discovered themselves.

In my heart, Memphis, I am meandering Beale Street, past the clapboard shotgun house where W.C. Handy’s mother reared the Inventor of the Blues.

My spirit is strolling just south of Beale, past the old Lorraine Motel, where Doctor King was gunned down in 1968.

In my heart, I am eating a pulled pork sandwich, Memphis. I am covered in red sauce, my shirt has already gone to be with Jesus.

I am at the Memphis Zoo. Riding a Memphis trolley. At the Peabody Hotel. The Botanical Gardens. Graceland.

And I’m praying for you.

Although, frankly, I’m not sure God will answer my prayers because I’m nothing. Truth told, I’m not even a very spiritual person. I don’t pray as often as I should. And if I’m being honest, I mostly pray during national championships.

But I heard about the gunman who drove through your town last night. He was shooting randomized victims. I read about how he walked into an AutoZone and pulled the trigger. Coldhearted. No remorse.

I read about the four he killed. About the terror he inspired.

My friend in Memphis called me last night, during the hourslong rampage. He said the whole town was taking cover.

“It’s weird,” he told me. “It’s like something from a horror movie.”

Memphis buses stopped running. Local television stations interrupted regular broadcasts with live updates. The Memphis Redbirds left the minor-league ballfield. Half the city was messaging each other like crazy, texting things like:

“Are you okay?”

“Yes. But I heard something outside.”


“Not sure.”

“I’m so scared.”

“So am I.”

And all this comes after a decimating string of violence and murder, Memphis.

Eliza Fletcher. The 34-year-old kindergarten teacher. She was out for a jog. A wife and a mother. Beautiful and fair. Athletic and strong. A 3000-watt smile. Great personality. The kind of teacher who taught her kids to sing “This Little Light of Mine,” and meant it.

She was abducted on her running route. Killed.

Also, the local woman who was shot at her home. A carjacking. Autura Eason-Williams was her name. Fifty-two years young. Pretty. Well-loved. Accomplished. She was a pastor. A reverend at Capeville United Methodist.

She was found in her driveway. Multiple gunshot wounds.

Oh, Memphis. I am praying.

I am praying for the family of Yvonne Nelson, 60, a community activist. She was shot during an argument over money. Of all things.

For the family of Drew Rainer. The Rhodes College student who was one heck of a musician. He was killed last October during a home invasion.

I’m going to level with you, Memphis. Sometimes I’m not sure whether God is even up there listening. How can he be?

How can there be a God when so much evil happens in the world? And if there is a God, why does he allow all hell to break loose?

But when I look at you, Memphis. I see that I am wrong. Dead wrong. There is a God. He is ever present. He is deeply involved in this world. And he is a Memphian.

Your churches have banded together to finish the jogging route Eliza Fletcher began on the morning she was taken.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, runners all over the nation will complete her jog. Races are being held in her honor, far and wide. Public and private. They’re holding memorial 5Ks as far away as Quebec.

Drew Rainer’s memorial fund has already raised $166,000. Donations are still pouring in. The prayer services for Reverend Eason-Williams were legendary. The whole city is alive with love.

And we who love you can see your incredible light. And you shine it so well, Memphis. And with God’s help, I pray nobody blows it out. I pray you will do what a humble kindergarten teacher once encouraged her students to do. To continue to let your light shine.

Let it shine. Let it shine.

Let it shine.


  1. Mitch Stennett - September 9, 2022 6:57 am

    As a former Memphian (tho gone for 50 years), I appreciate your prayers and join you in praying. People in Memphis pulling together to overcome the evil reminds me of my fellow south Mississippians who were unified to rebound from Hurricane Katrina. It made us stronger as a community. I hope and pray that little light that shines in Memphis becomes a beacon of hope for the future.

  2. Julie - September 9, 2022 8:40 am

    Thank you, Sean – love, a Memphian.

  3. Jenn - September 9, 2022 9:39 am

    Thank you for this Sean. Thank you for sharing the grief, disbelief, pain and anger that so many are feeling. I live in a suburb near Memphis, same county. It is 3 a.m. and I can’t sleep again tonight. I am thinking about beautiful, sweet, pure Liza exactly one week ago as she was about to rise to go on her early morning run only to never return home to her two little boys and husband. Instead she was violently attacked, murdered and dumped like a bag of trash. How terrified she must have been as she fought for her life against human evil. I didn’t sleep well last night either, after being horrified at the carnage being played out on Memphis streets. Even in the suburbs, I imagine everyone was on alert because we share borders and common roads with Memphis and no one knew what area that animal would strike next. My human brain can’t begin to understand such evil and the complete lack of respect for human life. But I’m not meant to understand and that is a bitter pill to swallow. I have to trust God, take my hands off the wheel and know that He’s got this! He is with us always and wants us to give Him all of our burdens He knows and has written EVERYBODY’s story—beginning, middle and end! Take up that little light and let it help guide us all out of the darkness!🕯

    • Gigi - September 9, 2022 1:44 pm

      Jenn ~ well said !

  4. Brenda Davis - September 9, 2022 9:57 am

    Beautiful just beautiful!!

  5. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - September 9, 2022 10:06 am

    You always know what to say!

  6. Joy Jacobs - September 9, 2022 10:40 am

    God is still here, sadly
    it’s us as a society that has turned our back on God.

  7. Donald Rutledge - September 9, 2022 11:05 am

    Gentle blessings are soul . Well done, Sean

  8. Denise Walker - September 9, 2022 11:20 am

    So much evil. But so much love. Thank you for your words.

  9. Priscilla Rodgers - September 9, 2022 11:24 am

    I’m praying fo r you, Memphis. Keep fighting the good fight against evil, as another person commented, God has this. Turn to Him. Thanks Sean for honoring Memphis this morning.

  10. Denise DeVries - September 9, 2022 11:40 am

    Perfectly said. Sean, every person on earth is wondering where God is. It is not God’s will this is happening but the will if a deep dark entity, Satan. Keep p praying Sean. We aren’t perfect, but we are on the winning side.

  11. Rachel Lindsey - September 9, 2022 12:07 pm

    Let it shine

  12. Patricia Collins - September 9, 2022 12:26 pm

    There will ALWAYS be evil in our country. God is always there to help us through the tragedies in life. Think back 3 years ago, this type of violence stopped. Until the powers of authority show support for our ministry, police and state troopers and our courts start holding these people accountable and stop baby sitting them, more and more will happen. Guns DO NOT kill people, it’s the insane people that get their hands on them, the illegals and people that can’t pass the screenings put in place. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of nastiness because of my opinion but if I do it just shows what I’m talking about !!

    • Shelly Anderson - September 10, 2022 6:41 pm

      Amen Patricia!

  13. Christine - September 9, 2022 12:32 pm

    TY Sean for helping us to grieve for Memphis this morning. We pray for all those left to try and pick up the pieces of their lives. Such tragedies. Such sorrow left. Why do these murderers want to kill others they don’t even know. We will never understand in this lifetime.
    But God…..

    • susie gilley - September 9, 2022 2:38 pm

      My family has lived on and off in Memphis for 21 years, while our daughter was a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. When we first started going there in 1989 when she was only 6 weeks old, the malls were safe, the historical spots were safe and the beautiful old neighbors were safe. By 2010 when we made our last trip there, the malls were all closed, you viewed the historical places from the inside of your car and the old neighborhood homes had bars on the windows. St Jude even surrounded their compound with a high heavy metal fence with guards all around. What a shame. It wasn’t the city that Danny THomas picked many years ago for a safe haven of families with kids who had cancer, to come to. I never have understood the anger and hate that wells up inside of people that makes them want to kill innocent people. God is watching but because of sin, these things will play out unfortunately. In the meantime, we must keep praying and never give up. Let’s not forget to pray for those who deem it necessary to continue to kill, terrorize, and hate others. We need to pray that they will seek God way before their hate gets out of hand. Our world is getting our of hand, I just pray that God comes back to end the suffering of innocent people and those who tormented in their minds of evil.

      Susie Gilley, Pastor

  14. Jane - September 9, 2022 12:42 pm

    I sit here this morning drinking my “iced” coffee while I ponder your column. Two sentence’s may stand alone to those that seek your guidance. “I’m a nobody, I’m just a guy,” “I’m not sure God even hears my prayers, I’m nothing.” These comments feed into those that share these feelings about themselves. Many look to you for guidance, some may be at their lowest point in life. A healthy mind reads on, an unhealthy mind may see it as the confirmation they need to end it all.You get my message, you understand what I’m saying.
    Not one living human being is a nothing or a nobody. We may mess up, we may feel we are not like the rest, but we were chosen to live. We are the special one’s! Not everyday is perfect, I’ve had years that were anything but perfect! My health has been anything to be joyous about, BUT, I was chosen. Not all of us will stand out and if we do it may be the smile we offer to a stranger… that smile may save a life, that smile we shared could be the very reason we were chosen to be here on earth. Why? Because each of us is someone, each of us matter, each of us is a somebody, and we need not to keep this a secret, tell everyone how special they are, and do this every single day. At 81 years of age I’m still trying to send this message to those I meet. Sean you are special, you were chosen, your readers are special… please pass it on.

    • Debbie - September 9, 2022 1:55 pm

      Jane, thank you so much for your beautiful message. You have such a loving heart. God bless you always. 🙏

      • Jane Sparacio - September 9, 2022 3:15 pm

        You meet the nicest people when you share, thanks for being so fabulous!

      • Jane Sparacio - September 9, 2022 3:18 pm

        Thank you for your kind words! Please smile at a stranger today, someone needs to feel the love. 💓

        • Debbie - September 9, 2022 6:37 pm

          Ok Jane, I will smile at everyone I see today!

      • Jane Sparacio - September 9, 2022 3:20 pm

        I answered you below your post. lol

    • Gigi - September 9, 2022 2:39 pm

      Jane, I agree with you on everything you said. I thought about commenting, but you’ve said it so beautifully and tactfully, that there’s nothing else I need to say, except “thank you”.

      • Jane Sparacio - September 9, 2022 3:13 pm

        Thank you for commenting, you have a beautiful heart! ❤️

  15. BettyK - September 9, 2022 12:44 pm


  16. James L. Hudgins - September 9, 2022 12:48 pm


  17. Rosemary Mize - September 9, 2022 1:02 pm

    Thank you once again for your thoughtful, touching words that help
    But do not help The Why(?) such evil occurs

    • Jenn - September 9, 2022 7:58 pm

      God has given each of us Free Will. How we as human beings choose to use that Free Will is up to us. We have seen those that wreaked havoc during the past week in Memphis choose to use that Free Will for evil purposes. But most use that Free Will for goodness.

  18. Louis Katz - September 9, 2022 1:22 pm

    Nobody else on God’s green earth can express the feelings of ordinary human beings quite the way that you do, Sean. You’re gifted and a gift.

  19. episcopalriggin - September 9, 2022 1:23 pm

    Thank you, Sean of the South. Thank you for reminding us about grace. My hubby of 42 years & I were married at Grace-St. Luke’s up there in Memphis. As a teenager, I worked at Libertyland the summer that Elvis rented out the place so he could take his little girl on that rickety roller coaster and walk around the park freely. I have never been to Graceland, and I was mortified that we were married on the anniversary of Elvis’s death and our relatives couldn’t find a hotel in which to stay for our wedding. I was embarrassed to move to Memphis in 1972 where Dr. King was shot in 1968. I was embarrassed to have been born in Alabama when Gov Wallace was active. Now you have shown me another way to look at things. Here I am, a preacher’s wife, embarrassed for Memphis when I should be proud. Humbled once again.

  20. Dottie Coltrane - September 9, 2022 1:28 pm

    I watched the mayor of Memphis on the news last night. His words were eloquent, but it was easy to see that his heart is broken. Our dear friends who live there are like family. Thank you, Sean, for lifting them up in the midst of random violence and the taking of innocent lives.

  21. Judy🌻 - September 9, 2022 1:29 pm


  22. Mary - September 9, 2022 1:32 pm

    Yes and amen.

  23. klaspisa - September 9, 2022 1:38 pm

    Amen, Sean. Amen…

  24. Daisye - September 9, 2022 2:01 pm

    Thank you for these beautiful words. I’m a Memphis, and Drew was my cousin, and it means so much to read such kind prayers from a stranger <3

  25. David Britnell - September 9, 2022 2:08 pm

    I know Memphis thanks you!

  26. Nancy - September 9, 2022 2:13 pm

    Pray for DeSoto County HS. Police called about threats. My grandson attend there.
    Please pray for God’s Hedge of Protection. He is faithful.

  27. AnneLise - September 9, 2022 2:18 pm

    Beautiful words, as always, Sean. But while the good people of Memphis continue to shine their light, they must also demand that criminals who do evil are locked up and kept locked up. That they allow these evil-doers to destroy the lives of law-abiding people is unconscionable. The “compassion” of the “justice system” is entirely misplaced. This evil is not God’s doing. I’m sure God is crying too. The sick criminals, elected officials, law enforcement and prosecutors are responsible for this evil. DEMAND ACTION! While you are praying and shining.

  28. dmgtomlin - September 9, 2022 2:24 pm


  29. Maedyne Jenkins - September 9, 2022 2:27 pm

    Thank you so much for this post.

  30. courtney - September 9, 2022 2:45 pm

    perfectly scripted and well said

  31. Diane - September 9, 2022 2:55 pm

    I was on the phone during the shooting rampage with my Memphis Midtown Soul Sister. She and her husband were sheltering in place listening to helicopters overhead. I have never heard fear in her voice before that night. Somehow it was just too much to reason away. I grew up in Memphis- & loved growing up there. It has a soul longing to be healed and I too pray that God’s light is evident and full in Memphis. Reading this made me cry, but the tears were tears of a common understanding and a little hope thrown in. -Diane

  32. Cathy M - September 9, 2022 3:15 pm

    At a loss for words but you were not. Thank you and may Jesus hear all these prayers. At one time Memphis was a wonderful town. Many people in heaven are weeping. My parents married at Saint John’s Episcopal church and had a reception at the Peabody. I was born in 1948 so I think they married in 1946. I am glad they are not hear to see this and I bet many feel the same way. Just heartbreaking.. Lord, please heal this broken world.

  33. Nell Thomas - September 9, 2022 3:37 pm

    Dear Memphis:
    Off you go into the BIG bag of prayers- along with numerous other great American cities that have succumbed to pure unadulterated EVIL- so horrific that it will take a STRONG Army- back by God Almighty- to wipe it out and make Memphis- along with all of our other great American cities safe again. MAGA.

  34. Jennifer - September 9, 2022 4:56 pm

    This Rhodes College grad thanks you for this. Memphis has a huge piece of my heart, even though I don’t currently live there. I know that God weeps along with all the sad, tired people of Memphis.

  35. Linda Moon - September 9, 2022 5:11 pm

    You are a praying man with honest questions. I am too, but I’m a woman. You bring light into my little world when I read your words, Sean Dietrich, and you’ve shed light on Memphis now. I’ll be praying and listening for answers. God help us all.

  36. Jeanie - September 9, 2022 6:12 pm

    Thank you for your always perfect and well-timed message. Yes, we are hurting here in Memphis, but we always band together. God is good and we will be okay.

  37. Chris Spencer - September 9, 2022 8:55 pm

    Sin is the reason for all the evil in the world, NOT because God doesn’t care because he deeply cares for each one of us. He created us and it grieves Him to see us succumb to sin and evil.
    But God CAN use the bad that happens to us to bring about good. Read Romans chapter 8, verse 28.
    And He right now is working through those in Memphis and everywhere that love Him.

    My prayers for the families of the fallen and for those committing all this evil. They all need God, as do I.

  38. Adrienne - September 9, 2022 10:03 pm

    Beautiful! Thank you Sean

  39. MAM - September 9, 2022 10:55 pm

    We all need God in our lives. We must admit it. He does listen and answers just maybe not the way we expectl. He doesn’t like the violence. I, too, am praying for all the God-fearing people in this world – that they and their families be safe from violence. Lord, please help us all, and thank you for loaning us Sean and his amazing writing skills.

  40. Karen - September 9, 2022 11:18 pm


  41. Sandra Davidson - September 9, 2022 11:19 pm

    Thank you for your message. We are Memphis strong

  42. Karen Snyder - September 10, 2022 2:46 am

    Satan is relentless and he is hard at work in our world. He watches for the vulnerable, and whispers his evil encouragements to them until they do his bidding. My heart aches for Memphis, just as it aches for so many of our beautiful places and good people every time something like this happens. Thank you, Sean, for directing our attention and prayers to Memphis today. Hard as it may be, I think we are also supposed to pray for the perpetrators of evil. I will try.

  43. James L. Hudgins - September 10, 2022 12:07 pm

    This makes up for semi-critical comment I made on your post about God bless you. Keep on getting my days off to a good start, Jim

  44. Thomas Owens - September 10, 2022 1:26 pm

    Democrats have absolutely no accomplishments that have made life for Americans better, only worse; this is why they resort to name calling.

    Therefore, forget about Hunter Biden’s Laptop, Jan 6th, and the FBI Raid on Trump because these events have no effect on our lives.

    You only need to remember 4 things for the Mid-Term Elections:

    1. The Unsecured Border, 2. High Crime, 3. Energy Prices, 4. Forty Year High Inflation

    The Mid-Term Elections are only few days away.

    Remember 1 – 2 – 3 – 4,

    We don’t want Democrats or RINOs no more.

  45. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - September 15, 2022 9:45 pm



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