Be advised that the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. Furthermore this book contains verbal abuse, sexual situations, adult language, references to suicide and rape which may be triggering to survivors. Discretion is advised.
Pastor Timmothy B. McCann
Copyright 2021 Timmothy B. McCann All Rights Reserved
“(Until...) stands head and shoulders above the rest.” Eric Jerome Dickey, NY Times Bestselling Author
Pastor Lorenzo Richardson’s endeavors to fulfill the calling on his life—which is to change the world, one soul at a time, by starting in southwest Atlanta.
So when he loses people in his circle unexpectedly, the ministry, he dedicated his life to fails, and his wife is embroiled in an adulterous public affair with a notable public figure. Pastor Richardson is at the end of his rope and decides to change the world he lives in forever.
Divorcing Atlanta is a moving yet timely account that will resonate with readers who believe in the unyielding power of redemption, choose love and hope over hurt and fear, and fight for what truly matters in their lives.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so…
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death thou shalt die.
Holy Sonnets: Death, Be Not Proud
Pastor Lorenzo Richardson
June 23, 2020
Monday, September 7, 2020
By the time you read this, you’ll be twenty-one and I’ll be dead. And as I see you in my minds eye opening the envelope and looking at the metallic blue ribbon on the accompanying gift, I can only imagine what you’re thinking. ‘No one made him pull the trigger.’ That’s why I wanted you to read this as an adult. So reason could temper your emotions and pain would not overshadow your smile.
I once heard an old woman say, ‘Black people love their children with an abnormal fixation that's hard to explain.’ Since she was wearing a MAGA hat, there was a racist, undertone to her words. But everything changed the morning I touched your mother’s belly for the first time. I felt life radiate from within her, travel up my arm and embed itself in my heart. When I looked in her eyes, I saw you—the life I may never meet. The purpose to which I’d never surrender. The cause of my abnormal fixation.
There’s so much I wish I could have shared with you in life. There are countless things I want to teach you because you will make mistakes. But my son, remember in life, what you look for you will always see. What you see will determine your perspective and eventually your perspective on anything—will become your reality. If only I’d known this three months ago.
As I lay here today, I’m saddened. Sad because I will not be able to walk you to the bus stop on your first day of school. I will never change your stinky diaper or look at you in the mirror while I’m shaving and see the usta-be-me smiling back. It saddens me that you will grow up—as I did, being fatherless. So, to the extinct to which I am responsible for this, I apologize.
Now, to the gift.
If you’ve not opened it (and something tells me you have), it’s a porcelain chess piece. I carried it with me every day of my life. The reason I chose the king is because the entire game is centered around him. So carrying it was my reminder of how God saw me. It should have also reminded me of how I should have treated your mom. Like that crowned gameboard piece, I can only strategically move one step at a time—yet God sacrificed it all so I might live. I wish I’d taken my relationship with Peaches one step at a time—one day at a time—one emotion at a time. Nevertheless, I invite you to always carry The King (and now I mean God) with you.
When it comes to your mom—I’ll tell you something I’ve yet to tell her. The divorce was my fault. I never took the time to understand her to the core. I once owned a very nice BMW. A year after I bought it, I noticed a little button on the dash I'd never seen before. It was there. I’d seen it a million times, but never slowed down enough to “see” it. There was so many things about your mother I failed to recognize even though I’d seen them a million times before. It took divorce papers and a bullet to understand the woman I married.
As I close my son, nothing compares to the idea of holding you in my arms. Nothing can equate in my heart to how it would feel to teach you how to ride a bike, study the Word or shave. You’re the mirror that will project a part of me into the future and even if I am not there to direct that light—I'm at peace as I know it would be the will of God. So for now, I’ll end this letter in hopes that I will be able to write many more. But even if I’m not; just know you’re loved.
Rev. Dr. Lorenzo Hosea Richardson
P.S. Someone once said if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you it’s yours forever. If not—it never was. Son, somebody lied. If you love something, hold on to it. Be honest with it. Fight for it. Take care and value it; and never give it reason to want to walk away. And lastly, remember with all your heart, it’s the words, between “I do,” and “until death do us part,” that kill us.
After I preached the last sermon I’ll ever deliver, I sat in my neon green, Honda Accord, with my dad’s Bible in one hand and a Glock 17 in the other, contemplating how to get away with a robbery. Soon, this gun will make me money, send me to prison or kill me. A once perfect life, has now come to this.
When the sun began its tiptoe across the horizon, there was nothing that triggered within me that such a thought would cross my mind. It occurred to me that my immediate family were all gone. Friendships, gone. Wife, gone. Ministry, over. And after I reconciled the repercussions of what I did with this weapon a few days ago, little else mattered.
I delivered the shortest sermon I've ever preached. I’m sure the sixteen people in the storefront church appreciated it. Seventeen, if you counted the pregnant white girl twice. It’s hard to minister on fumes. When you’re worried about the here and now—it’s darn near impossible to expound about the hereafter. I’m full in spirit, but in every single other way, I'm empty.
What does abject hunger feel like?
When you’ve gone a week without a decent meal. When starvation trickles up your spine. When it plays tricks on your mind. You hallucinate. Bones appear in your face, in places you’ve never seen before. Instinct compels you to lick your lips for comfort from time-to-time, and before your tongue can settle in your mouth, your lips are dry and need to be re-licked. Then the cramps kick in. That's abject hunger.
You try to go to sleep. Because if you can just go to sleep, maybe you can find rest. You can find peace. You can awaken and things will be different. But you can’t.
After the church service, I did something my dad would’ve called a moral turpitude. I bought a four pack of wine coolers. I did so to escape—if only for the moment. All I know is this: When you’ve worked this hard to build a church, to be recognized for your endeavors nationally, it’s not supposed to end this way. I wasn’t supposed to be destitute at this point in my life. I wasn’t supposed to lose my congregation the way I lost them—and I wasn’t supposed to be contemplating the unthinkable in this hour.
The wind acts as an accelerant, which causes the clouds to roll. The taste of the earth floats on the air, and before I know it, soft sprinkles dot my skin. There’s a zing that teases my nostrils in the darkness of night, in a city bustling with activity—far from ready to fall asleep. An Über crammed with co-eds stop. They spill out, laughing, half lit; enjoying the first vestiges of a new day.
From a window on the fifth floor, a man screeches a profanity at the top of his lungs to a group of young men sitting in their car blasting music.
“Turn that shit down! People gotta go to work.”
He’s ignored—and even if they heard him, they know he’d never come down. People never come down in neighborhoods like this. They scream, pout, and go back to bed.
If one painted a picture and dubbed it, Monday Night in Atlanta, this is what would be captured in the frame. From my viewpoint I see the best and worst of Black America. Morehouse men talking to dope boys. Pinstriped professionals stepping over vomit. Everything one could both love and loath is confined within three city blocks in a city that will let you call her ugly because she’s far too confident to care. If you closed your eyes in this part of town, you would feel so close to heaven you could hear the key of David being played, so close to hell you smell souls frying.
This is where I find myself tonight.
On one side of MLK, there’s a mural of Trayvon, George, Breonna and Ahmaud. The artist has added Rayshard’s smiling face, along with three additional blank spaces and the caption, “U Next?” beneath them. On the other side, twinkles of moonlight shine on crushed takeout cups, Colt 45 cans, and discarded Swisher Sweets wrappers. There’s a homeless man or woman sleeping at the bus stop, and the scent of vomit swings haltingly low to the ground.
I decide if I am going to do this—I need to game it out. In the age of corona everyone’s face is half-covered, so there’s no need for a ski mask. Check.
I have a Walmart bag for whatever is in the register or stashed behind the counter. Check.
Once I’m out the door, I’ll jump in the car. Then it occurs to me. My car is disabled as well. Plan B—dip into the night and deal with it later. Check.
I’m told that in neighborhoods like this, for insurance purposes, they can’t chase you. If you have a gun and get out the door, they have to let you run.
God, I pray that’s true.
I massage the back of my neck, bite the inside of my lip, reach between the center console of the car, and retrieve a keepsake from my youth. A king’s man from my first national chess tournament. I was ranked in the top two hundred chess players under thirteen. I hold it to reconnect. It takes me back to the southside. But on nights like tonight, I need it to calm my nerves. There’s something about the ridges of the crown and the smooth black finish of the base that centers me and forces me to think strategically. It binds the intellectual, spiritual, and emotional man within. Never have I needed this more.
My throat is bone dry in spite my beverage of choice. I glance at my watch, put the Bible in the back seat, and cover it with my hand.
“Father forgive me,” I murmur, “for what I’m about to do.”
To Be Continued