By Pastor Michael Waters
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” – Proverbs 18:21
“I know you hear me. You got too much living to do.” Life After Death, “Intro”, Notorious B.I.G., 1997
On Super Bowl Sunday of this year, as is true of every year, I looked forward to enjoying an exhilarating evening of fun, food, football, and fellowship after a few days of unusually cold and icy weather.
While waiting on my group to gather and the big game to begin, I decided to peruse the latest Facebook status updates on my phone. It was sure to be replete with bold game predictions and plenty of trash talking from my friends.
What I read, instead, served as a sober reminder that life is much more than fun and games. A fellow pastor had made a recent update about the rather sudden death of another; the Reverend A. Louis Patterson, III.
In all honesty, I didn’t know Rev. Patterson well. I had accepted his friend request over a year previous as I could readily see that we had several mutual acquaintances. Honestly, I knew more of his father, a well-celebrated pastor and preacher from my hometown of Houston, Texas. Accepting his friend request thrust me into the life of a prolific social networker!
Through his posts and his updates, I soon came to know a man who loved good food, good company, great literature, prophetic preaching, travel, high-end fashion, and who had an affinity towards stunningly-beautiful women (No shock here, as this is true of most men that I know).
I also discovered a man who was at liberty with himself and whose posts and updates could move from zany to profound at the blink of an eye. There, too, was a man who was transparent concerning his health challenges, severe asthma as I could discern it from his posts.
A few month’s prior to Rev. Patterson’s untimely demise, I heard a voice cry out late one night, “Waters!” while in the parking lot of the South Side on Lamar. Though dark, I turned to see a big and inviting smile that lit up the nighttime sky. If Rev. Patterson had one trademark, it was his big and easy smile. During our brief but pleasant exchange he mentioned wanting to join us one day at Joy Tabernacle to share in worship.
A few months later, on January 6, 2011 at 1:42am, Rev. Patterson posted these encouraging words to a photo album of our growing congregation on Facebook: “…man, I’m standing up and applauding you and Joy (Tabernacle)! I declare you ain’t seen nothing yet!” I responded, “To God be the glory! Continue to cover us in prayer. The best is yet to come!” I had come to known Rev. Patterson as a prolific encourager as well.
A couple of weeks later, Rev. Patterson and I we ran into each other at a local Starbucks while I was studying one night. In our warm exchange, he said, “I want you to come and preach at the Love Church. We are not a large ministry, but if you would come, I would be honored to have you come and share with us.” Humbled and honored, I gladly accepted, and we exchanged goodbyes as he walked out the door with promises of coordinating our calendars.
My next encounter with alp3 (which was his very artistic handle) would come again on Facebook. He posted a picture of some hospital food on a tray along with a clever quote of nurses flirting with him. Classic alp3!
Then Facebook fell unexpectedly quiet.
Then he was gone.
In the days and weeks that followed his death, I watched as a seemingly endless amount of tributes to the man were posted on his Facebook wall. I highly expected that it was healing for his great many friends and acquaintances, as well as those who had been deeply touched by his ministry, and I assumed that after a few weeks it would cease.
But months later, it has not stopped! On any given day, you will find a post on Rev. Patterson’s wall that reads, “I ate this and thought of you” or “I was watching this and I just wish you were here to post one of your clever thoughts about it” or “I miss your kind and comforting words. I will always remember what you told me.” And truth be told, I began to miss it, too! I had grown accustomed to his daily posts, anticipating his profound updates.
Death is never easy, especially when it is sudden and unexpected. Yet, through his words and his posts, and through the tributes that continue to this day, Rev. A. Louis Patterson, III has achieved a certain life after death. Not simply that of the after-life, but in words that continue to give life today. Words that encourage us all to #loveoutloud!
alp3, Live on, my brother! Live on!
Rev. Michael W. Waters is the founder and Senior Pastor of Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church in Dallas, Texas and was named among America’s top young leaders by Ebony Magazine. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.